Want to make an impact in 2020? You’ll need a soap box.

Earlier this year I was called “soap-boxy” and I didn’t know whether it was an insult or a compliment. I’ve always been loud, and opinionated, but did I want that as a label?

I have thought about this long and hard, and have come to the conclusion that standing on your soap box can be a powerful thing, but only if your aim is to make a meaningful impact.

Until recently, most of the messages I shouted from my soap box were obnoxious. Masked as a quest to find ‘real’ gender equality, the opinions I spouted were not objective. Fuelled by personal traumatic memories of male high school bullies, the high horse I was riding on didn’t gallop toward a more equal future, but worked to prove the opposite sex was wrong, and unworthy of my respect.

Fast forward to 2020, and I am still as opinionated as ever, but my stories tell a different tale. Instead of hatred towards men, the hatred I now show is aimed at injustice, corruption and social inequality.

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Instead of spouting my own opinions based on personal experiences and feelings, I base my opinions on scientific facts, and I shout about political policies and the state of our economy.

In the current bushfire crisis that Australia is facing, half a billion animals are estimated to have died in NSW alone, 5 million hectares of land has been burnt (the equivalent of 5 million football fields) and 17 lives have been lost. I have been on my soap box about the impact of these fires for months, but only in the past few weeks as the true damage is seen, have I noticed an interesting turn of events.

My inbox is lighting up.

The Quiet Australians that the Prime Minister has continuously thanked for his re-appointment seem to be stirring. Once tragedy hits you personally, politics really start to matter. My followers who have family living on the NSW south coast, Blue Mountains area or inland from the Central Coast have started to see that if anything is going to change, we all need to pay attention, and start to speak up.

The sad fact is, many Australians don’t read the news anymore. The devastation we find within the pages of a newspaper are having a serious impact on our mental health and to most, ignorance is bliss. Whilst I understand that my obsession with Australian politics is not for everyone, the reality of what is happening in our country is inching closer and closer to home, and it appears that many now find it too difficult to continue to stick our heads in the sand. We can no longer ignore it completely.

If we are going to make a difference we need to work together, educate each other, and empower each other. We need to make our voices heard.

If you are feeling angry, helpless and not sure what you should do during this national crisis, here’s how you can make an impact in 2020 with a soap box (your social feed).

1. Educate yourself on what you’re passionate about

Are you passionate about gender equality? Improving the rights of disabled Australians? The unfair treatment of our First Nations people who managed this land for 60,000 years? The suffering of our wildlife?

Whatever you are passionate about, harness this. There are limits of course, as what you are sharing should have a meaningful impact. Not just a personal vendetta or celebrity gossip. Think about what you are passionate about that could make a real difference to the world if more people understood it.

This is what will drive you.

Sick of scrolling? Spend your time reading from respected journalists about the issues you care about instead of mindlessly consuming what is presented to you on your social media feed. This is where you can make an impact.

2. Question EVERYTHING YOU READ.

Once you get into the habit of reading real journalism, start to think independently.

Why did they say that? What motivation do they have to write it in this way? Do they have independent academic sources to back it up? Has it been written about before?

Think about what you are reading and why the person wrote it.

All articles have a purpose, so before you stand behind someone else’s opinion and endorse it, you need to decide whether you believe that it is unbiased and true, before you share it on social. 3. Shorten the fuck out of it before you share it on social.

Once you believe what you’re reading, and are willing to endorse it, it’s time to share it. But before you do, think about how you can summarise what you’ve read in as little time as possible, without butchering it.

The truth is, news is hard for many of us to stomach, because it’s long, and (I hate to say it) boring. Many articles over 500 words remind us of being trapped in a classroom with a teacher that didn’t understand us, inside four walls at a school where our creativity was crushed and our ideas were ignored.

If the aim is to empower people and encourage them to learn more than what the kardashians injected into their faces this week, we need to make the information appealing, and quick to digest.

You can do that by summarising what you’ve read in a caption, then directing them to read more by either sharing the link or pointing them in the right direction.

Poems, memes, and striking images will get the attention of those who are not into reading 1000 word articles (especially without knowing the gist of them) and can encourage your followers to educate themselves on something other than celebrity gossip.

4. Accept you can be wrong

This is a hard one. It takes balls to stand on your soap box and yell about something you believe is true, but even bigger balls to admit when you’re wrong.

The scariest thing about using your soap box to discuss complex issues is the fact that you could be trolled. But do you want to know the best part about trolls? Most of them are automated, and they all have the same ammunition. This ammunition is usually hateful, unfounded and incorrect. So, if you have been educating yourself, and questioning what you read this shouldn’t matter, you will know the truth.

And if you are wrong, it’s absolutely fine.

Being wrong doesn’t mean you’re uninformed, ignoring that you are wrong and not rectifying your mistake does. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes. It will only make you more intelligent to discuss how you were wrong, and the actions your followers can take to educate themselves in a time when tertiary education is too expensive for most to afford.

The main thing to understand here is that admitting you have shared something that was wrong is not a sign of weakness, but one of intelligence. It is only when we can have open debates, where we can step back, assess the situation and admit defeat to increase our own intelligence, that we can truly grow as as people.

If someone questions you, and then you educate yourself even further to find out they are in fact correct, you have the power to admit it and share it, to increase your intelligence and that of your followers.

5. Get a twitter account, stat.

Since Trump learnt to use Twitter, the social media platform has become an important source of information within the journalism sphere. Ever noticed that the news program you’re watching quotes a user on Twitter, or mentions a tweet that has “gone viral”?

The reason that many journalists opt for Twitter over Facebook and Instagram is because it’s the one social media platform that allows you to share and digest information quickly. There is only so much you can write, as you are limited to a certain amount of characters.

Unlike Instagram, you’re able to attract an audience because of your ability to share useful information, not just nice half naked pictures of your body.

Twitter is global, reactive, informative, and honest. A constant source of public commentary. If you’re interested, this social media platform allows you to uncover political or scientific information before your followers and, potentially, before the news outlets.

So, if you want to be informed about what the hell is going on in this country, and the world, open a Twitter account. Follow the journalists that write about what you give a shit about, and educate yourself so you can educate others.

That is how you make an impact in 2020.