Why do so many people follow politics?
The most frequent answer I receive is some version of “I need to be a well informed citizen to vote wisely.” I agree that elections are important, and that it helps to have a well informed citizenry. But we don’t need a degree in statistics to realize that merely voting doesn’t really achieve anything. Our vote is one among millions. The act of voting is important, but its impact is insignificant. I know that saying this is taboo. But there, I said it.
Now let us examine the hidden costs of following politics. Consider how a politically active person spends about half-an-hour a day on political news. That is at least three hours of their time and attention per week directed towards making one vote count. The question we don’t often ask: what else can one do with three hours a week? Three hours is plenty of time to volunteer, build a community and leave a substantial impact in your local environment. Unlike a political vote, your efforts could compound week after week. Imagine what you could achieve in 5 years – the average political term.
One other argument that I hear often, is what if everybody stopped following politics. Would that not lead to an ignorant society? Instead, I dare you to imagine – what if everybody devoted three hours a week to doing impactful work in their local communities? What kind of society would that lead to?
The real reason people follow politics is that it is easy. It is easy to listen to the news, to sound smart at the dinner table and rattle off rants from a keyboard. Following politics lets us off the hook. But it often costs us a precious opportunity – to make a meaningful, lasting contribution.