Not long ago, a wise friend sat across the table from me.

“The most important people in your life,” she said, “are not on Tweetdeck.”

I took out my pen and wrote down her words.

I didn’t need to. Her words seared into my memory. I will not forget them.

It is easy for me to be enticed by my world of online relationships. I might sit down at my desk for a few minutes to send a few tweets and completely tune out the sound of my daughter who is standing nearby, pleading for a glass of water.

Or I might spend the evening sitting in the same room with my husband, never shifting my attention away from my computer screen to really talk to and engage with him.

It’s time to get ready for church; I’m dressed but my kids are still hunting for tights and ponytail holders. I sneak away to check my email one more time.

Do you do this, too?

I thrive on the interaction, validation, and attention I get from my online friends.

You’re always happy to see me. You notice when I’m not around. You offer unexpected words of encouragement, praise, and love.

I get love in real life, too, from my husband, who is happy to see me at the end of the day; from my daughters, who start each morning with snuggles. I get sticky hugs, love notes written in crayon, funny and affectionate texts from my husband.

The difference is that most online interaction is Facebook likes and warm fuzzies while real life is highs and lows, sweet and bittersweet.

There’s not much drama in my Twitter world. The folks I interact with share kind words and high praise. There’s little need for confrontation, rarely any conflict or disagreements.

Everyone plays nice, or they don’t play at all.

My real world is nuanced.

In our home, we raise our voices sometimes; we argue; we clash. We disappoint each other. My kids whine a lot; they bicker. They complain.

When my friend told me that the most important people in my life are not on Tweetdeck, she was gently reminding me of at least two important truths:

The most important people in my life are the ones who share my address. I’ve made a commitment to my family that supersedes any others. Our ties are lifelong, nonnegotiable.

I need to give the most important people my life the time and attention they deserve. Cultivating online relationships is fun and rewarding but there are real people right in front of me. They are my first priority. I need to be sure that my actions are in line with my priorities. I need to shift my attention away from my online world to the people who share my home.

It’s not easy.

I get it wrong more often than I get it right.

I frustrate my kids. I exasperate my husband.

Yet they reward me with sloppy kisses and smiles.

There is a sink full of dishes here. There is a pile of laundry as tall as my shoulder.

There are these people, the most important ones in my life.

They’re here. They are not on Tweetdeck.

Tell me something! How do you maintain balance between your online and real life relationships? What struggles have you had with this? What has worked well for you? Who are the most important people in your life?