Late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien once predicted that youtube, twitter, and facebook would merge. The result, he said, would be a new social media outlet called youtwitface.

When I was a kid, social media was playing Pac-man with my friend on his cutting-edge Atari video game console. And there was no youtube, there was just one tube — and it didn’t have very many channels. And facetime was, well, talking with someone face-to-face.

In a world that now comes at us through our screens, how do we make sure that we don’t let life in the virtual world overtake life in the real world? How do we make use of social media, while guarding against it using us?

I’m glad you asked. Here are some thoughts:

Remember that life isn’t filtered. Life has good days, bad days, and a whole lot of pretty average days. The problem is, you’d never know that from Instagram. In Social Media Land, everyone is tanned, smiling, and with all their “besties.” Or, on the other extreme, our social media posts are an opportunity for us to air all our dirty laundry. In either case, I think the goal is the same: Look at me, and give me worth. Tell me I matter.

Ok, I will. You matter. To God. To others. The unfiltered — the average, everyday, boring you — you matter. God said that way before social media. And your real friends and family will say the same thing — no matter how uneventful your real life is.

Which leads me to the next thing. You don’t need “likes” on Instagram or Facebook to be liked. Because we are desperate for people to like us, we then spend too much time posting things that are designed to get them to like us. But your self-worth is not determined by reaching the magical number of 100 likes. God has already given you His thumbs-up. And so do the people who really care about you.

Which leads me to one more thought, this one borrowed from a friend, who says: We need to live our lives, not thumb-to-thumb, but face-to-face. Social media is fine, as long as we don’t let it become what it cannot be. And it cannot be a substitution for real relationships. Facebook can keep you connected, but face-to-face is how real relationships are developed, and grow. And, it’s in the personal where relationships happen; it’s in the humdrum, day-to-day, less-than-exciting daily-ness of life where people grow to love and care for you, and you for them.

So, enjoy social media. Stay connected, but don’t be dramatic or fake. And don’t find your self-worth online. And know when to put your phone down, and really be present with the real people with you — at the table, in the car, in the pew, and in life.


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