Photo by Kate Woods

“But, I put it on Facebook!” How many times have we heard someone in real life share about the things they shared on Facebook or other social media platforms? While social media can play an important role in leveraging our voices, this is certainly not the only way we can use our voices to make lasting, real change in the world. Here are some of my favorite ways to make sure my voice is heard among all of the national days and causes floating around out there.

Be Passionate
One of the best ways to share about a social cause you are interested in is to be passionate about it. Just because something is trendy doesn’t mean you are automatically passionate about it. Think about things you care about: equal rights for the marginalized; anti-human trafficking; animals; etc. and pick the thing that you’re excited to talk about the most. Your passion can guide you to a voice you might not have known you had. It can open doors you might not have known existed.

Share Your Story
If you are personally familiar with the cause you are passionate about, share your story. I find that when I talk about my passions (orphan prevention, grassroots community development, Haiti), it goes over best when I can share stories on these causes. I believe this because I have seen that it works. Why do you feel so passionate about the cause you believe in? The most likely reason is that you have seen or heard of a story that inspires you. Share that– and more than just a social media share!

Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About It
One of the greatest things we need to re-learn is how to disagree and communicate through it all. We can’t be active participants in social change without talking about it and educating people. If you are passionate about a cause, chances are it is controversial in some way. Don’t be afraid to engage people in a way that is kind and understanding to enlighten people – and to allow yourself to hear the other side. It will help you grow and show you how firmly you believe in your cause.

Be Open to Change
Social causes seek to bring attention and advocacy to a specific issue. They usually also try to change a particular outcome for people or animals or the environment. While we might be passionate about particular issues, we need to be open to our solution not being the only solution. We need to keep the broader picture in mind: helping reverse climate change; reducing waste; rescuing animals; etc. and not die on the hill that is the solution. A wise person once told me, “Be firm in your cause and flexible in your methods,” and I think this is key to using our voices for social change. We must be willing to admit when something doesn’t work and keep fighting for the cause.

Acknowledge Your Role
Often, we are passionate about a cause without acknowledging our role in the problem. If we are white, privileged Americans, we have to recognize our own culture’s role in the oppression of minorities in the US and beyond. We have to realize that we cannot use our voice without first knowing what our voice is. For instance, working in Haiti has given me a heart and passion for local-led development. However, I have first to understand that my voice and culture has often lent itself to the oppression of Haitians and the manipulation of stories from this place for the good of bigger stories our culture wants to tell. When I realized that, I was able to start telling stories from a place of humility and correction of these false narratives, rather than reinforcing stereotypes about Haitians and Haiti. I encourage all of us who wish to be social activists not to skip this crucial (and often uncomfortable) role in finding our voices. None of us are unbiased; we have to search to hear our own biases and realize our own culture’s role in social causes.

Walk The Walk
I don’t know about you, but I don’t take anyone seriously who doesn’t actively engage with their social cause. Donate your time and money to your cause. Start a local chapter for the organizations you respect. Read and seek to understand. Talk to those you wish to help. Personally, being a Facebook warrior does not impress me. Do something more. Take that next step to show you truly align yourself with the causes you love. It might feel overwhelming, but start small! There are so many ways to get involved – don’t be afraid. I am sure the cause would love to have your voice, your body, and your heart!

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