To My Fellow Activist, Calm Down.
You’re involved. You’re passionate. You care for something that matters. This world has a lot of problems and you’re doing your part to solve at least one of them. We need more people like you.
You learned about your cause from personal experience, from someone else, from an informational video, from anything. At this point, what does it matter how you got involved? What’s important is that you are involved. But, through your involvement, you find that there’s too much to do and not enough people to do it.
You spread the word. You host events. You tell all your friends. You give us all Facebook notifications or ask us to retweet a message. Little by little, we all begin to associate you with your cause. You wear it on your sleeve, and you’re proud. You’re fighting the good fight, because if you don’t, who will?
It starts to consume you. You may live your life thinking about your next step: how to do a better job, how to get more people to care, how to make a greater impact. Your appeals become more frequent, more aggressive. People who don’t even know you identify you by your cause. You’ve done a good job championing the issues you seek to remedy.
In fact, you’re doing such a good job, you’re becoming an issue yourself.
You see, you work so strongly for your cause that people start to lose touch with you as a person, and see you more as a PR machine. The value of your personality and experience slowly diminishes as your presence becomes less of you and more about your cause. The longer you keep it up, the worse it gets, and eventually you create —
At the sight of your name, instead of people associating their memories with you, they immediately think you’ll be spending time making another pitch about your cause. Instead of building eagerness to see what you have to share, they groan at the thought of how you’re going to try to get them involved again.
“Great, what do they have to say this time?”
At this point, you’ve made yourself into a mockery. Everyone around you (not associated with your cause) will sooner or later make the same negative associations about you. If you ever become the topic of discussion, you aren’t actually the topic — your cause is. And, because you were overzealous, your cause now has negative associations with it. Your cause is annoying.
“Who’s going to your party? Oh, (insert name here) is? I wonder if he’s going to pull us aside and tell us why we should go to his fundraiser again.”
I’ve been the receiving end of mockery more often than I am proud to admit. I’ve been the one talking extensively about my passion, sending those Facebook invites, writing those long paragraphs about why my cause is important. I was so caught up in what I was doing, that I failed to realize:
I was the very person driving people away from my cause.
You see, we as human beings don’t like being treated as consumers. We don’t like people trying to actively market to us, manipulate us, and treat us as nothing more than time and money. We like having a human connection. When your presence transforms from you being yourself to you being a representative of your cause, you lose that human connection.
Sometimes it’s hard to see that you’ve lost yourself. Activism often suffers from the plague of groupthink mentality. You surround yourself with other activists, other people who care about your cause just as much as you do. They support you. They encourage you. They cheer you on every time you share your passion to the world.
Those aren’t the people whose attention you seek. They’re already on your side. As an activist, your goal is to get more people concerning themselves with your cause, right? If so, don’t let the people already involved blind you from recognizing if you’re actually bringing people in or pushing them away.
There’s a balance that needs to be struck. There exists a place where you can be yourself and still let what’s important to you be known. There’s a way to bring up your cause and be met with excitement, not sighs. At the end of the day, your friends and family want to be connected to you, not your cause. If they are invested in you as a person, they will find value in the causes you hold so close to your heart.
So, my fellow activist, calm down. Ease up on the zeal. Because, if you don’t, the only thing that will suffer is the very cause you work so hard to champion.