Your fear of social interaction doesn’t have to keep you from getting involved.
By Kristian Porter, Northern Kentucky University
While the election of Donald Trump as president has caused a seemingly divisive political climate, it has also inspired many to become more involved in their government.
Organizations that recruit and train women to run for office have seen a huge increase in interest, and a new organization, called 314 Action, was formed to help scientists run for political positions. More than one million people rallied together at the Women’s March on Washington and accompanying marches around the world, and so many people called their senators (as many as 1.5 million calls per day) over the nomination of Betsy DeVos, that the phone lines were overloaded and voicemail boxes were completely full.
More people than ever before are fired up and ready to go, and there are many who have started to compile action lists, steps that everyone can take to ensure that their voices are heard.
But, if you’re anything like me, making your voice heard can be a crippling thought. Calling your senator may feel like the ninth circle of hell, and the idea of being surrounded by thousands of people may seem about as appealing as slamming your hand in a car door.
Even if you’re socially anxious, here are five ways you can get involved.
1. Snail Mail
Instead of calling your elected officials, you could opt to send them mail instead.
The first action in the Women’s March 10 Actions in 100 Days campaign was writing a postcard to your senator about an issue that’s important to you. This is a good way of expressing your concerns without actually having to interact with another person, and with the voicemail boxes of senators being completely full, this might be one of the only ways you can get through to them.
The Women’s March website has downloadable postcards that you can use, or you can just do it the old-fashioned way—a pen and paper. If you’d rather keep your interactions electronic, there are contact forms on all of the senator’s websites where you can email them, as well as a form on the White House website that puts you in contact with President Trump.
2. Prepare a Script
It’s still true that calling your senators is the most effective way of getting them to listen to you. Staffers tally each call and pass on the counts to the representatives, letting them know the number of constituents on each side of an issue.
But, I know first-hand how terrifying phone calls can be. One thing that can relieve some of the stress is to prepare a script beforehand. Keep in mind that each phone call will only take about a minute; the office just wants to know where you stand on the issue so they can mark you down. All you need to do is call your state representative and provide your name, city, zip code and the reason your calling.
An amazing resource to use is 5calls.org. They allow you to easily search through the issues you care about, provide contact information and write an entire script for you to follow.
If calling still sounds like too much to handle, you can also wait until after hours when you’re guaranteed to reach the voicemail.
3. The Buddy System
I went to my first protest in Cincinnati on January 21, my city’s sister march to the Women’s March on Washington. Over 10,000 people showed up, and it was incredibly intimidating. Everyone was welcoming, but just the sheer amount of people kicked my anxiety into high gear. Luckily, I brought my mom with me, and that made it much easier to handle.
If you’re worried about attending rallies, protests or huddles, try asking another activist friend if they’d attend with you. Having someone to focus and help navigate can alleviate stress and make the experience easier. Plus, there’s really nothing like chanting a rallying cry with your best friends to fill you with the political spirit.
But remember: Everyone at these events have the same objective as you, and will happily accept you and show you the ropes if you’re nervous.
4. Sign Petitions
This is probably the easiest way that you can get involved. Adding your name to a petition can be done over the computer or from your phone and requires no outside contact, but can have a big impact when the petitions target specific issues.
Those that are created on the We The People section of the White House website require a response from the government once they reach 100,000 signatures. They can be a great way to raise awareness and show those in charge what problems the American citizens are most concerned about.
They’re also great for keeping up with current events. When you sign a petition using We The People or another site (like change.org), you are sent email updates that inform you about the decisions that the government is making involving that particular issue, and staying informed is half the battle.
5. Make Art
One of the most underrated acts of resistance is art. Never underestimate the power that your creativity can have.
If speaking is scary for you, write instead. Draw, paint, sing, write poetry, do whatever it is that allows you to express yourself—then share it online! You never know who is going to connect with your art and how it can have an impact on a movement.
Two women had the crazy idea to knit bright pink hats with cat ears and wear them to the Women’s March. Their art became a powerful symbol. The Pussyhats turned Washington D.C. (and cities around the world) into a sea of pink and made a statement louder than words.
If you’re looking for direct ways to use your art, make protest signs, knit more Pussyhats, design pamphlets on issues that matter to you or create a zine inspired by revolution. There are endless ways that you could get involved.