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Open Door Policy - July 11, 2016
"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
- President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961
A new term has been generated recently to explain the increasing tough talk on social media: Keyboard Courage. This argues a person is far more willing to show bravado when on the other side of the computer screen typing away on their keyboard. There is little fear of brazen talk when the repercussions are not directly experienced. It is far easier to incite when the person on the other side of the argument cannot look you in the eye or use immediate spoken word to counter the argument. It also discourages many from seeking out the other and having a meaningful discussion while looking them in the eyes.
This attitude is also leading to another kind of harm. With more and more discussions occurring over posts rather than in person, many people feel that is enough for them. They simply type up their feelings on an issue, or even sometimes share an event or a post with their “friends” instead of engaging in a real life gathering.
I feel this type of outreach has led to a decline in attendance at civic events or people joining worthy organizations. People can get their interaction with others or share their thoughts without leaving their homes. As one who has helped with political campaigns and even been on the ballot a few times myself, I have noticed fewer and fewer people actually volunteering and engaging in the political arena in person. I also serve as chairman of a small town community festival and the volunteer base continues to grow smaller as the next generation does not see the importance of continuing these traditions through volunteer labor. Many are more than willing to promote the event on Facebook, Twitter and the other platforms though.
The articles shared, the comments attached, or the events created seem to fulfill the feeling of accomplishment by many. Folks who in years past would help by knocking doors, attending functions and giving of their time have been replaced by those who are content to invite their friends to an online chat and often not even show up to participate themselves at the functions which they pass along to others.
As a person who is engaged through not only the various forms of social media, but also in community events and civic organizations, I can promise you the feeling of accomplishment is far better when directly involved with assisting a cause, not just writing about it. We need more people who will leave the comfort of their couch or office chair and try out those comfortable walking shoes by volunteering in person!
Please consider taking a step back from your computer and physically helping a program which will benefit your community in a positive manner. Better yet, seek to mentor a youngster and encourage them to get active in the community. Not only will it make a difference, the feeling of accomplishment will hopefully bring both of you back for more. When we step up to see our work become a reality, I believe that is when we will truly see better things come about.
So, going forward, please ask not what you can do on the Internet, but instead what can you do in person for your community, your state and your country.
(Joe Dorman served House District 65 as a State Representative for 12 years and was the 2014 Democratic nominee for Governor of Oklahoma. He is the currently the Community Outreach Director for True Wireless and the chairman of the 2016 Rush Springs Watermelon Festival)