Remember these? Virtual Reality “halos,” they were the future of gaming, and featured in all the futuristic Sci-Fi movies, where people would escape their own lives and sink into a virtual reality paradise (or nightmare, depending on the movie!).

Well, they’re real now. You can use them at big gaming facilities, and we even have something similar with the Wii. Who knows…before long we may have a bonafide “holodeck” a la Star Trek: Next Generation.

This weekend, I was thinking about all this after two encounters. One, with an old friend from high school, and the other, with my next-door neighbor. The old friend contacted me through Facebook, requesting to talk. One of the things she told me (which I’ve heard from two other people, just this month) was this:

I love how I’ve connected with so many old friends through social media, but to be honest, after a while I’ve started to become depressed, and a little envious of their happy marriages…happy lives.

I quickly went about telling her that what is put “out there” on social media needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It was invented as a way to make our world a little smaller and connect people together. It’s NOT meant as an accurate depiction of a person’s life. People can write whatever they want about themselves – you see what they want you to see. Most keep it light, with funny stories, witticisms, quotes & scriptures, and pictures of friends, family & vacation. They typically don’t air their “dirty laundry” in this format, because they either don’t find it appropriate, or they want to give their lives a “rosier glow” than their reality. Life looks GOOD in the online world, making it essential to assume that their lives are as “real” as our own. Bottom line?

Social Media is not REAL LIFE. It’s VIRTUAL LIFE.

Later that day, I went to the wedding of my friend’s daughter, where I ran into my next-door neighbor. Where you might imagine that we would chat away easily, and without hesitation, we did not. I hadn’t actually seen or spoken with her since Christmas. In fact, it was only my third time to see her, EVER – MY NEXT DOOR-NEIGHBOR for the last two years! I’ve seen friends in different STATES at least twice as often as that.

On the way home, these two encounters bounced around, punctuating what appears to be a theme the Lord has going in my brain right now. It became very obvious to me that most of my time is spent behind the “blinders” of a “virtual reality halo.” While it’s true that I love technology and social media, and have met some of my very best friends through it, those friends are “best” because we’ve brought them out of the computer and into real life. My love for all my friends in the online world is real, but, truthfully, my relationship with most of them is virtual. How is it that they are receiving so much more of my time than the ones in my real life?

Case in point: my next-door neighbor.

Virtual (adjective) “Existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name.”*

I should have a relationship with all the neighbors that share space with me on our street. I should know what’s up with them, if I can help them in any way; they should know they can call on me in emergencies or to just share a cup of coffee. I should have relationships like that in lots of areas of my life, and yet, more than any other time in my history, they are being sacrificed for my intense need to know the 5K time of the girl who sat two rows over in my 2nd grade class.

If you find yourself caught in one world, blinded to, and no longer stepping foot in, the other, maybe it’s time, like me, to evaluate the real scoop on virtual living. There is a way to use social media to God’s glory, and there’s a time to take off the headset and set about the business of doing life in the real world.

Maybe call your neighbor. And call her soon. I bet she’s got a fresh pot of coffee just waiting.


*American Heritage Dictionary 4