My cousin John and I sat around my Aunt Debbie’s farm one evening laughing about social media updates when we invented a grand scheme. We were going to make up a person. Not any person, but an extraordinary person named “Renaldo” and try to pass him on to as many Facebook friends as possible.

Renaldo was going to churn out the most captivating status updates on planet earth: He would jog up Mount Kilimanjaro on Monday morning, take a flight home, and rescue cats from random trees in Central Park on his way to lunch. He might have dinner with Bono on Wednesday, right after a morning workout where he bench-pressed five hundred pounds. He would adopt children from all over the planet just like Brad and Angelina and never miss one of their games or recitals. He might be the keynote speaker at the president’s prayer breakfast in Washington on Wednesday. He would parachute into Third World countries to deliver clean water and mosquito nets with Franklin Graham, run with the bulls in Madrid, and he wouldn’t always drink beer, but when he did, he would drink… well… you know the line… My cousin and I actually have a couple of Facebook friends whose updates read a lot like this.” — Holy Nomad

I wrote in Holy Nomad about the tension between the real-life/eternal-life/life-to-the-fullest that Jesus talks about in the gospels and our newfound digital existence. Our pretense, our pride, our vanity has taken on life of its own in the form of our various “Renaldos.”

I know Renaldo a little too well. You see, I am often tempted to believe that my social media associations constitute real relationships. The problem with that whole idea becomes obvious when we examine God’s model for eternal-quality relationships: transparency, sacrifice, commitment. Let’s just begin with transparency: Doeslosing your cool with the guywho cut in front of you on the beltway really make it into your Facebook status? How about that moment when you said something really ugly to your spouse? Did you post the nasty letter you wrote to your child’s teacher? What about the picture of you from last fall when you were 30 pounds heavier?

You get the picture…but your Facebook friends never really do – not the real one anyway. This great divide is similar to the difference between a glass of water or a painting of water to a thirsty traveler.

I am guilty of a little of all of this… I am guessing you are too…

One of my closest friends is a full-time pastor. He told me once hecouldn’t play golf during the week. It caught me off guard a bit. In a world of pastors who seem to engage social media once an hour: good cup of coffee… inspiring quote… great lunch…my friend explained, “I don’t want anyone to ever think that I would golf on God’s time.” He feels the same about social media as he does about golf. My wife and I used to send money to a non-profit and felt very good about it until we noticed the CEO posting to social media ALL day long, we kind of felt like we were funding his blogging career. I caught myself ignoring my second grader’s story about his day at school last night; I was too busy updating my Facebook Author Page… missing out on real life for the digital.

Shakespeare compares the human experience in Macbeth to that of an actor “a poor player,” his character says, “that struts and frets his hour upon the stage.” It occurred to me that social media has nowprovided each and every one of us (including me) an audience. We are all, in some sense, “actors” now and have our own little digitalplayhouse where we can dress up and pretend to be whoever we want. The problem, of course, is that the digital world is only a stage – a shallow substitution for “life to the fullest.”

I’m still wrestling withhow tobalance real life versus “e-life”, but I am humbly learning that my digital friends knowtoo muchof “Renaldo” and too little of “Matt”… and that way too often my time blogging, Facebooking, and Tweeting is at the expense of the people who really count: my family and my real, living, breathing neighbors.


  1. I have often been disappointed because I found someone on Facebook and thought we would rekindle our friendship. I soon realized that Facebook is shallow and not real. I still use it but with no expectations! Real relationships require real time and talk. Love this blog.

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