About a week ago, I wanted to write this post. Some people asked me how I balance my activism and my “regular” content—and I thought I could easily write this post.
But then I was hit with a good dose of humility. Me? An activist? I’m nowhere near as vigilant as those who go to protests, raise money for good causes, or bother their representatives. I certainly didn’t, and still don’t, feel like I’m doing enough.
I just tell stories. I just tell y’all about my feelings. I just care. But every good writer uses their voice however they can to speak the truth and incite change.
We aren’t going back to normalcy, and I’m grateful for that. It means that all this suffering, all the loss, and all the tired voices mean something.
I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned over the years about speaking up for other people and making empathy a part of how I show up online. I hope this helps all the content creators out there who are like “I want to talk about my book but I also want to help support my community.”
This isn’t a perfect list, so I’d be happy to hear about anything I’ve missed and what has been helping you be the best ally you can be.
1. Do I Have to Use My Voice on Social Media?
Considering how the news is often unrelenting, it’s impossible to share your two cents on literally everything. And we shouldn’t feel like we have to respond to everything to avoid “cancel culture.”
No, you don’t have to share your voice on social media to be a good ally. If anything, it’s worse to say you care online and don’t do anything IRL to fix things.
However, when you tell them in-person or online that you care, it means a lot. It has certainly helped me and Travis during this time. We need something to drown out the drivel and hatred we regularly see online.
Everyone must decide what they feel called to do and then do that thing. Most of the growth I’ve done has happened every day when I’m not on my phone. I share a lot of my experiences online, but I try to learn them first before I recommend them to my readers.
I would say that if people ask you about why you aren’t speaking up online, please do anything but be defensive. You can calmly explain the things you’re doing on your own and that should be great.
2. How Do I Talk About Things that Don’t Directly Concern Me?
We as white people are often worried that we’re going to get something wrong. And let’s just admit it: we’re going to get it wrong. If you’re in your 20s or 30s and you’re learning a lot of stuff about racism, homophobia, etc., that’s a lot of unlearning to do. We’re in catch-up mode right now. This isn’t a demand to be a perfect ally from the jump.
I try to make a point of sharing what I’ve learned from other people, especially those who’ve done their research on that topic. Instagram stories, Tik Tok, Twitter, and Facebook are great places to not only share those posts but to give people access to the original source.
I would say the biggest thing here is that if it doesn’t concern you, don’t make it about you. It’s easy to feel terrible about what’s going on but this is a great time to pass the mic to someone else rather than tell people how we feel about current events.
3. What if I Don’t Know Enough on the Issues?
When you don’t know enough about an issue, it means it’s time to stop arguing and start reading. Whether it’s in-person or online, I’m willing to bet that you can put a pin in the conversation by saying “It’s clear that we’re talking about something that neither of us understand enough. I’ll do some research and get back to you.”
I’m also willing to bet that whoever’s arguing with you sorely needs to do their own research but hasn’t put in enough work. Just because someone is shouting their stance doesn’t mean it’s automatically correct.
You don’t have to have your doctorate in racism just because you support BLM. Ironically, once you uncover one thing you didn’t know, five more spring up. There’s decades of mess to learn and accept, and you won’t have all the tools you’ll need to yell at your family and friends. If they’re decent people, they won’t hold it against you for taking a timeout to read some articles.
4. How Do I Handle Pushback?
First of all, pushback will come in many forms. Some people will tell you that politics don’t belong on your page because they signed up for whatever it is you normally share and not the “politics stuff.” Some will straight up unfollow.
I’ve talked many times about catering to your target audience. Your platform is not for everyone. You want to attract people who like the cute stuff and the real stuff, so stick to your principles when people get nasty.
If you’re being bullied in your DMs, you’re allowed to expose them, block them, engage with them, etc. This is your platform and you’re in charge. Whichever choice you make is going to be okay, and it’ll change based on the vitriol you get.
I want to make one thing clear: there’s a difference between hate and correction. Please consider being patient and open to people who want to correct (help you improve) your approach to activism. If anything, they probably care about you and your books and are trying to support you.
5. How Do I Show I Care Without Sounding Ingenuous or “Fake Woke”?
I would recommend sharing stuff you actually care about, rather than saying something to avoid cancel culture. It’s also ideal to share solutions or resources that you’ve already used to better understand someone else’s struggles or POV.
For example, a lot of people are sharing book lists of things to read by Black writers. I could share a picture of The Hate U Give on my feed; I have a copy but I haven’t actually read it yet. I think I’d feel more genuine about the book if I showcased it after I’ve read it. Otherwise, it could be seen as trying to post for clout, right? We should avoid virtue-signaling as much as we can.
Another way to use your platform is by doing literally anything but posting. Try leaving supportive comments on other posts, sharing other content on your stories or newsletters, or get in those DMs and tell your current friends that you support them and you’re doing what you can to make the world and the industry safer and more equal.
No one will see these quiet acts of kindness, and yet they are the most powerful tools we have.
6. I Keep Seeing Conflicting Information About How to Help. What Do I Do?
Boy, I felt this way a few years ago when I first heard about BLM and I’m feeling it today. If you’re white and new to allyship, it really feels like we’re being told to speak up, shut up, support black creators, don’t be fake about our support, be actively engaged, make room for black voices…
If you think about it, you can do all these things, just not all on the same day. Today may be a day for sharing other voices. Tomorrow might be time to affirm your stance. The next day might be good for protesting, while the next will be good for resting.
The truth is, many activists understandably wonder how long we’ll stick around before we fade away and back to “comfortable normalcy.” Overall, they want people to share their load and responsibility to incite change while being genuine about it.
So my indirect answer is to be patient with activists online. They’re tired and exhausted. They have a finite amount of energy to explain racism. We already have a lot of material online about what we can do and not do to help.
Meditate and ponder your strengths and weaknesses and find your place in the moment based on that insight. Travis and I used these prompts from the Building Movement Project to figure this out for ourselves.
7. I’ve Shared Stuff on My Platform–When Will My Efforts Be “Enough”?
At the end of the day, this movement is a marathon. We won’t get what we want right away. Each day, strive to do something to get us there but you aren’t a bad person if you slip up or have a bad day.
You’re going to make mistakes. Apologize. You’re gonna have wins. Acknowledge them.
Meanwhile, we all have jobs, dreams, and responsibilities. It may feel like we can’t talk about our books or our kids or anything unrelated to the news. While that will slowly die down (hopefully not too much), consider how you can share something each week about why activism matters to you.
Share what you’re learning. Be transparent about your frustrations. We’re all human, and isn’t it grand that we have the desire to take care of each other while taking care of ourselves?
This is a balancing act but I believe we can do it.
Okay, Here’s Your Recap
- Decide if you’re going to use social media to speak up.
- Lift up other voices—it’s not about us right now.
- Study and listen whenever you can.
- Stand by your principles, even if others disagree.
- Ponder how you can be genuine in your efforts.
- Decide each day how you’ll show up to the cause.
- Be patient with your progress. You’re already “enough.”