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What is fake and what is real?  Recently I was leading a Confirmation class in a church and the topic of the day was Social Media and Faith.  It was great conversation in which the youth and adults were engaged in conversation.

One of the fathers handed me an article from the NY Times entitled “Buying Online Influence From a Shadowy Market.” (NY Times, 1/28/18).  It was a long article – covering parts of three pages.  The core of the article was that the Times found through their investigation that there are many people who have had their social media identity stolen by firms who use them to pump up their clients’ influence.  The company that the Times was looking at has a variety of celebrity, sports, pastors, and other “famous” people as their clients.  The client pays the company money to get followers.  The more follower someone has, the more influence they get.  And when you have influence, you get paid more.  The idea is that other companies want to pay spokespeople who have a large audience to hawk their product or service.  It comes down to the money.

And it’s fake.  The followers are fake – often just bots that were created.  Most of the followers aren’t even real people.  This means that many popular influencers have only a fraction of real followers, with a large percentage of followers being bots and fake accounts.

The story highlights how so many famous, and those that desire to be famous, are paying for followers.  There’s lots of money to be made, don’t you know?

With all this going on, and with so much money being made, I can only conclude one thing – celebrity is fake.  The popularity of celebrities is, when it comes down to it, a sham.  Yesterday I wrote about trust.  It’s hard to trust someone who pays to have followers.

In the Old Testament we are told the story of the Israelites who are wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.  At the beginning of their wandering, they stop at a mountain and Moses, who leads them, goes up the mountain to talk with God.  He’s gone for 40 days.  While he’s gone, the people get anxious and demand that a new god be made – a golden calf.  Aaron, Moses’ brother, who is the chief priest, goes along with this.  The people build a golden calf – a god that they created.  They couldn’t wait for Moses, they were impatient.

But the golden calf is fake, empty, and worthless.  It’s just a carved pile of metal.  It is powerless.  And so are it’s followers.  They wanted to hack their way to the promised land.

Yet, once again, we see that hacking isn’t the way to go.

When we follow something that is fake, we put our trust in something that cannot withstand the light of day, trust, or hardship.  Fake things always end up being revealed for what they are.  Don’t get upset when some continue to follow their fake gods.  Even after Moses came back with the tablets of God’s law, there were some who stuck with their golden calf.  It didn’t end well for them.  Unfortunately, others suffer as a result – those that are innocent.  Fake things always have a way ruining things beyond themselves.

What is real?  Real takes more discernment.  And by that I mean listening.  Real takes time.  Real is about investing in people, over a long period of time.  Real doesn’t promise quick and easy results.  Real promises the reality that the path forward may very well suck.

But real is worth it.  Real is taking one step at a time.  Because that’s how you get anywhere you are going that is worthwhile.  Real is so much better than fake.  Fake is the drug with the short-term hit.  But real…real is something different.  Real isn’t focused on the moment.  It’s focused on the whole process.  Because real produces something that will last.  Not fad away quickly.  Real.  That’s the thing we should be focusing on.