This post contains referral links.
I’ve been wanting to write this post for quite some time now, but feared that it wouldn’t be well-received. I’ve thought a lot about how this post fits in with my mission for this blog and came to the decision that the time has come. This post is not going to be me standing on a soap box telling you what and what not to believe. Rather, I’m going to share the ways I’ve been able to stay mentally afloat during our very interesting current political climate in the United States. If you have any tips or suggestions for how you’ve navigating this political age of rapidly developing news stories, please leave them below in the comments for others to benefit from as well.
First, Play Catch-Up
This first step is the one I find the most overwhelming and that others tell me is the most discouraging because of the sheer volume of information that is available these days. That being said, the ‘catch-up’ part won’t become any easier the longer you delay it, you’ll just have more to catch up on. I suggest starting with one issue or topic that you find most interesting such as healthcare or foreign affairs. I would start with an initial search in your favorite search engine and click on the most recent link. After you read that first article, see what other articles are hyperlinked within the text and are linked to in the sidebar of the page. Do any other articles seem like they pique your interest and/or provide more clarification about the current topic? If so, click on one/a few of them and keep reading. If not, head back to your initial search and click on the next link.
One thing that is especially important during this initial catch-up phase is understanding all sides of the issue. That usually means reading about the same issue from liberal, conservative and objective sources. This is particularly important throughout the rest of this process.
As you’re reading articles, don’t be afraid to have a tab open in your browser that acts as a dictionary (remember when we all used to have paper dictionaries?). There is never any shame in looking up what a word or concept means – you are trying to gain a complete, full understanding of what’s going on and the easiest way to ensure that happens is to ensure that you understand every word you’re reading.
(More on the blog: How to be Motivated by Pressure)
Make it a Habit
Now that you’re mostly caught up on current events, it’s time to make staying informed a habit. The easiest way I’ve been able to do this is by getting current events sent straight to my inbox every morning. I then read both newsletters to ease me into work-mode in the morning as I drink my coffee. The first one I get in my inbox is The Skimm. I like this newsletter because it describes current events in layman’s terms that are easily comprehensible and avoid political jargon that typically goes over my head. Another good thing about The Skimm is that every newsletter always includes many hyperlinks to articles from a variety of sources that go into more detail about topics they cover.
The second newsletter I get sent to my mailbox is called CNN Five Things. As you may be able to guess, the five biggest issues are summarized and sent to your inbox. At the end of every email is a short list of other current events issues that maybe aren’t as pressing or act as more of an announcement. As with The Skimm, CNN Five Things also hyperlinks to other articles throughout the newsletter, but these links are, of course, to other CNN articles.
Engage With Others
I don’t necessarily mean in the comment section of an article shared on Facebook. Rather, I am referring to constructive discourse with your peers, family, strangers and/or elected officials. I’ve found that this is the easiest, fastest way to learn of and understand other viewpoints and also to help you develop your own opinions on current events. This can also be the most challenging part. It can be quite infuriating or frustrating to have a conversation with someone who has polar opposite views from you. That’s okay. The larger question to keep in mind during these conversations is : is this conversation productive? If it’s not, how can I make it productive? These conversations are challenging for both parties usually and it’s important to be receptive to that. Keep a calm tone and ask questions. The more open you are/seem, the more open of a conversation you will have.
(More on the blog: Why You Need to be Intentional With Your Words)
Develop Opinions (Even if They Change!)
After all of this research and talking, you will have an opinion even if you don’t think you do. That’s good! Use your opinion and beliefs to advocate for what you feel is right. The whole point of listing this step as the last one is because I firmly believe it should happen last. Develop an opinion based on information and facts from all political backgrounds and sources. As you grow and mature and new information is given, those opinions can change. That’s the beauty of being human!
Once you get to this ‘final’ stage, your work isn’t over. Current events don’t end because you’ve suddenly caught up on the last five years of events. As current events continuously happen (that would be the ‘current’ in current events), it is your duty to continue to educate yourself on changes in leadership, policy, geography and other areas to keep your opinions informed.
I know this post was a doozy. Like I wrote at the beginning of this post, this topic has been on my mind for a while now and I haven’t been confident in the best way to begin this conversation. Thank you for reading and I would appreciate any constructive feedback on this post.
How do you stayed informed in the current political climate?