When people hear the word "activist", they tend to think of the people yelling down the streets, protest sign in tow. They are the ones with the megaphone, triumphing change and leading the battlefront with the sole power of their voices. However, the socially conceived definition of what an activist is forgets the immense role that introverts have in the change-making process. Each person has a role within tackling an issue, and discrediting the people who work behind-the-scenes is threatening to the progression of the society we wish to create. If you're introverted and want to make change, check out these ten tips below.
1. Write an op-ed. Our words have more strength than what we give them credit for, especially when it is made public for people to read and discuss. If there is a local, statewide, national, or international issue that sets your heart on fire, write about it! Many local publications put the editor's contact information within the newspaper or on their website, and college newspapers often rely on an open submission basis.
Journalism, historically, has been a vehicle for activists to curate change. In 1906, Upton Sinclair wrote a book called The Jungle, bringing attention to the lack of factory regulations within the meat packing industry. As a result of the honest and courageous accounts, conversations were raised by the general American public about the quality of their food, pressuring Theodore Roosevelt to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Federal Meat Inspection Act. Speaking out creates conversations, which leads to change, thus, your opinion is essential for getting change made.
2. Show up. Decisions are made by the people who show up and care enough to hear about the issues. Attending city council meetings is a great way to know where elected representatives stand on issues that matter to you or your organization, and the information you receive can be carried throughout your organization.
During the recent UN climate negotiations in Paris, youth delegates were invited to share the space in the negotiating room. However, due to UN rules, they were not able to carry signs advocating their beliefs. So what they did instead was paint a black zero near their eye to symbolize that youth felt the need for zero carbon emissions. No words were spoken or signs held, but the people making the deal felt the pressure from youth just by their presence and activism efforts. It is not impossible.
We need people who are willing to fill the seats, show up, and put pressure on local officials through just being present and knowing that students are listening.
3. Write resolutions. It is not uncommon for student associations to pass resolutions on a specific public policy issue. If you are working within an organization, pressure your organization to take a specific stance on the issue by crafting a resolution that contextualizes the issue while providing necessary action steps to resolve it.
4. Create. Organizations need people who can use their skills of graphic design, art, calligraphy, photography, videography, or music to help progress their mission forward. Although it might seem like an indirect form of activism, designing informational brochures, creating PSAs, or writing a spoken word is a powerful way to reflect upon the social justice issue while making it inviting for people to access the material. We need your calculated, reflective ways of looking at issues to make the information appealing and interesting for people to see the importance of the issue itself.
5. Work within your own sphere. Introverts tend to feel most comfortable within smaller groups, and that is okay. You can make effective change within your own sphere. Challenge your friends to research the issue. Invite your roommates to a council meeting. Change is best made through developing and preserving relationships, and people are put at ease when the activist is relatable and reliable. Meaningful relationships with people you can have open dialogue with about policy is much more valuable than a multitude of mere acquaintances that see you for five minutes, sign the petition, and leave.
6. Take it to social media. Social media is a pivotal tool for raising awareness for causes. Organize your friends to post tweets about your issue, using a specific hashtag so you can track engagement. Flood Twitter with points about your issue. Publically tag your policymaker on issues that they need to know about. Once people see your tweets, they are able to join you and contribute their own thoughts about the issue. It's as easy as 144 characters and the desire to do good.
7. Volunteer. Every role, when paired with the motive of helping others, is critical. From passing out t-shirts to being the keynote speaker, each level of volunteering is not more important than the other. It takes people who are dedicated to give up their time to serve their community that visions can become realities, dreams can become action, and regression can become progression. Sign up to volunteer as a general volunteer, allowing you to do more behind-the-scenes work that is just as important.
8. Represent your cause in everyday situations. I have a Bernie Sanders poster on my door for my dorm room, and it has become an extremely meaningful tool for igniting conversation about the campaign. Posters, phone cases, shirts, buttons, tote bags, and bumper stickers are small ways to show your stance on an issue while opening it up for one on one discussion of why you believe in your position. It's the little things that create a long-lasting impression.
9. Get involved in committees. Committees are smaller groups within the organization that focus on a specific need that the community may have. Since it is a smaller group, there is greater ease in expressing ideas and interacting with others. What's more, having committees allow you to work in the areas that you are most passionate about, giving you plenty to contribute to the conversation when you feel most comfortable.
10. Grab coffee with someone. Powerful rhetoric and meaningful issues tend to make people excited and want to tell as many people as possible, but there is something wonderful being lost by having one-on-ones with people. You don't have to talk to the entire neighborhood to be a meaningful activist. Every single vote, signature, and commitment matters. Taking time with others is a lost art in today's hyper-activist culture, but we need introverts who are more willing to spend time with individuals rather than large groups.