May 12 2014
I was staggering across the church gym — excuse me, “cultural hall” — on a recent Sunday, trying mightily to get to our pew in the chapel, when I was interrupted by strangers who wanted to say hello.
I need to be honest here. I am not exactly thrilled when people interrupt me when I am trying to walk from one place to another. Walking takes every bit of my concentration and my strength.
Picking up my right foot takes so much effort that I can barely get it a quarter inch off the carpet even with every ounce of focus. When people distract me, my focus shifts and I am just as likely to do a face-plant on the ground.
So when I looked away from the carpet and at unfamiliar faces, I was confused. I placed the faces in front of me as strangers. It took me moments and then long seconds before I realized I was staring at my former bishop and his wife from way back in the early 1990s. They had come all the way to our meetinghouse from their hotel in Leesburg, twelve miles away, just to say hi to Fluffy and me.
Not only had Lance Moss been our bishop, but Fluffy and I had home taught the Moss family for the entire time they had lived in our ward. We had even sat behind them in church, so we had enjoyed a deep and abiding relationship with them. They had not been casual acquaintances, to say the least.
But then the Mosses had moved to Leesburg in the mid-1990s and we had seen them only sporadically since then. And they had moved out of the state, back to Utah, years and years ago. We had not expected to ever see them again. We had been Facebook friends for several years, so we did have contact on some level.
So when Jean Moss headed toward me with outstretched arms, I was so focused on walking that it took longer than a moment for me to redirect my attention long enough to realize that I was looking at people I knew, to say nothing that they were people I dearly loved.
We were able to visit with the Mosses for a few minutes before church started, and they came over to our home the following evening for dinner. Fluffy took a picture of them before they left, and he posted it the next day on Facebook so our Facebook friends who also remembered the Mosses could see it.
A disquieting thing happened when Fluffy posted the picture on Facebook. As he added the picture, Facebook automatically labeled the picture for him: “with Jean Moss and Lance Moss.”
We have not seen Lance and Jean for at least seven years, and probably closer to a decade. They do not regularly appear on our Facebook page. We do not correspond with them. I did not even recognize them immediately when I saw them in church.
How in tarnation did Facebook immediately recognize their picture and correctly label it when Fluffy uploaded it to Facebook?
All I can say is that’s more than a little creepy. At least, that’s what I thought. Fluffy thought it was cool. He was excited about the technology. He doesn’t care about Big Brother having eyes on him, as long as Big Brother is taking advantage of the Cool Factor. Boys are like that. They never grow out of it.
We have all laughed at those television programs where they take a fuzzy security camera picture, sharpen it, and then match it to a known bad guy after scanning the photos of 10,000,000 bad guys in under ten seconds. So we know the technology is there. But in Facebook? And on our computers?
Fluffy did a little digging into the Facebook help screens, and confirmed what we were seeing:
Because photos are such an important part of Facebook, we want to be sure you know exactly how tag suggestions work: When you or a friend upload new photos, we use face recognition software — similar to that found in many photo editing tools — to match your new photos to other photos you’re tagged in. We group similar photos together and, whenever possible, suggest the name of the friend in the photos.
I still don’t know whether I like this or not, but I have to admit the technology is amazing.
But all of this got me thinking about God, and how well he knows all of His children. He knows our face, our voice, our concerns, our strengths and weaknesses, and everything that there is to know about us. He listens to every sincere prayer, and always answers them (although we don’t always like the answers).
He is aware of us every minute of every hour of every day. His office is never “closed,” and he never takes a vacation (I find that last point rather depressing, for His sake).
Even more impressive is the fact that He maintains this relationship with all of His children, which currently number about seven billion people. And how about the billions of people that have already lived and died? I’m sure they are not forgotten either.
We do live in a wonderful age, but I’m sure it is primitive compared to the wonders of God, and the many marvelous things that we have yet to learn about Him and His creations.