Most people think that the term “slacktivism” refers to sitting on your toilet while sharing articles on Facebook.
We all know someone like “Scott” from that SNL sketch with Louis CK where a guy solves racism by putting Black Lives Matter in his Twitter bio. But there is more than one way make a difference in the world. Activism requires time, energy, emotional labor, and a supportive community.
Not everyone has access to those things.
As much as I encourage you to go out and do something, I also know that whether it’s for mental health reasons or time commitments, you just might not be able to commit to regular activism right now. If that’s the case, here are seven ways you can still make a difference — even when life gets in the way.
1. Sign a petition.
Let me explain. No, politicians don’t care about signatures on petitions. Putting your name on a piece of paper or an online form isn’t going to magically change the world. However, organizations that circulate petitions actually do change the world. Asking for signatures is a helpful way for political nonprofits to engage their base and figure out who their supporters are. They appreciate it when you “opt-in” to receive updates.
Don’t put your name down and assume you’ve done enough. But do support organizations that you’re truly passionate about by signing up for their email lists. Commit to actually opening some of those emails, and you’ll find out ways you really can change the world.
2. Make a recurring donation.
Instead of attending a charity event where only a portion of your funds go to the cause or waiting until something urgent happens to make a donation, choose one non-profit that you really care about. Take some money out of your coffee budget and set up a recurring gift.
This takes less than five minutes, and you’ll know that you’re consistently supporting a cause and not just showing up and disappearing.
3. Share your personal stories.
You know that old feminist saying about how the personal is political? It’s profoundly true. If you’re part of any underrepresented group, there’s a good chance that legislation being passed right now affects you. Has receiving health care from Planned Parenthood saved your life? Does being trans affect your ability to feel safe in public spaces? Have you been harassed by strangers because of your race or religion?
You are a person, you are valuable, and speaking up about your experiences helps to show the world that you matter.
4. Vote in local elections.
Voting is so easy, you guys. I know that politics can be deeply alienating, and you might not fully believe in the power of your vote to make a difference. Vote anyway, especially on the local level. Local newspapers and progressive organizations often have voter’s guides to help you makes sense of what’s on the ballot.
Change starts at the local level. Look up when your next local election is. Right now.
5. Talk to your family, friends, and coworkers.
You don’t have to go visit your racist relatives or seek out arguments with people you barely know on social media. Instead, just correct people if they misgender someone. If someone you know makes a weird microaggression against a person of color, have a chat with them.
Again, you’re not going to change the world in one conversation, but you will maybe make that one person stop perpetuating that one weird stereotype they have. And you don’t even need to change your routine to do it.
6. Make friends with your friendly neighborhood community organizer.
Community organizers are already doing the heavy lifting of figuring out what kind of actions need to be taken in your community. These people are trained and have years of experience getting shit done, or at least making moves to get shit done while most people are sitting on their butts. They didn’t start doing this when Trump was elected.
They’re also extremely used to having volunteers flake out on them.
So if you can promise to do something for them, even if that thing is tweeting out a message or making one phone call, you’re helping them meet their goals and be less stressed.
7. Just be a decent human being.
I don’t care how many online petitions you sign, or how many articles about racism you share on social media. If you don’t treat other human beings with common courtesy, your intentions are meaningless. I don’t care if you call yourself a “feminist,” if you treat all the women you date like shit. If you say you support queer people, and then refuse to use a person’s correct pronouns, then you are an asshole. This one doesn’t take going to marches or spending money.
It just means listening to oppressed groups and being critical of your own actions. It means that instead of saying “I’m not racist,” you first stop and listen and examine your own actions. And stop doing them if, for example, they involve harassing someone.