A beginner’s guide into the sphere of political awareness and activism

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A screenshot from the Apple News app, featuring stories from a variety of news sources

For some reason, when I reflect on my journey into the sphere of political awareness, one of the first things that comes to mind is former Editor in Chief Reena Mathews’ contribution to the 2018-2019 editors’ column, “Inside Out,”: “Outside the School.”

That tri-weekly “column”—more accurately an editorial—was intended to recap important news events for the students of FHC, and I remember regarding it with bewildered admiration. I was fourteen at the time, and the world outside my carefully constructed walls seemed inscrutable. 

Current events, political affiliations, informed discussions, civic duty—it was all so far out of reach. I couldn’t even begin to understand the gravity of the news that Reena recapped, let alone consider writing editorials of that caliber. 

Now I’m seventeen, and although I still lack the ability to write editorials as practiced as Reena’s, I’m an aspiring political science and journalism major with the means to stay informed. 

I want to offer to others what I wish I’d had when I was attempting to “get into politics”—a guide on simple first steps towards becoming politically aware. 

Take advantage of your social media

Social media is an excellent option for dipping your toes into politics, simply because most people have at least one social media platform. Spicing your feed up with even just one or two politically-focused accounts can open your eyes to the existence of certain issues, pointing you in the right direction.

It’s salient to consider that in terms of staying informed about current events, social media is only a jumping off point. If social media is your only source of information, it will be far too easy to draw conclusions and become misinformed. Anything you hear about on social media should be fact-checked and further researched.

I also recommend seeking out variety in the political accounts you follow; even if it’s only a couple, try not to put yourself in an echo chamber. One of the best aspects of social media is that it provides a voice to a diverse range of people with unique perspectives. Try to take into consideration the opinions of people who disagree with you or have experienced life differently than you. 

Political podcasts

During the general political turmoil of 2020, I started listening to NPR on my various commutes, but now that the news doesn’t bear quite the same shock value that it did this time last year, I’m not as compelled by NPR, although it’s still one of my default stations. In its absence however, I’ve discovered a couple of different podcasts to fill in the gaps. They have fallen into a balanced middle ground between in-depth analysis and surface-level headlines. 

I also recommend seeking out variety in the political accounts you follow; even if it’s only a couple, try not to put yourself in an echo chamber.”

NPR’s Up First would be my top recommendation. It’s a brief analysis of three of the most important news stories each day, ranging between 10 to 15 minutes, intended for your drive to work or school.

Not only does this podcast provide me with a fun conversation starter when I walk into first hour every morning, but it also equips me with base-level knowledge if the subject of politics arises in daily conversation. 

For slightly longer intervals of time, The NPR Politics Podcast focuses more on politics, as opposed to current events, and the news straight out of Washington. It also offers more analysis than simply basic information coverage, but it can be more of a commitment, so it may be a better option for someone slightly further along in their political awareness journey. 

The Flip Side

When it comes to genuinely understanding all facets of a political issue or current event, and stepping outside of that echo chamber, The Flip Side has proven to be an extremely useful tool. 

Choosing new relevant topics every day, The Flip Side presents the facts of an issue and what “each side” is saying about it. Condensing 30+ publications, it does the heavy-lifting of thoroughly analyzing the different perspectives on a subject. 

Similarly to The NPR Politics Podcast, The Flip Side may be a better companion for someone desiring a deeper understanding of the ramifications of a political situation, rather than the basic facts about it. However, no matter where you’re at on your path to political awareness, The Flip Side’s message is salient: to consider all sides of an issue when trying to understand it. 

When it comes to growing in your political awareness, considering the different “sides” of an issue is just as important as being willing to hold civil discussions, ask questions, admit where you can improve, and focus on your growth. 

This list is not exhaustive, so any one of these steps or any other step that you take to increase your grasp on politics and current events is a step in the right direction—a step toward increased understanding of the multi-faceted world that surrounds you.