Are we becoming a ‘virtual’ society?

Have you ever noticed how social media seems to be changing the American society from a nation of doers to a nation of talkers? (Or posters, if you wish).

Considering I am an intermittent user of Facebook, I am certainly not an expert on social media as a whole.

In fact, I only signed up for Facebook a few years ago to keep in touch with the teenagers who volunteered as commissioners in my Teen Court Program at the time.

It has been great to follow them as they went off to school, got jobs, got married and, in some cases, to see them raising their own children.

It is also nice to hear from friends, old and new, about what is happening in their lives.

Unfortunately, I have noticed a change in the posts from some folks over the years. Instead of sharing the events in their lives, they are posting (mostly re-posting) somebody else’s opinion or comment about the latest cause, social ill or political complaint.

What vexes me even more is that many people have come to the conclusion that posting something on social media about a perceived problem is the same as participating (being part of the solution) to help solve it.

Posting some image on Facebook and challenging everybody to share it only accomplishes two things.

First, it gets your friends to acknowledge your post and second, it gives the impression that you are doing something to help the situation.

The latter can only be determined by the actual time you dedicate to the causes you have said are dear to you, not the number of posts you can share.

As the old saying goes, “It’s easy to talk the talk, but harder to walk the walk.”

Let’s take a little look back at social media history. Facebook was launched in February 2004 followed by Twitter in 2006. As they caught on, Whatsapp, Instagram and Snap Chat kicked off in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively.

In 2015 Facebook announced that its active monthly users had grown from just over six million in 2005 to 1.44 billion in 2015.

Coincidentally, in 2015 the Corporation for National Community Service conducted a survey that reflected a decade of steady decline in volunteerism to a point where only 25.3 percent of Americans were volunteering for the organizations and causes they were interested in.

The other down side was that they were averaging just over 32 volunteer hours, per person, per year with their efforts.

A rough guideline from CNCS indicates that anything between 50 and 200 hours is going to sound impressive and show that you have made a true commitment.

They also mention that once you get above 200 hours a year on a single cause, you might want to consider if your time could be better spent doing something else.

It sounds to me like an hour of volunteerism a week is a good place to start, especially if it takes you away from social media.

It is very tempting for those of us who are in our “golden years” to conjure up excuses about ways we should be exempt due to our age or exclaim, “I’ve paid my dues.” To you I say, Humbug! Nobody is asking you to make little rocks out of big rocks; time and knowledge is often the key to success in every endeavor.

As for the second excuse, I believe that a person’s commitment to society is fulfilled when you’re permanently horizontal and even then, you’re life’s legacy will be a testament to what was important to you.

Volunteering is a historic core value of America going back to the colonists that banded together and helped one another daily as a means of survival.

Volunteer militias like the “Minutemen” from across the colonies procured America’s freedom.

Benjamin Franklin founded the first volunteer fire station in 1736, and to this day approximately 70 percent of the nation’s firemen are volunteers, and don’t forget all the community barn raisings that took place to help that new couple get their family established.

Who, you may ask, actually does volunteer the most?

According to research by the CNCS, folks in the age group 35 to 44 were the most likely to volunteer (30.6 percent), followed by Baby Boomers (age 45 to 73) at 25.7 percent.

Women continue to volunteer at a higher rate than do men across all age groups, educational levels, and other major demographic characteristics.

Volunteer rates were lowest among 20 to 24 year-olds (18.5 percent).

I am not in any way judging any person regarding the time they spend helping out family, friends, community or causes they believe in.

I am for sure advocating the benefits of being personally involved in efforts that benefit all of the above mentioned.

Some of the best friends and nicest people I have had the privilege to meet were as a result of volunteering myself or while they were volunteering.

There are quite a lot of those folks here in our community, but there is always room for more.

Besides the great people I have met, the wonderful feeling I get when I’ve had the opportunity to benefit someone else, often folks I don’t even know, is the best sensation I have ever experienced.

Personally, I want to live in a real society, not a virtual society.