By Michael Bucca, a member of the Rotary Club of Central Ocean Toms River, New Jersey, USA
You might think that I, a 32-year-old member of a 110-year-old organization, would be preoccupied with trying to modernize my club’s way of doing things. But remarkably, my experience in Rotary is teaching me to spend more energy convincing my generation – which keeps trying to reinvent everything – that there is much to be gained in the lost art of personal connection.
We all use social media in our daily lives. Without a doubt, Twitter, Facebook, text messaging, etc. has great value in our social and professional circles. But long before there were Wi-Fi connections, laptops, or smartphones, a man named Paul Harris came up with the idea of professional leaders getting together face to face to make a difference in their community. The organization that arose from this modest idea took its name from the early practice members had of rotating meeting locations between their offices.
In an era of instant communication defined by not-so-blind carbon copies, accidental “reply-alls,” and desperate attempts to “recall” an email, many people seem to have lost the ability of competent verbal and non-verbal face-to-face communication with other human beings. Making good eye contact and managing a well-timed handshake are becoming endangered skills.
At a Rotary meeting, no one is trying to make a good impression via a text message. We are communicating with fellow members, community leaders, and guest speakers in person. We are networking in the way that was standard long before an Ethernet cable was a household commodity.
Think of this as a real-life Facebook status combined with a weekly GoFundMe campaign
Does my Central Ocean Rotary Club in Toms River, New Jersey, use texts and emails? You bet. We are always using these tools to organize events, set up meetings, and handle various other tasks. When we aren’t all together, we turn to technology to get the job done.
However, for one hour and 15 minutes every Tuesday, we turn our phones off, hold our meeting, and enjoy camaraderie with fun activities such as “Happy Bucks.” One member at a time gives several dollars to the club and speaks about topics they are personally happy about. Think of this as a real-life Facebook status combined with a weekly GoFundMe campaign — except instead of “liking” a post, people listen and sometimes break out in applause.
Joining an organization like Rotary is a smart way to meet business leaders in your community and enjoy the opportunity to help people in need. Becoming a member lets you practice life skills that no social media site will ever provide: interpersonal communication. You might meet someone who will change your life. You may even change theirs. But instead of sending a friend request, you will walk right up to them and say “hello.”
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