resistance/activism without social media, and not in big cities
December 5, 2018 4:04 AM   Subscribe

If a person does not use social media, what is the best way to find activist groups to work with? How do you know if a groups is something you can contribute to, if you don't have special skills?

If you don't use social media, there are not many websites to find describing activist groups--at least, there don't seem to be many in my area. I don't know if there are a lot of groups, and they don't have normal websites, or if there aren't many groups to begin with. What I have been able to find describes people meeting in bars regularly, or providing assistance to people in need using skills that I don't have.

I've seen a number of comments on MeFi that provide a url and say "start here" to get involved, but they are always about groups that only have chapters in big cities I guess, nothing in my area. So I'm especially interested in hearing from people who have found a way to help resist in mid-sized or smaller cities.

[I have some concerns about using sites like meetup that charge nothing and use your personal data including your real name. I worry about misuse or theft of my personal data by malicious actors. This is very secondary to even finding a group in the first place, though.]

I know I have waited too long here. I'm sorry. My failure to help is a source of shame. I'm really shy in real life and I'm confused. I'm now willing to admit that I need someone to tell me what to do. But apparently I've isolated myself. Any advice is helpful.
posted by heatvision to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What are your causes? Most small and midsized communities will have organizations to help newcomers and/ or differently abled people, women's shelters, an LGBT pride group etc. Give one of them a call and ask what they need. Helping out at one of those organizations can be a kind of activism too, even when it's as prosaic as washing and folding donated clothing.
posted by peppermind at 4:53 AM on December 5, 2018

Special skills are far less useful than people think for many organisations, especially in rural locales. Why? Because "special skill" people are usually the originators of the projects and they can be territorial and combative about other special skill people jumping into their organisations. Special skill concept originators are often unable to do much on the front of basic skills, however. Door knocking, leafleting, basic getting out the vote work is often above the heads and below the pay grade of many organisational leaders.
The best way to find groups is to seek activists first for an introduction. Understanding their skills and needs first will help you guage what kinds of things you will be expected to do. Outlining your go/no-go activities for yourself in the context of another activist's experience will help you to better plan and prepare for entry. If there is a group you admire who do not have a local group, get in touch to find out how you could start one. Many national groups need local footing and offer training. Explaining your limitations will help, not hinder your interest, because it will empower a group to facilitate opportunities to put you in touch with local people who may have approached them before and dropped out. Happy to talk over message if you need more.
posted by parmanparman at 5:11 AM on December 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

What I have been able to find describes people meeting in bars regularly, or providing assistance to people in need using skills that I don't have.

Sounds like you have been able to find a couple of activist groups in your area. Yay! Now to check them out in person.

Have you met up with the activist group at the bar? You have encouragement from this internet stranger to go meet up with the activist group at the bar. Or is there something about meeting in bars that you find off-putting? Or are you saying you think that's not activism?

Any group that helps people using special skills also likely has a need for people without special skills to help out. They need someone to take the tickets at the door when they hold a fundraiser dinner or someone to hand out the cold water bottles when they hold a fundraiser race or someone to provide childcare while the special-skilled people apply their special skills or someone to sweep the floor of their little rented office space.

What do you see yourself doing that you consider activism, that doesn't require special skills?
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 5:19 AM on December 5, 2018

First of all, please don't feel bad about not getting started sooner. Sometimes you have to wait till you're ready. You're ready now, and that's the important thing.

Any sort of activism requires a certain amount of putting oneself out there, and that's a daunting prospect when you haven't had much opportunity to practice. I think it's so great that you want to reach out and get connected! I have some experience with the hermit-lifestyle myself - I'm lucky, because for me it tends to be a passing mood, but whenever I'm in the throes of it, going to some meet-up tends to be the last thing I want. But I tell myself that it will be good for me, and good for the cause. People say that showing up is half the battle; it sounds corny, but I really believe that. If for no other reason that empty chairs at meet-ups are dispiriting. Your presence shows others that they are not alone, that other people also give a shit. Don't discount the value of that.

I also recommend approaching someone from a group you support even when they don't have a local chapter in your area yet. Maybe you're not the only one who has already signalled an interest in local activities to them, and they can connect you with others.

I was lucky, because I was actually approached by a friend who knew that I'd be into that sort of thing and made the necessary introductions.

One great advantage about being among those who start a new chapter is that all the tasks are up for grabs, and you can pick the thing you feel most comfortable with. I'm not a special skills sort of person either, so the first thing I did at our newly formed local chapter is volunteer to take the minutes. The most rudimentary sort of organisation requires someone to take minutes (to keep track of to-dos and responsibilities). It's the most unglamorous task, but someone has to do it, and why shouldn't that be you? You're a decent writer, as demonstrated by your question. And everyone else will be glad that that's one less thing they have to think about.

I find that taking the minutes really sets me at ease at meetings, because it gives me an unquestionable purpose. If you don't say much at the meeting yourself, why, that's just natural - you have to concentrate on what others are saying, because you're the one taking the minutes. There can't be any question as to why you're even there, because someone needs to take the minutes and that happens to be you. Maybe even going to a pub meeting wouldn't be so daunting then?
posted by sohalt at 6:07 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Or is there something about meeting in bars that you find off-putting?
For what it's worth, there are a lot of people who find meetings in bars off-putting. We have a lot of those where I live, too, and I don't really love them, although I understand why they're a thing. But I have sensory processing issues, and bars often aren't great for me. They're not great for recovering alcoholics, of whom there are a lot, or for people who have religious objections to alcohol. The bars in which people hold political events are often extremely white spaces, and people of color may not feel welcome or even safe in extremely white spaces where there are likely to be drunk people. They're often spaces that appeal to young, hip people, which is the point, but that can be off-putting to people who are not young or hip. So I don't question why someone might not want to go to activist things in bars.


Here's a map of all the groups in the US that are affiliated with Indivisible. They have pretty good coverage outside of big cities, and a lot of groups have an email address to contact them. My experience is that some Indivisible groups mostly organize via Facebook, but if so, they may be able to plug you in to in-person groups. If you find one that only has Facebook or Twitter contact info, feel free to MeMail me and I'll contact them on your behalf. At least where I live, the typical Indivisible participant is a woman in her 40s or up who lives in a small-to-medium-sized city or the suburbs of a small-to-medium-sized city, and there are a fair number of people who live in small towns or rural areas.

If you aren't necessarily looking for a group, one thing to do is to program your elected officials' phone numbers into your phone. Calling elected officials feels really intimidating, but it usually goes really fast. Write a script and practice saying it a couple of times before you call. It doesn't have to be elaborate: "I'm calling to urge senator blah-blah-blah to vote no on this terrible bill, which will hurt children and puppies and is contrary to American values." You don't need to get into a policy discussion. They're just keeping a running tally of people who call to say yes or no.

Resistbot is a really easy way to contact your elected officials. You can do it via text message. Here's their website.

Postcards to Voters sends handwritten postcards to people, reminding them to vote. They're doing special elections now, which are usually low-turnout affairs where get-out-the-vote efforts can really make a difference. If you know like-minded people, a lot of people have postcard-writing parties where they all get together and write a bunch of postcards for upcoming elections. You can also do it on your own while you're watching TV.

Are there particular issues that you're interested in?

Please don't feel bad about waiting until now to get involved. Most people never get involved, so you're way ahead of the overwhelming majority of citizens.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:08 AM on December 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

An underutilized resource here: church ladies. (Especially if you find the right church.)
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:30 AM on December 5, 2018

heatvision, I hope I didn't come off as judging you about the bars. I'm sorry if I did. I genuinely wasn't sure from the question if it was bars as a meeting place that you find particularly off-putting, in which case, maybe a non-smoking restaurant would be more comfortable? Or a church? Someone's house? The outdoors? Or maybe just a helpful nudge past shyness, which is the only thing I could latch onto from the question. Would you like to clarify what a comfortable environment for you might be?

I wasn't sure if your objection was more like... all they ever do is meet in bars, which isn't very active activism. In which case, the suggestion might be to rethink whether "just meeting up" can be activism, because forging and strengthening connections is definitely one form of activism. Would you like to specify what types of actions for what types of causes would feel most like the activism you want to be doing?
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 11:25 AM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Possibly your Google searches are not that effective for whatever reason; if you want to say what the closest mid-size TN city around your area might be, maybe some nice MeFites could point you to some local resources?

Your state will have a Democrat county party and you can email the chair for your county to find out if there are volunteering opportunities. You can also sign up to be notified by email (but those kinds of state-wide calls for help are different than your more local needs.)
posted by DarlingBri at 12:09 PM on December 5, 2018

Show up to a local rally for a cause you believe in and ask the organisers afterwards if there are ways you can help. A lot of times, these organisers are involved in other things too, so they can link you up.

Check out events like zine fairs or arts festivals or similar, especially run by and for marginalised communities - a lot of times organisers of resistance groups will have a presence there.

Look for your local cheap or free press! Community radio is also VERY GOOD for this.
posted by divabat at 4:43 PM on December 5, 2018

Would you be comfortable creating a dummy/blank social media profile just so you can search things on Facebook, etc.? Nobody actually checks, you could use a fake name and an anime avatar or a stock photo if you want (and if they reject your request to join you can always message the organizer and be like, hey I'm off the grid social media wise but I still want to get involved). Could you maybe ask a friend to do that kind of lowkey research in exchange for dinner or something?

If neither of those options work, I'd say to try your local library or city hall and look for a bulletin board. There are tons of city council committees out there that just need warm bodies to sign people in or whatever, and those people would have connections to more activism type organizations.
posted by storytam at 6:37 PM on December 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

First, please don't beat up on yourself. It's completely unnecessary, unproductive, and Not Nice. No one is a paragon of activism and if they are - wonderful as that is - it often means some other area of their life is suffering.

Second, if you are at all open to it and if there's a UU or other progressive church/HOW in your town, go check it out. 99% of the activist/volunteer stuff I do was organized by my church or something I learned about because of the church, directly or indirectly. Lots of other progressive churches, mosques and synagogues in my area are working on the same stuff - criminal justice, immigration, food insecurity, women's rights, racism, homelessness, etc.

Where to look will depend to some degree on your specific location but here are a few things I would try. You may have already done this but I'd start by typing in ["yourtown" "issue"]. Like, ["Portland homeless"].

Check these types of websites for event/volunteer info:
* local non-profits
* churches, especially progressive churches
* activist groups
* libraries

Look at bulletin boards in:
* libraries
* event venues
* local businesses
* churches
* restaurants/coffee shops
* book stores

If it's really hard to plug in I would pretty much go to the first thing you can find that's worthwhile even if it's not your first choice. Even if your real passion is criminal justice reform but all you find is a local soup kitchen, do that. You will meet other people who are engaged and trying to make a difference and those relationships can ultimately help you find your path.

Be patient with the whole process. It takes time to build relationships - especially for us shy folk - and it can be hard to push yourself to get out there even when your convictions are strong. Keep being kind to yourself and showing up and meeting new people and sharing ideas.

Thank you for caring and making this effort, good luck to you!
posted by bunderful at 3:59 PM on December 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to say thanks for the advice. So far, I was able to sign up with Indivisible and have contacted a local mental health center about volunteering. I'll keep at it.
posted by heatvision at 8:06 AM on December 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

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