Not so many years ago, I was what people call a politico. I ate, slept, and breathed politics, government and all matters of public policy. I worked in North Carolina politics for about ten years, and I felt good knowing that my work made a difference.
There is nothing like a baby to turn your world upside down, and that is exactly what happened to me. As a first-time mom, I was completely engrossed and in love with my new little boy. I would go days without reading a paper, and I really lost touch with what was going on in our government and in public policy.
I soon realized I was not only feeling disconnected but felt I wasn’t doing my duty. I cared so much about my baby boy; I owed it to him to help build the world I wanted him to inherit.
I’m still super busy, like most people (especially moms). And I still struggle to find time to connect with my legislators and other policy makers. It has helped to find shortcuts and to focus on a few key issues.
Twitter is a great way to engage with elected officials, government, and politics. With a quick glance while the kids have a snack, I can catch up on the news of the day and the issues that matter most to me.
Most North Carolina legislators are now on Twitter. Jonathan Kappler (@jonathankappler), the director of state government relations for the UNC system, keeps great lists of the North Carolina legislators and elected officials on Twitter. Using Twitter to follow the reporters that cover North Carolina politics has condensed my old reading habits into something I can manage with my current circus of a life. I particularly like following WRAL’s team at @NCCapitol.
News about the North Carolina General Assembly carries the hashtag #ncga, and North Carolina political news generally carries the hashtag #ncpol. So, a quick search on those hashtags keeps me an “insider” without all the leg work!
Social media also encourages conversation and dialogue, creating a personal relationship with policy makers. Through Twitter or Facebook, I can send feedback or questions to legislators or elected officials. And I can send those messages when I have a quiet moment late at night and even if there is a noisy game of chase going on in my house.
Since most of us are strapped for time, it is a great idea to focus on a few issues that are most important to you. For me, that’s education and health care. Whatever touches your heart and mind is where you should spend your time. A quick search on the web or on social media will turn up organizations around your issues and you can choose to receive updates through them and to get even more involved as time goes on.
And most importantly, make time to vote. The >>North Carolina Center for Voter Education has great resources. Information on registering to vote, finding a polling place and even personalized sample ballots can be found on the >>State Board of Elections site. Now that I have kids and a crazy schedule, I take advantage of early voting more often, and I try to take my kids with me if it is not too busy.
Whether it is at the local, state, or federal level, find ways that you can engage with your government and your elected officials. We’re all busy, but community requires commitment. Our democracy can’t work without its citizens, and we all need to do our part.
>>Sara Lang has worked in North Carolina politics at the state, federal and local levels for more than nearly 15 years. A communications consultant, she lives in Cary with her husband, two young children and pampered dog.