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Hate to break it to you, but things don’t get better by themselves. By writing ‘get fit’ as a new years resolution you don’t magically sprout a 6 pack (I wish). Everywhere people are personifying 2016. ‘2016 sucks, it took BOWIE, it gave us Trump, it made us leave the EU.’

What started off as a joke about a tough year has led us to displacing any sense of responsibility for what’s going on in the world. As if the year itself is sentient and cruel and trying to mess with us. 2016 didn’t do anything to anyone.(A combo of the aging process, drug use, politics and human attitudes, with a sprinkling of anthropogenic climate change, maybe.)

So, for anyone who is distressed about the things they see and hear around them, here’s 5 things you can do all by yourself to make the world a better place:

1. Speak up

Don’t just stand by. Following Brexit and Trump an endless stream of racist rants caught on tape have been showing up on Facebook. Disgusting words aimed at minorities whilst a crowd stands by, shocked to silence. Sure, we post furious comments about what we see and videos get shared 100,000 times in an hour, but that’s not when we needed you. We needed you to say, ‘hey, that’s not ok, you are wrong’ and let the person being spoken to know that they are not alone, and all the people watching that the voices of hate may be the loudest but they are not even near a majority.

2. Listen up

We are bad at listening to other people’s views. To be fair, I’m a culprit. When someone has a different political view to me I feel a little button flick inside me that says ‘you don’t know’ and everything they say to me will be wrong in my mind, no matter how much sense they are speaking. We form our beliefs through our friendships and families and then reinforce them by living in a little bubble where we surround ourselves with like minded people and shut down when people try and reason with us. We are living in a post-truth world where we pick and choose the truth we want to know and push the rest aside. Let’s try and listen to people who disagree with us, really hear what they have to say. If nothing else it will make you better at arguing back when you know the other side.

3. Get out there

According to the media theory exam I just probably failed, we live in ‘the society of information.’ We are exposed to more information than ever before about what’s going on in the world, but rather than making us more likely to change things, it actually has the effect of sedating us. We feel good about ourselves for being up to date with the news and feeling sad about atrocities, but the more time we spend reading articles the more apathetic we get. We are actually doing less and less to make a difference. Challenge that. Show those thinkers that had me revising in my pjs for a week without a shower that they are WRONG. Volunteer, go to demonstrations, give up your time to help an elderly neighbour with the shopping. Don’t be a just a keyboard warrior, DO SOMETHING.Vague concern isn’t going to change the world.

4. Be nice. – A simple one, but seriously. Next time you think something petty and shallow, take a moment to pause. Ask yourself, what the hell? Don’t mock peoples’ clothes or appearance, don’t be unnecessarily cruel. Don’t make snide comments. It seems obvious but we all do it sometimes, catch yourself out. Break the kind of thinking patterns that lead you to judgement, question yourself. I think we often are a little mean when we feel insecure, but by breaking that cycle you can feel better about yourself and know that less people are thinking the very things you’re afraid of.

5. Don’t give in to the fear
Fear sells, rise above it. Don’t read the Sun. The best selling newspaper in the UK that institutionalizes racism and sexism, with hello boys posted on front page printed over a naked women’s chest and headlines claiming ‘MUSLIM MAN ROBS BANK’ when you would never see ‘white man robs bank’ in its place. Don’t prostitute out your fear. Check facts, don’t get wrapped up in the mass hysteria that hate and fear can coax out of you. Next time you see an article saying ‘Nigerian rapist arrested’ notice it. Question it.You’re better than that.

now off you go, change the world.

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