How to Stay Politically Woke with Minimal Effort

Let me paint you a picture: it’s Thanksgiving dinner. You and your extended family are all sitting around the table, your dog is sitting by your legs, waiting for some rogue mashed potatoes to fall to the floor. The candles are lit, soft piano music plays on the stereo, life is good. All of a sudden, you see your Aunt Martha put her newly-emptied glass of wine down on the table as she begins to bring up politics. Uncle Bill chimes in with some remark about the latest election, the latest Facebook post, the newest “breaking news” article. In an instant, madness ensues. Everyone suddenly has an opinion about something. Your mother tries to calm the situation by bringing the conversation back towards the meal: “The turkey is not as dry as last year, but the cranberry sauce could be a bit tangier in my opinion”. But she fails in redirecting the argument; it’s gone too far. Someone throws a decorative pine cone across the room. All you want to do is participate in the stimulating debate, but how? Sure, you could bring up a Tweet you saw the other day, but could you back it up with concrete facts? Could you defend that inspiring and viral Tweet to your last breath?

Well, I have some news for you: there are ways to stay politically woke about certain topics without having to rely on social media to speak for you. It’s okay to read articles and make your own opinions without the help of a celebrity! Here are some great ways to start getting politically active without having to take a single course in political science!


Subscribe to theSkimm

There are several news outlets like theSkimm, but this particular one is a great way to start getting up to date on current events and politics. This ~free~ subscription provides you with a short article each week (or each day depending on your preferences) highlighting the most important current news. Not only does theSkimm help its subscribers to stay politically up to date, but it also provides national and international non-political news! Because your information is only coming from one source, there is no doubt that some of it may be biased, but it’s a good way to get bare-bones information on current topics of debate; if you are still interested in learning more and making your own opinions, find more news articles from conflicting companies and then decide how you feel.

If you see a viral Tweet, fact check it before Retweeting!

It’s tempting to Retweet a video or photo with over 100k Retweets, believe me. But something that previous generations did not have to worry about nearly as much as we do is the spreading of misinformation, particularly on the Internet. Following people and communities that you agree with politically is great and beneficial for understanding certain political topics, but oftentimes people will try to spread Tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media posts to either sway others into joining their side in a debate or simply attack any opposition. These people (or bots) also have a tendency to disregard basic facts about the topic, further preventing others from having an actual, truthful discussion about a political topic. It only takes a quick Google search to make sure that what someone is saying online is verifiable and true. Once that’s confirmed, Retweet, favorite, quote with a “thumbs up” emoji — whatever your heart desires.

Attend a lecture on politics around campus

Not every college student has time for this, but if you do, I highly encourage people to attend any kind of political lecture around campus, even if it has nothing to do with your classes or major. Universities will pay big money (big *tuition* money) to sponsor certain speakers and have them teach and discuss topics on political events. They can be incredibly informative and have you thinking about it for the rest of the day! Attending lectures are also a really good way to explore certain fields that you may have never known you were interested in, so check out a list of school events and see which ones grab your interest.

Photo courtesy of Antenna on Unsplash

Watch YouTube explanation videos for background information

There are so many different YouTube channels that explain current political topics in an easy, accessible way. All you really have to do is pick a topic of debate that you want to learn more about, and put it in the search bar with “explained” at the end. Talk shows, filmed podcasts, cute animations, and pretty much every other kind of video should come up. I personally love the animated explanation videos, because it feels like I’m just watching a simple crash course for a topic that could be really complex. Sometimes people don’t have time to read dozens of articles on one topic just to learn more about it, so a five to 10 minute video can work just as well in a fraction of the time.

Listen to podcasts in your free time

When I say “free time," trust me, I understand that that is a rare concept for many college students. But podcasts are seriously low-effort, and they can be really entertaining and educational, particularly on the subject of politics. Depending on what your views are, you can listen to any kind of political podcast. Here’s an article from Business Insider giving recommendations for the best political podcasts!

Don’t be afraid to not have an opinion!

Sometimes in a debate, you just don’t have enough information. And that is perfectly okay. Don’t think that you need to know absolutely everything that’s going on in the world, or have a magical solution to every problem that the country is facing. If someone is harassing you about a certain political topic that you don’t know much about, it’s okay to say something like, “I don’t know enough about this topic to have an opinion! Sorry!” If anything, it’s more respectable to recognize when you don’t have enough info than to rely on the voices of others to speak for you.

Now that you are armed with all of these tips and platforms for increasing your political knowledge, start learning! We have the ability to shape how the country operates with the power to vote, so hone that power by gaining as much knowledge as you can about who you’re voting for, and who you’re not! Next Thanksgiving, make sure to wow your family with your political prowess and be able to hold a whole a debate with your uncle; maybe he’ll eventually just give up and retire to the couch with a plate of apple pie, but you know you’ll have won that battle. Stay woke out there, ladies.

Photo courtesy of Element5 Digital on Unsplash