Recently I Twittered about Facebook alluding to the possibility of thinking about Facebook as an image of connection and relationship with God. I spoke of “Holy Facebook” as the experience of having time alone with God in His Word and in prayer. What prompted this idea was something that is probably pretty common in our experience — our tendency to reach, first thing in the morning, for our iPhones or other data devices that immediately connect us with friends through digital social media before we take time to communicate with God. At least I’ve found this to be true on more than one occasion in my experience. In thinking about it, I find it kind of ironic that FaceTime has become more about our interconnection with one another than it is about our time with God.
There are a couple of instances in the Old Testament where we read of Moses having a face-to-face connection with God. Exodus 33:11 says, “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” Then again in Deuteronomy 34:10, we see this same idea expressed: “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.” I’m not sure if this reference is what Zuckerberg and associates (friends) had in mind when they created Facebook, but it certainly is evident that its idea didn’t begin with them. Face-to-face communication is what characterizes a good friendship. It speaks of candidness, transparency, and social intimacy. So it is that Facebook or FaceTime has become almost synonymous with friendship. The Internet has created an opportunity for communication and friendship that goes way beyond what was offered in an earlier time by the telephone. The significance of Facebook is that it creates an immediate network of relationships that can be frighteningly disarming. And therein lies its appeal.
As I thought about all of this I wondered what it would be like if, each time we heard about Facebook, we thought of God’s original intent to have the kind of intimate communication with us that characterized His relationship with Moses described by this “face-to-face” expression? What if each time we heard the word, Facebook, we were reminded of the kind of intimate relationship we could have with God? And what if, instead of seeking meaning first in our relationships with one another, we came to realize that face-to-face communication with God is where meaning really begins? What if FaceTime brought to our minds the importance of the occasion of intimacy with God — as expressed in those references to Moses and his time with God?
I suspect the creators of Facebook wanted to establish a place on the Internet where friends could connect with one another in the most casual and transparent way imaginable. We now know they have succeeded in a manner far beyond their wildest dreams. We also know that an awful lot of pain has been generated by participants on Facebook — mainly because people are ultimately incapable of a holy and wholesome social intimacy apart from divine grace. In a sense it’s impossible to have meaningful face time with another person until we first understand what it is to have meaningful face time with God. In that way Facebook can easily become a substitute or “god” that distracts us from the most important intimacy of all.
I think it’s the case that Facebook can be a lot more meaningful if we first take time for intimate fellowship with God. It probably is a good idea for us to reach for our Bibles as a “Facebook” before we reach for our electronic data devices to access our friends on social media. Wouldn’t it be great if Facebook by its name had the power to point us to the importance of spending some time in God’s presence rather than simply being a place for human interface?