GUEST EDITORIAL: Service vs. social media

BY ROBIN ROTHSTEIN | A recent survey revealed that the global population on average spends close to two-and-a-half hours a day on social media. How much of that time do you find yourself in partisan scuffles on Twitter? Or getting into policy frays on Facebook? How about applying the time you spend getting steamed on social media toward volunteering instead?

With National Volunteer Month upon us, this is the perfect opportunity to give the hashtags a rest once in a while, and take the time to make a real difference. Here are some ways you can make a meaningful impact:

Wondering how a new condominium got to be so tall or why there are so many liquor licenses in your neighborhood? As a member of a community board you get to be immersed in these details early on and help shape the conversations. While community boards are purely advisory, they are, without question, foundations of democracy. You can also apply for public membership, which requires less of a time commitment.

There are countless nonprofit organizations throughout the city looking for help. Do you work in finance and have a passion for the arts? Maybe your favorite cultural organization would welcome your business expertise. Or, perhaps, after sitting behind a desk all week, you’re ready to get your hands dirty. There are parks throughout the city where you can volunteer. Or consider joining your local community garden.

Block associations help to keep their communities informed on hyperlocal news, represent the interests of residents at community board hearings on quality of life issues such as liquor licenses, and work to beautify local streets, among other activities.

There are many agencies and organizations where you can be of service to seniors. Check out the Department for the Aging for ways you can help older New Yorkers. There are also nonprofits such as Visiting Neighbors, DOROT, Citymeals on Wheels and Senior Planet where you can offer your skills or simply spend some quality time with someone seeking company.

How about mentoring aspiring young scribes at Girls Write Now? New York Cares has youth mentoring programs, as well, and also provides volunteer opportunities for kids 18 and under. If you want to use your volunteer time to support L.G.B.T.Q. youth, consider contacting The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. Or, perhaps an elementary school in your area is looking for some help.

And, if none of these ideas resonate, visit the NYC Service Web site for plenty of other volunteer options.

So, this April, how about giving the cyber-pugilism a rest, and finding one way to give of yourself? I bet you’ll discover you won’t miss tussling with the trolls one bit.

Rothstein is chairperson, Community Board 2 Arts and Institutions Committee, and an advisory board member, Cherry Lane Theatre

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