At our last college ministry small group gathering, we talked about how isolation and loneliness are increasing despite the widespread popularity of various social networks. I shared with them how, during my first year in college, we received brochures on what this “electronic mail” thing was all about and how to use it.

After learning to navigate the worlds of elm and irc in college, I felt like some medieval clod during seminary as my students tried to explain instant messaging and the like to me. Right around that time (to me, it seems about seven or eight years ago), it seemed like shortcut acronyms were really popular: you know, LOL, BRB, etc.

At this college ministry gathering, one of our students made this painful observation about such ads, “You can tell an old person made it, because no one talks like that anymore.” In fact, I played a quiz game with our youth group students recently and verified this: to them, ROTFL was some kind of ancient hieroglyphic that they had heard about but never seen (or used, for that matter).

On Tuesday, I drove up to Fullerton to have lunch with Eugene Cho, who was in town to present a seminar at AALC (and I was glad to run into DJ Chuang for just a quick moment as well!). Although we’ve connected via the blogosphere and chatted on the phone, we had never actually met in person. So, when he got into my car in the church parking lot, we both laughed about how shady the whole thing seemed. Um, yes, he’s my “internet” friend. It’s perfectly normal to hop into cars with strangers.

My wife has a friend who refuses to text message — she claims she won’t even open ones she receives on her phone. She’s in for a rude awakening in about five or six years when her kindergarten age sons come into their own as natives (to borrow a phrase from Leonard Sweet) born into a 24/7 technologically connected world. Whether we like it or not (or acknowledge it or not), the world has changed.

Although I am an immigrant (again, to borrow a Len Sweet concept) to social networks, texting, Twittering (which, for the life of me, I still don’t really get), etc., I have seen how they can be important — I am extremely grateful for the way the blogosphere has brought me into friendship with like-minded sojourners. I do find, though, that while these networks are great for connecting me with others in far flung geographical locations, I’m not sure that they can replace actual face-to-face interaction.

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Speaking of being connected, here a couple of photos from the National Pastors Convention — of me and my wife (although you can only see the back of her head), and of me and my daughter (we’re the first photo).