by Natalie Berry
Graphics by Rachel Efruss
Activism is an assertive word that breeds associations with bra-burning marchers and crowds screaming at the top of their lungs. But that’s not truly correct. A lot of the headway that activists have achieved is through quiet, diligent actions. There is definitely a place for introverts in activism, but sometimes it’s hard to find what that place is.
Sarah Corbett’s talk Activism needs Introverts at TEDxYouth@Bath addresses this very issue. Corbett, a professional campaigner and consultant for charities, is a self-proclaimed introvert and struggles to contribute in traditionally activist ways. As she notes, “All of the offline campaignings seems to favor extroverts.” Since roughly half of the world’s population is introverted, she champions the values of introverted activists; they are slow, strategic and intimate. Their traits can be used to meet people in different ways, which is so important in this cluttered, polarized world.
Listening to the talk as an introvert myself, I felt a strong connection to this idea. I have an innate desire to contribute and better society, but I’m often intimidated because I’m not the type to go to marches or have a constantly updated Twitter feed. In fact, these methods of “activism” don’t appeal to me at all, but for a long time, this felt like all that was available to me. As it turns out, there are opportunities for introverts in activism, we just have to learn how to find and harness them.
Below, I am introducing some small, accessible, and tangible ways to make that difference without depleting your energy:
Remote and non-people-oriented volunteering
The Austin area is full of charities and causes that could use volunteers. Find a cause you believe in and see what opportunities they offer. Oftentimes, you can work from home answering emails, managing websites or social media, coordinating events, editing content or doing other solo tasks. While I volunteer weekly at the Austin Pets Alive! Thrift store, as you might have seen in my last blog post, I also write dog adoption bios for them, which is completely remote work. Many people walk dogs every week, which requires minimal human interaction and can be a calming way to contribute.
Donating money and items
You can support the same causes through donations instead of time. As students, it can be hard to fit regular volunteer commitments into our packed schedules, so this is an easier way to show solidarity. The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless is always looking for donation items like clothing, furniture, and personal care items. Currently, they are in high need of bar soap and shampoo. Inside Books Project, an organization that responds to prisoner requests for books, thrives on book donations.
Writing anonymous op-ed pieces
Whether you’re curating your own anonymous blog or submitting pieces to established publications, this is a good way to discuss important topics without the public spotlight. Something on the UT campus or in the Austin community bothering you? The Daily Texan accepts guest editorials on a rolling basis.
Writing letters to Congresspeople or Board Members
Some introverts — myself included — absolutely dread lengthy phone calls. Luckily, you can petition government representatives or other people in power through good old-fashioned letters. The letter format also lends itself to the steadier, more contemplative nature of introverts. For advice on writing to a Congressperson about an issue you care about, check out this article. Let your voice be heard.
Mentoring or working with others one-on-one
Introverts tend to thrive in quieter, less crowded environments. They also prefer one-on-one, deep conversations. This makes mentorship activism a great fit for introverts who want to make a difference without exhaustion. Sometimes that intimate connection with one person can make even more of an impact than hours of less intense work. If this sounds up your alley, look into the Girls Empowerment Network and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas.
Being conscious of your habits and spending
One of the best ways to be an activist is with your everyday choices. If you don’t support a company’s policies or they use unfair labor practices, don’t shop there. Do some research on the brands and items you regularly purchase by utilizing resources like ethicalconsumer.org and thegoodshoppingguide.com. As they say, money talks.
Corbett’s TEDx Talk was originally presented in November 2016, but it came out in podcast form at the end of 2017. However, considering the activism that has increased since Donald Trump’s election, the move to end DACA, and the outing of Harvey Weinstein, this issue is even more relevant now and moving into the future. The inclusion of introverts in these movements can only lead to a more well-rounded activist coalition. No matter where you fall on the introversion-extroversion spectrum, you can make the UT community and beyond a better place to live. •
Links to the talk:
Natalie Berry is a third year Advertising major from Cypress, Texas. This is her second semester with Spark, but her first semester being a dedicated blog writer.