1. Remember you do not have to be, and in fact cannot be, an expert on all things.
2. Unsubscribe, Unfollow Uninstall
3. Reduce crap content so your brain has more room for the good stuff.
You won’t see Samantha Bee host a smart conservative for her audience to take seriously. Deliberating with a GOP rep who has a valuable point to make on behalf of their party doesn’t make good infotainment. Instead, these shows share the most bizarre policy proposals and laughable public statements from the opposing side. Sure, there’s Meet the Press, but infotainment is way more fun to watch and more sharable on social media, where more people are getting their news.
We know by now how the internet works as an echo chamber. Then, many of us actively curate our social media feeds and are quick to click Unfollow when acquaintances offend us (guilty 🙋🏻).
Finding balance in our media diets mean actively incorporating reliable sources with beliefs opposing our own. This isn’t about following hateful meme accounts or reading the comment sections from hell. It’s about finding a few people or organizations who use reliable facts and their own logic to present a view different from your own.
I asked myself, ‘What’s a right-leaning news source I trust as reliable, if not relatable?’ and came up blank. A quick search brought me to this Guardian article, So you want to get out of your bubble: try reading these conservative websites. Yes, I did just share my Google result with you–this is a communal journey, people.
I did remember a time I read the Heritage Foundation‘s proposal for an alternative to the ACA*. I didn’t agree, but I was able to engage with their argument in an intelligent manner. That’s what we’re going for. But I’ll admit, this single example I could muster was 6 years old, and assigned to me during my graduate program. Yikes.
I believe that exposing myself to smart (enough) approaches from other ideologies presents more opportunities for productive dialogue.
But we’re keeping it sustainable here! We’re not talking about engaging across viewpoints yet. For now, take this baby step by spending a few minutes to find some sources you can stomach on the ‘other side’–whatever that side might be.
Pray tell–what sources do you follow for the sake of cracking open your echo chamber?
*This proposal is all kinds of long but Heritage has tons of 3-5 minute reads that could be more easily integrated into your media diet.
Remember, I said I was starting from the very beginning!
Your elected officials make decisions on your behalf. You pay them to represent you. Get to know who they are and how they vote. Eventually you’ll communicate with them but this post is about just getting familiar. Buckle up! A broad range of feelings is likely in your future.
If you’re starting from scratch here, begin with your congressional reps: govtrack.us/congress/members
Govtrack.us has a fancy pants tool that will show your reps if you type in the address (pay attention to the example address format, and match it). Each senator and representative has their own page. It shows you the ratings they got from advocacy orgs, gives them liberal–conservative ideology score and a leadership score, like this:
And lots of other good nerdery should you choose to dive deeper. While you’re at it you can subscribe to notifications about their “major sponsorship” and voting activity, follow them on Twitter, etc.
Today’s climate is so polarized that it’s typically straight forward to see which side your rep sits and what to expect from their votes. Since we’re trying to stay sustainable here, only subscribe to these email updates if you’re really invested in learning about your rep’s choices. The automated messages have the original bill language, which often doesn’t have much meaning without context. Many reps will go to social media and explain why they voted one way or another, in case you do see the bill summary and want more info.
Get to know who your representatives are, where they align on issues that matter to you, and when their term ends.
Got that too? Look up your state legislators. Ohioans should start with this lookup page and everyone else can Google or start at this map to find your state legislature website.
Ballotopedia has a clumsy name and a sad UI but everything you need to know about upcoming elections at national, state and local levels.
– use the menu on the right hand side to select another state & the chamber
State executive official elections in 2018
– and for those wondering, Jerry Springer declined to run for governor this year.
Learn about what your reps care about, what promises they’re making and how they make themselves available to constituents like you. This can vary–you’ve probably seen headlines about town hall dodging or even cease and desist letters from one particular Senator (eeek!).
You’ll also feel smart when your rep enters the room at an event. Even if you have no idea what to say to them at least you’re hip to what’s going on. I was this close to saying hi to Ted Strickland at Rambling House Soda once–see, cool story right?
There’s a bunch of resources for staying in touch with your reps. Any I missed? Elected offices you like to watch but I didn’t mention here? There are quite a few. Parents, for example, might keep up with their kid’s school board. Share your go-tos in the comments to help us all tune in.
We’re a year into this administration, and most of us can do better. Loved ones tell me they don’t know where to start and the truth is I have been there too. 2017 was going to be a year of turning heartbreak into action. I did a march, a lobbying event, I actually published the initial version of this post in August, but I didn’t follow through. I gave into overwhelm more often than I stood up for what I believe in. Now, I’m committing to sharing one sustainable step for civic engagement each week for the next year.
How do we fulfill our duty as citizens in a climate like this while ensuring sustainability for ourselves? I’m seeking that sweet spot.
I plan to develop better habits in the process. I hope to provide value to others too, so these steps will start at the very beginning. Maybe these are just reminders and maybe they are new ideas for you. If you’ve already found what works for you, do tell! This space will accommodate a range of voices, including yours.