What It Means to Actually Be Politically "Woke"

Midterm elections occurred just a few weeks ago, and hopefully you voted. I know you’ve heard it a million times, but it is critical to express your opinions through voting. Not to be too dramatic, but people literally died trying to get the right to vote, so maybe just say thank you by heading to the polls. We live in a country where we have the full ability to formulate our own opinions, and we should take advantage of that.

Over the past few years, however, the idea that being interested and involved in politics is cool has grown increasingly popular. Hence the slang term “woke.” Being “woke” is defined as being well informed about the issues and injustices that plague our country. Ordinarily this would be a good thing, because our generation needs to understand politics, express our opinions, and be involved.

However, this interest stems from the wrong place. Most of the time, people claiming to be “woke” are not actually as informed as they think. Being informed is cool, but faking it or gathering false information to appear cool is not. In order to actually be informed, “woke,” whatever you want to call it, there are a few basic, easy things one can do.

Download news apps on your phone and sign up for notifications.

This is a great way to stay informed without having to watch the news. However, I recommend downloading news outlets from ALL sides of the political spectrum. I have CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News alerts on my phone. Not only do I gain insight on what is happening in the world, but I get an understanding of how news outlets differ in how they give information. Not to mention, if you sign up for notifications, you almost never have to even open the app, it’s that easy.

Understand different types of issues from all areas of life.

I fully understand why the majority of my generation, including myself, cares most about social issues such as gun control, LGBTQ rights, abortion; etc. Those are critical issues, but there are a lot of other ones that you may not be aware of that are just as crucial. They may not seem as important because they aren’t as emotionally charged as social issues, but understanding them will make you a more well-rounded citizen. Take time to understand foreign affair policies, economics, health care and education. There are just as many problems in these areas of politics that you can become informed in and debate about.

Back up your opinions with actions.

If you are passionate about a certain issue, that is great, but don’t just talk about it. Look up and contact your representatives, find petitions to sign, go to a protest. You’d be surprised how many easy ways there are to express your beliefs, not just voting. You don’t have to do anything extreme either, simply making a phone call to your local politicians can make a world of difference.

Recognize the influence of your beliefs.

It is natural to have your political opinions be influenced by your parents, friends, social media, etc. If that is the case, however, make sure you recognize that and understand that you are being influenced. When you hear an opinion from your friend that you think you agree with, don’t just take their word for it. Google it, go on a few sites and read about it, it will only take a couple of minutes to understand why they feel that way. Then you can feel the same knowing you have all the facts to back it up.

Stop getting your information from the wrong places.

Facebook, Snapchat stories, buzzfeed, etc. are not reliable sources. Start looking into where you are accessing your information and focus on reliable news outlets. There is going to be some level of bias in almost every outlet, but if you recognize that, gather from a variety of sources, and stop getting fake news from facebook posts that literally use scare tactics to real you in, you will be good. It is so easy to be informed with the technology we have at our fingertips, but it is just as easy to get the wrong information, so don’t let yourself fall in this trap.

Understand local politics as well as national ones.

While everyone wants to get in on the debate about the presidential office or any other big national issue, some of the most important political problems occur in your hometown. It could be a proposition to fund more money for your local zoo, or the election for your public high school’s educational board. These are the issues that will influence your life the most directly, so take time to watch local news and follow local politics just as carefully as you would national ones.

While you don’t have to follow all of these tips, just trying one or two will get you on the right track to being a truly informed citizen. Being politically informed and involved is cool, so if you want to be politically “woke,” just make sure you are actually earning the term.