By ANDREW LEIBENGUTH

aleibenguth@tnonline.com [1]

The data age, despite its many benefits to society, has become an increasingly greater distraction towards the needs and growth of populace communities - and organizations that foster to them.

How many hours do you spend a week with your computer or hand-held device? Now, more than ever, people are spending more and more of their available time browsing the Internet, texting or using social media sites. The time people spend on the Internet (whether it be on a personal computer, laptop, television, tablet or cell phone) can steal desperately needed time, manpower and funding away from social and community-minded organizations which habitually help to build and preserve community values. Users should spend more time getting involved or supporting their community; whether it be with a church, club, group, lodge, order, society, post, detachment, chapter or so on.

According to MediaBistro.com, users are spending more than one fifth (22 percent) of their time engaging on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. It adds that the global online Internet population now exceeds two billion, with the average U.S. Internet user spending 32 hours online each and every month. A total of 3,995,444 million years worth of time are spent online globally every month. Imagine if these users donated only 1 percent of that time to their community. That would come out to just under 40,000 million years of community time a month.

Don't get me wrong. I, of all people, love and utilize the Internet on a daily basis. I regularly use it to communicate events and fundraisers, even finding time to create and routinely update a community website.

Everywhere you turn, you see an organization asking for membership or raising funds for a worthy cause. Still, a rising number of area organizations, some over 100 years old, remain on the edge of existence, not knowing if they'll be able to stay together another year. In hopes of surviving, some organizations have opted to "get with the times" by passing on information about their events and programs via the Internet. Sadly, these few communication and organizational benefits don't outweigh the increased lack of active memberships, community participation and support.

Before the Internet, the primary means of keeping busy either involved watching television, listening to the radio or participating in a community or organizational event. Now, the data age has given us even more forms of immediate entertainment and high tech distractions, to include entertainment devices, electronic gadgets, state-of-the-art toys and communication devices.

The budding lack of manpower means many clubs and organizations around our area are operating on an active member skeleton crew, with a decreasing amount of people able or willing to push forth with the organization's mission.

Younger generations, who are expected to be the future of these organizations, have never been exposed to the efforts and benefits of these organizations and are only concerned about items relating to them, their electronic devices and, of course, their friends on social media websites. They also wouldn't understand how a specific organization's disappearance over time would impact them and the local community. In addition to providing community members routine event venues to socialize and share their thoughts, mission-oriented organizations routinely help promote social interaction and greater things within our society. The mission and events of these social or community-minded organizations encourage and share community interaction, kind-doings, area pride, family values and simple public know-how.

Many Americans, rather than interacting with their community, live most of their lives online, opting to do practically everything online, such as playing games, socializing or making friends.

People don't have to avoid going online completely. That wouldn't make sense. Although they should understand that there are other more rewarding things they can do with their time.

In addition, spending too much time online could negatively affect their life, as well as their family's. They also need to realize that if they'd rather sit at a desk instead of going outside or getting some exercise, then their health is also at risk.

Limiting the time you spend online is beneficial to your social and physical health, as well as the wellness and growth of your community.

Don't be a cyber potato - get up, have fun, and make a difference.