Armchair Activist

When making the decision to get involved, many folks don’t know where to begin. The idea of going from voter to protester can feel like a gigantic leap. For people new to activism, easing into the process can make you feel more comfortable with what is expected before making any further commitment. A good first step is to start communicating with your representatives during a few spare minutes at home, the office or school carpool line.

There are many ways to get in touch with your representatives and voice your opinions and/or concerns. Common methods include calling their office (local or in Washington DC), writing a letter, sending email, social media and signing petitions. According to a former Congressional staffer, making phone calls is the most effective way for your voice to be heard. Office staffers keep tallies on the phone calls they receive both for and against issues and when the phone lines are flooded from concerned citizens, the representative pays attention.

Emails and letter writing are also useful as long as they are personalized. There are services that send mass emails to all of North Carolina’s representatives and are an easy way for a large group of people to make a statement. NC Senator Jay Chaudhuri, for example, received over 4000 emails during the #CarolinaCoup in December 2016. Outside of these circumstances, personalized emails and letters are a better way to express specific concerns on an issue that is important to you. They won’t guarantee a personalized response, but you will have a chance to make your voice heard.

Social media communications can be hit or miss. You may feel better shooting off a tweet or Facebook post, but staffers tend to manage these sites and may not pass feedback along to the Representative. In North Carolina, Jeff Jackson, Pricey Harrison, Chris Sgro, Jessica Holmes and other Democratic officials are very active on Twitter and regularly engage in dialog back and forth with their constituents. Follow your representatives and you’ll quickly learn who is active and who is not. If you are new to political social media, follow us on Twitter and check out who we are following.

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