In a time of social distancing, you may be wondering how to reach others and advocate for the issues you care about. Every person is experiencing the pandemic differently, so even as some states ease restrictions, many people may still be continuing to quarantine. However, that doesn’t have to stop you from being a voice for change.
In the digital age, virtual activism is more accessible than ever. Keep reading for tips on utilizing social media and digital communication for engaging in at-home advocacy.
1. Educating Yourself
While this is not outright activism, the most essential part of being an advocate is being educated on the issues you discuss. This includes not only having an understanding of the issue as a whole, but dissecting the issue on various levels and acknowledging how it affects communities differently.
It’s important that you take the responsibility to research and account for multiple perspectives in your work. With a multitude of information and readings available online, this first step is one of the easiest actions to tackle from home.
2. Utilizing Social Media
While social media shouldn’t be your only outlet for advocacy, it’s a powerful tool for spreading awareness and educating others.
Using Insta Stories:
Instagram Stories allow you to post a video, image, or share another user’s post for 24-hours. Uploaded stories can also be added to a “highlight” to be visible from your profile permanently.
You can use Instagram Stories to share information from organizations or amplify the voices of other creators with your platform. This is an effective way to bring awareness to and share information about an issue with just a simple click of a button.
Posting to Your Feed:
If you or a friend are skilled in graphic design, consider making a resource kit and sharing it on your platform. You can address various themes in separate tool kits, from sharing films or books for learning about racial justice to resources for mental health, or even something light-hearted like a guide for self-care.
Posting to your feed allows the information to be presented on people’s home page and permanently from your profile. Additionally, your followers can extend your impact by sharing your resource kit as a repost or an Instagram Story.
3. Phone Banking
Public policy is an integral part of numerous activism campaigns. Luckily, the usage of phone banking and email campaigns to fight for change remained mostly unaffected by COVID-19.
Phone banking involves calling your legislators to share your support for a bill that is either being voted on or will be proposed in Congress. Click here to find your house representative and here to find your senators.
To call your legislators, either use their office number or, if you do not have the direct number, you can reach U.S. representatives by calling 202-225-3121, and U.S. senators by calling 202-224-3121. Ask the operator to be connected to the individual’s office.
When you reach the office, ask to speak with the aide who handles the specific issue you’re addressing. If this is not possible at the time, leave a message with the receptionist clearly, but briefly, stating your views. Remember to share your city and state to confirm that you are a constituent of the individual you are calling.
To maximize the effectiveness of your message, gather a group of peers interested in the same issue to phone bank with you. Representatives have to account for the views of their constituents, so there’s strength in numbers in phone banking.
4. Letter-Writing Campaigns
A letter-writing campaign is an organized effort to coordinate with others to write to a decision maker in an attempt to get them to take a particular action. You can participate in an email campaign without ever leaving the house! All you have to do is send emails to public officials. Letter writing doesn’t have to be reserved for efforts to pass a law in Congress. This can be used to spark change in your city in areas like public funding or local policy.
Similarly to phone banking, there’s strength in numbers when it comes to email writing. It helps prove to the decision maker that people feel strongly about an issue, thus putting more pressure on them to take the requested action.
In starting a campaign, it’s important to consider the problem you want to address, what the possible solution to it is or the changes that need to be made, and if you think it’s possible to make this happen in a timely fashion. Also, think through who to send the letters to, and who is that person most likely to be influenced by. For example, representatives are more likely to be influenced by their constituents, and companies more so by their customers.
A letter should include a clear statement on your stance on the issue and your demands, as well as a small amount of background info to support your perspective. You can write an example letter to share with friends, followers on social media, and family, but individual letters are more likely to have an impact on public officials. If you do create a template, leave a space blank for people to write in their personal reasoning for supporting the cause.
5. Signing Petitions
Petitions show public officials that a large number of people stand behind a particular goal or desired action. It takes under a minute to sign a petition and can be done from anywhere in the world. You can use the discover tool on Change.org to find popular petitions you may be interested in signing. You also search for keywords on their homepage to easily find petitions on a particular topic.
6. Performing and Visual Arts
Art is a powerful form of expression that can spark conversations and invite people to see issues from a new perspective. Creating music or art around an issue is a way to combine your passions and use art to bring awareness to a topic you care about.
7. Tips for Clubs and Organizations
You may be part of an advocacy club or organization challenged by the shift to remote activities. However, there are various ways to keep members engaged and continue your efforts from home.
Consider creating themed meetings and holding them on a virtual platform. These meetings can be discussion based or used to educate others on particular topics within your club’s main focus. For example, if you are part of a mental health advocacy group, ideas for meetings include: different ways to manage your mental health during COVID-19 (share how it impacts mental health and highlight coping mechanisms), a self-care night, creating an information-based presentation on eating disorders paired with a body positive activity.
Use extensions like Netflix Party to stream a movie together with your club. You can choose a movie that’s related to your club’s focus in order to keep it relevant!
Use a template to create a donation board for your social media or use the donation tool to raise money for an organization from home.
If you’re not part of an organized group, you can still gather friends and/or family members to participate in these events with you!
We are collectively experiencing strange and unprecedented times, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find new ways to be active and use our voices for change. These are only a few ways to engage in virtual advocacy. I encourage you to use your creativity and get involved in innovative and unique ways! Though it may feel limiting to be stuck at home, even small impacts can go a long way. There are many lanes on the pathway to change, and taking action from home is just one of them going in the right direction.