Millennials showing the world they can change it

Jessi Alperin

Jessi hosts a podcast called “avocadotoast” that features young-adult perspectives on the social and political happenings in the world around us.

Q: How did you develop your interest in pursuing podcast?

A: I was listening to podcasts at work because I do a lot of scanning and have a lot of free time. I was listening to these podcasts and I felt like I could really do something like this, and I also wanted to do something political. I’ve been doing a YouTube channel for  a little over a year now and I feel like it’s hard to make that sort of medium political without facing a lot of backlash from people who have different levels of exposure to politics and what’s going on in the world. I decided that I wanted to do a podcast and I figured it would be great to do with my friend Nicole [Lado] because she and I always get together and talk about politics. That’s where the interest stems from.

Q: So how did you come up with the name “avocadotoast?”

A: Nicole and I sat on it for a while and we were trying to come up with something witty. A real estate developer said in an interview that millennials would be able to afford houses if they stopped eating so much avocado toast. So we decided that’s what we were going to have to call it.

Q: What kinds of themes do you explore on your show?

A: We discuss a lot of social and political issues. In the past three episodes we have talked about the differences between the various generations that are currently alive, Trump’s impeachment, neoliberalism, anti-Semitism, and the conflict between Israel and Palestine. We also recently talked about education and the budget cuts that Betsy DeVos is pushing. We’ve decided to move into the direction of doing one episode per month that delves into the various aspects of different political leaders: the good things they’ve done, the bad things they’ve done, and the things that have sort of tried to be covered up. In each episode we also like to talk something that has happened over the course of the week in the news.

Q: It sounds like you have a lot of insight and information packed into the subject matter of your show. How do you prepare and educate yourself about these topics?

A: For the news segment, it can be really overwhelming to keep up with what’s going on on CNN, Fox, and Washington Post every day. For the most part I’ll filter everything into what are the big news stories and what makes it onto Twitter, BuzzFeed, or Facebook. We want to focus on what people are going to be talking about so that we can talk about those things. We want to discuss the younger perspective because most of the people doing the talking are our parents or the baby boomers. Nicole is studying gender and women’s studies, so she’s talking about a lot of the issues they touch upon in her classes and she’ll pull from the resources she has access to through her school and her professors.

Q: Besides social media, it seems like our generation has remained silent about a lot of these issues. What kinds of goals or changes do you hope to accomplish through this show?

A: Like you mentioned, people in our age group from younger millennials through Generation Z are kind of quiet about this stuff, but we’re also super opinionated about it. Everywhere I go I see young people wanting to talk about politics. So many young people were at all of the marches since November and people our age have been at the protests. Many young people are vocal on Twitter and Instagram, but I think a lot of us feel like we can’t be vocal on other platforms like Facebook because you’re just going to get a lot of backlash from your parents’ republican friends. We aren’t getting published in the newspapers because those are still jobs that older people have. So through podcasting, we have this ability to speak about what issues are affecting us and our opinions on these issues. We are inheriting these political systems and the world as it is being affected right now. If we can get young people talking about it, we can have more of an influence on not just the future not just of this country, but the future of the planet depending on where our listeners are.

Q: We’re the first generation to have access to the full power of the internet and social media. We’re often bombarded by information, but what do you think is important to keep in mind as we’re forming our opinions and beliefs?

A: I think it’s very important to be aware of all the different perspectives. When you’re hearing these perspectives from various sources, you need to think about where these perspectives are coming from because the perspective of a person of color from the south is going to be different than a white person from Seattle. Hearing about different life experiences gives us access to new information and knowledge, and these help form our opinions. Different experiences create different perspectives, but we need to watch how we allow harmful opinions to be spread. A lot of people who are poor in West Virginia voted for Trump because they thought that he would help them, but a lot of those perspectives are limited-access perspectives because a lot of the education systems in West Virginia are not that great and there is an economic disparity between there and other parts of the country that limit what these people know and experience.

Q: Open-mindedness is important to carry through all of your interactions because everyone has different experiences and backgrounds.

A: There is some danger, which we talk about in our episode about neoliberalism, in that you can’t say that everyone deserves a platform to speak because then that opens up a platform for hate speech. When you can filter that out and not let hate speech have a platform, then all of these other perspectives that are benign should be heard and considered. You should allow yourself to accept new perspectives and allow your thought processes to change based on new information that you gather, not based off of harsh stereotypes and biases. Allow yourself to be swayed based on information, not just biased compelling arguments.

Q: There is a lot of power in rhetoric and language, and it can be easy to get carried away. What is your perspective on balancing day-to-day life and still being educated about politics and what’s going on?

A: It’s difficult because a lot of the political decisions being made feel like life or death, but a lot of them are unfortunately. Like the healthcare reform, that is life or death for a lot of people. Generally if I can just once a day look at credible online sources and one newspaper and see what’s going on, that’s usually enough for me. I try to spend a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of an hour and a half looking at the news because it can be so overwhelming. I’m a person who has a lot of anxiety so I need that small amount of time to be aware of what’s going on because that’s something I really value, but then I also need to spend the vast majority of my day not focused on the news.

Q: It often doesn’t even feel like news, it feels like bad news.

A: And there still is good news going on, but all of the good news going on is so small compared to how enormous the bad news is.

Q: What advice would you give to people who are also passionate about their interests, but may not know where to start?

A: Start looking up other people who are interested in what you’re interested in. If you are interested in psychology, there are tons of resources about that on the internet. Watching or listening to people who are interested in the same things that you’re interested in can inspire you, and a lot of times they’ll talk about resources that they use that you can get involved in also. My mom is interested in pet rescues and she got involved in one by going to our local Pet Valu and looking at flyers. Just getting out of your house and going to the grocery store, you may see flyers related to your interests. Exposing yourself to more art is also helpful because listening to other podcasts is what got me interested in doing this podcast. Exposing yourself to more talk about what you’re interested in can take you further in order to make your interests become more than just an interest and make it become something that you do.