Using social media to be vocal about important issues is second nature in the digital age. As marginalized groups face Donald Trump’s America, however, sounding off on Twitter doesn’t always feel like sufficient action.
Bringing your activism into the “real world” can seem daunting, but there are tangible ways you can make an impact especially in 2017.
As Trump enters office a man known for insulting marginalized communities and advocating for policy changes that many see as threats to social progress activists say thoughtful, comprehensive and inclusive activism is essential.
“If the Trump era won’t bring us together, nothing will,” says Jose Antonio Vargas, founder and CEO of undocumented immigrant rights organization Define American.
Here are six tips to help you take action offline in Trump’s America.
1. Start with self-reflection
Before you dive into offline activism, you need to picture what your involvement will look like and how much you can contribute.
“We don’t need people to martyr themselves for this work,” Brittany Packnett, cofounder of and noted racial justice activist, tells Mashable. “We need people to labor and do this work for a long time.”
“We need people to labor and do this work for a long time.”
Outline your existing obligations, and get real about how much time and energy you can give to a movement. Packnett suggests evaluating your family, career, financial and health responsibilities to assess your limits.
“You have to be very deliberate about these things,” she says. “Sitting down and doing personal reflection about who you are, what you care about and how you can contribute is where everyone can start.”
It’s crucial to evaluate how much you can put into the work you’re passionate about in order to get the most out of your activism. There’s no need to feel guilty if you can’t give unlimited amounts of energy. Any amount of effort can make an impact.
Figure yourself out first then get on with the fight.
2. Find your focus
Narrow down your activist interests into one central focus to help you focus your energy without burning out.
“The convenient thing about activism being online is that you can pay attention to multiple issues,” Packnett says. “It’s much more taxing in real life.”
Instead of dedicating yourself to the overwhelming task of reaching fully equality, pick a marginalized group you want to serve. If, for instance, you care about LGBTQ equality, narrow it even further. Maybe homeless LGBTQ youth in your area need special attention, or perhaps trans women of color in your community need dedicated support.
“Your focus is the intersection between what unique skills and talents you have, and what you care about most,” Packnett says.
Start small. You can always grow your activism with time.
3. Know your talents
After finding your focus, figure out how you can apply your unique talents to the movement.
“There is a role everyone can play, but you have to be thoughtful and deliberate about how you contribute to the thing you care most about,” Packnett says.
“There is a role everyone can play.”
Lawyers, for example, have the skills and knowledge to provide free legal aid to activists who need representation. Graphic designers and writer can use their talents to help a movement package its messaging.
Take the time to find your invaluable skills, and apply them where they can make the most impact.
“This climate is drawing in so many new people to activism and they are going to bring with them new perspectives and new tools,” Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, tells Mashable. “We have to be open to that, because we have the opportunity to do some really transformative things we haven’t done before.”
4. Seek out mentors
You might be new to activist work, but many people have worked on these issues long before you. Their expertise, knowledge and struggles can help guide your activism and advise you along the way.
“There are always going to be people who are veterans in the work you are interested in who can provide support,” says Victoria Kirby York, national campaigns director for the National LGBTQ Task Force. “They really can help you understand how to be most effective in your activism and your organizing.”
Mentors can help you figure out how to effectively tackle work that often seems overwhelming. Seek out a support network and don’t be shy to make essential connections.
“As you begin to do work around issues you care about, there are tons of folks who want to be in this with you,” Kirby York says.
5. Start the uncomfortable conversations daily
Though getting involved with dedicated movements is undeniably important, Vargas says we can’t overlook the importance of stepping up our activism in our everyday relationships.
We’re often hesitant to speak up to our racist uncle or homophobic grandmother because we’d rather stay comfortable. It’s a habit, he says, all activists need to break.
“This is not a time for comfortability.”
“I think we are much more willing to let things slide offline, just so we don’t have to deal with it,” Vargas says. “I would argue that we have now approached a scenario where you can’t let it go anymore.”
Vargas advocates for evaluating your everyday interactions, and seeing how you could intertwine advocacy of equality with all of them. Be vigilant of when you get too comfortable and choose discomfort instead.
“This is not a time for comfortability,” he says. “It’s a time for having conversations you don’t want to have with people.”
6. Don’t neglect online activism
Even when pushing your work into the real world, don’t forget the importance of online activism. While online advocacy is often mocked as “slacktivism,” online spaces are a vital part of any activist’s routine and they can help you engage a community you can’t feasibly reach in real life.
“Pairing digital advocacy with offline advocacy can be really powerful,” Bascom says. “It’s not about abandoning digital advocacy skills, but pairing them with action people may be less familiar with.”
The way online spaces can facilitate activism is of special importance for the disability rights community, for example. Online activism is often more accessible, giving people the tools for advocacy on their own terms and at their own pace.
Bottom line: Don’t hesitate to stay plugged in. Just work on feeling out when activism would be most impactful online or IRL.