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It’s fashionable these days to use social media and to criticize its use. I, for one, am guilty of both. A few years back, when I jumped into the world of Facebook and Twitter, I looked before I leaped.

The words of popular pastor John Piper, in a piece called “Why and How I am Tweeting,” haunted me then as they haunt me today. He said in part:

“I see two kinds of response to social Internet media like blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and others.

“One says: These media tend to shorten attention spans, weaken discursive reasoning, lure people away from Scripture and prayer, disembody relationships, feed the fires of narcissism, cater to the craving for attention, fill the world with drivel, shrink the soul’s capacity for greatness, and make us second-handers who comment on life when we ought to be living it. So boycott them and write books (not blogs) about the problem.

“The other response says: Yes, there is truth in all of that, but instead of boycotting, try to fill these media with as much provocative, reasonable, Bible-saturated, prayerful, relational, Christ-exalting, truth-driven, serious, creative pointers to true greatness as you can.”

I agree with Piper’s diagnoses and his conclusions. What is sobering is that Piper took an emergency sabbatical not long after writing this piece, evidently in part from a great deal of stress (to which social media may have factored in). Today, his ministry continues apace and is flourishing.

What strikes me most about Piper’s descriptions of social media is that it, by its very nature, will “make us second-handers who comment on life when we ought to be living it.”

Instead of attending a birthday party, the travelling Facebook happy-birthday-chorus moves from one day to the next, wishing whoever’s day it is a happy birthday. Instead of stopping to pray for others in a critical need, we sometimes stop short by only posting that we will pray. When someone passes away, we post a note of grievance rather than going to their house and weeping with them.

True, social media has its perks. It has brought the once insolated and cocooning-world of the Internet into a healthier social atmosphere. It also has rekindled untold friendships and created a great platform for the advance of the Gospel, not to mention other positives. At the same time, Christians must guard against the dangers of social media, including commenting on life instead of living it. This is especially a danger for people like me, who work at being writers.

Here are some tips I have learned from others.

Take a break

Whether it’s one part of the day, one part of the week or the month, set aside a time in which you will not check social media. This “fast” will enhance your interaction when are online.

God first. Family second.

Is catering to your social media circle distracting you from those closest to you? Do you save all of your creativity, clever comments and attention for other people online, instead of your spouse and children. Is your time spent in prayer and Scripture reading suffering? It may be time to check your priorities.

Be present

I wrote an entire article on the heads-bowed, eyes-open posture of incessant smart phone checking. One of the biggest dangers today is texting while driving, according to most, so texting while living may be just as hazardous to the life God has for you. To borrow a phrase: wherever you go, there you are. Don’t live solely in the social media world, be present where God has planted you.

Be a first-hander

God made you. Yes, you right there. You have a purpose in life. It’s not ranting about elected officials. It’s not just comment on which Dancing with the Stars favorite is yours. It’s about your life. When our fleeting days are over (James 4:14), many of us will look back with sadness on the time we wasted and energy we spent on all of the wrong things. As Piper warned us, brothers and sisters, let’s not be people who only comment on life but let’s be ones who live it!