In my years of writing opinion columns, I have participated in more than 30 general elections, an almost equal number of town meetings, and a large inventory of primaries, referendums and local ballot decisions. Almost every time, I have used my byline as an opportunity to tell readers not just how they should vote, but why.

Our political system was designed by people who believed that a well-informed electorate would, if they participated fully, make the best decisions for the citizenry.

Of course, those designers lived in a time when information was shared in one of two ways: word of mouth (and sometimes song) and the printed page. I do not know what Thomas Jefferson would think of unending comment threads or TikTok, but I am pretty sure knowing about the smorgasbord of idea-sharing opportunities that face us now would send him and the rest of this country’s founders right back to their quills and parchment.

We live in complicated times. There are no easy answers. Those who seek to serve us in leadership positions present us with soundbites and half-minute videos that are somehow supposed to help us make those informed decisions. Twenty-first century Americans spend more time watching sports, old sitcoms and game shows than any sort of news programming; more of our lives are engaged in doom-scrolling social media than almost any other activity.

About a tenth of us actually read newspapers, and as for word-of-mouth, when was the last time you had a serious conversation about politics that was more than a cheering section for a point of view you already held?

For all the information that streams through our brains, very little provides in-depth consideration of the incredibly complicated issues that face us as individuals and a society. A campaign with a good hook can grab us by the viscera and bypass any real thought process.

This year I will not tell you who or what to vote for. I will not even tell you to vote. What I will say is this: before you vote, take some time to look at a sample of the ballot you will use. Open your favorite search engine (for those who do not use the internet this is where newspapers come in handy) and type in “2022 November election near me.” Take a bit more than the quarter-hour the average American spends on news each day to learn something new about the candidates and the issues.

When you buy a car, you probably do not just look at the glossy ads and drop $30,000 on the make and model with the prettiest pictures. You are much more likely to look up reviews and talk to people about their experience, not just with the car you think you want, but with a few others as well.

If you do not think the choices facing you Nov. 8 deserve at least as much effort as a Subaru, then maybe you should rethink your values before you decide how to impose them on others. We are all in this handbasket together, and whether it takes us to heaven or hell depends on those we choose to carry it.

Voting is easy; voting well is work.

Shlomit Auciello is a writer, photographer, and human ecologist who has lived in Midcoast Maine since 1988. Letter From Away has appeared online and in print, on and off since 1992, and is published here on a weekly basis.