Does your Facebook endorsement make a difference?: 'Slacktivism' in Greater Cleveland

CLEVELAND - If you're on social media, then you may see people talking about problems in their community, the country, even the world, but are all of those people engaging in their communities offline? Some would call that 'Slacktivism.'

It's defined as actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, and people say it could be part of the steady drop off in volunteers statewide. 

"You're not going to feed people going online, you have to actually do something," volunteer Kathy Humrick told News 5.

Humrick is one of thousands of volunteers who make the Greater Cleveland Food Bank run smoothly, and while they're not hurting for help, as need goes up, so does their need for more according to Karen Pozna. 

"We couldn't do what we do here without volunteers," Pozna said. 

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteer numbers are on the move in Ohio. There's been a relatively steady decline since 2002.

A few years ago, UNICEF targeted Facebook 'slacktivists' in a campaign, saying "Like us on Facebook, we will vaccinate zero children against polio." Explaining in smaller print on the ads "we have nothing against likes, but vaccines cost money. Please buy polio vaccines."

Local activist and law student, Rachelle Smith told News 5 she does not like the term 'slactivist' because of the way it could characterize all online activists. 

"Slacker and activist? They don't exist in the same person," she said. 

She explained online involvement, especially on social media, can go a long way. And it does. "You can make a difference," Smith said. 

Smith told News 5 she has used Twitter to connect with people across the country - organizing protests, movements, and funding for bailouts or local causes.

As for folks who think a Facebook 'like' goes a long way, there are other ways to get involved, "I don't think anyone considers themselves an activist that just likes posts on Facebook," she said.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Ohio ranks 26th nationwide for volunteerism.

A Greater Cleveland Volunteers spokeswoman told 5, if people want to get involved here, they have a high request for people to help: cooking, serving and prepping food for area soup kitchens or shelters and deliver to homebound residents.

They are also seeking volunteers to serve as Friendly Visitors in hospitals and senior living facilities.

To get in touch with the Greater Cleveland Volunteers, head to their website. And find the Greater Cleveland Food Bank here.

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