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How to Use Social Media to Become a Better Informed, More Engaged Citizen How to Use Social Media to Become a Better Informed, More Engaged Citizen

How to Use Social Media to Become a Better Informed, More Engaged Citizen

by Heather Sundell
January 26, 2013

I used to be that girl who didn’t care. A year ago, if something didn’t affect me, I didn’t want to know about it. Current events, international affairs, and even local issues eluded me. I’d love to pull the self-absorbed-twenty-something card, but that would just be a sorry excuse for the truth. I was uninformed and I didn’t give a damn.
 
Oddly enough, I was surrounded by well-read and up-to-date people. My circle of peers was politically informed, knowledgeable about the debt crisis, and could even report on sports scandals. Much to their dismay, I was in the dark every time a current event came up in conversation that wasn’t related to a reality show on Bravo. Honestly, it was embarrassing, but I didn’t know how to change my situation.
 
When I realized that just having a degree wasn’t enough to call myself educated, I decided to do something about it. I just didn’t know how.
 
Around the same time, I was promoted to the marketing manager at the online marketing agency where I work. In this position, I am responsible for our company’s thought leadership, which requires me to stay abreast of digital marketing news and trends. The easiest way for me to accomplish this part of my job description was to follow industry publications on Twitter, and watch out for relevant articles to retweet or comment on.
 
Prior to using Twitter for this purpose, I had mostly thought of the platform as a fun way to express mundane thoughts no one would have ever known about before this 140 character limit messaging platform. Little did I know that many other people used it as a genuine news source.
 
It didn’t take me long to realize that I could do the same thing with my own favorite publications. I started following the sites I read for fun, and found my literary intake had increased. From there, I tested the water with Forbes, The Huffington Post, and even the Wall Street Journal. Pretty soon I was hooked on reading current events, and before I knew it, I was invested in the election.
 
My social and political knowledge didn’t stop there. Twitter was just my gateway drug. Before long, I was listening to NPR every day, clicking on links about important issues from friends on Facebook, and being given a subscription to WIRED magazine.
 
Without really trying, I became an active member of society.
 
If you’re stuck in a rut, longing to be more informed on social and political issues but unsure how to get started, try turning to social media.
 
Start With Twitter
 
To begin your journey to social and political enlightenment, start with Twitter. Follow major news publications, in addition to “fluffier” online mags that still offer up the lighter side of news. Publications post one article at a time, which is much less pressure than showing up to an overwhelming homepage full of content. Start with the articles that catch your interest. Once you’re on the site, most good publications will give a user experience that leads you to similar articles. You could end up staying on the site for much more time than anticipated.
 
Compartmentalize
 
Use the lists function in Twitter and create categories for your sources of news. Use a social profile management tool like Hootsuite or TweetDeck so that you can keep multiple streams, or lists, open at one time.
 
Easy Access
 
Keep your Twitter streams open at all times. Give yourself a reprieve from daily work by activating your mind with news and opinions. Take five minute breaks by picking an interesting article to read. Making information easily accessible will give you little excuse to not seek it out. Make information part of your daily routine.
 
Find Other Sources
 
Figure out what medium is right for you. Is it podcasts, radio programs, video, article, blogs,
newspapers, or magazines? Find the right combination of new sources that can easily fit into your lifestyle.
 
You see, if a silly, self-involved twenty-something can change into a socially conscious and responsible individual in just a year, so can you. All you need is a Twitter handle.
 
This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship. Follow along, join the discussion, and share your experience at #goodcitizen.
 
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
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