Friday, August 17, 2018

7 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

I recently read 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke and it was fascinating. Like, the best book I've ever read on technology/smartphones. I'm usually pretty into articles that discuss the neurological and psychological effects of technology...I think it's because I grew up during the unveiling of the internet and didn't have a cell phone until college. So I remember the Dark Ages, haha, and have memories with which to compare the status quo. And while there are definitely perks to social media and the internet, I'm not convinced we're actually in a better place. 12 Ways focused more on the spiritual side of things than the psycho/neuro stuff, and that actually was more compelling for me to make changes. No it's wasn't that it's a sin to have a smartphone but rather he talked about ways our phone might be holding us back from prayer as well as becoming the people we're meant to be. Here are a few ways our smartphones are changing us (a la the book. GET IT, by the way. ;) But be prepared for it to change your life if you read it slowly and intentionally.)

1. We have a constant temptation for distraction. Yes, even without media we'll be tempted to distraction from the important or mundane things (that's human nature as well as spiritual warfare) but never before have we had such flashy, ever-changing, cutting-edge distractions literally at our fingertips.

2. We are conditioned to skim articles, books, and other written sources by our phones which teach us to scroll quickly due to information overload. We also develop a decreased attention span because of this. Anyone notice their ability to focus in prayer or spiritual reading decrease with an increased use of smartphones or internet, or is that just me?

3. We become desensitized to real and lasting pleasures or beauty. For example, we see pictures of vacations (Grand Canyon, etc.) or nature or cute kids through our feeds and get so used to the mediated thing that the real things holds less pleasure for us. We also become addicted to the quick flashy updates and don't have that deeper appreciation for real beauty around us.

4. Technology can feed superficial relationships. Our online friendship habits (clicking 'like', a quick comment here or there) become our real-life relational habits. We keep it quick, superficial, and avoid long or difficult encounters. Even our emotions are altered by our online habits-- instead of sitting with a grieving person and learning how to grieve, cry, or be silent with them, we can simply click a "cry face" and move on with our scrolling. We are bombarded by multiple emotional events in a simple scrolling session (ones inciting joy, sorrow, anger) but we don't pause long enough to truly feel these feelings. It's not normal and it's changing us and our ability to empathize.

5. Our phones create isolation as well as false community. The marketers for technology sell more items when they make them smaller and for the individual. No longer do we enjoy music via a theater orchestra or even a radio, now we have individual iPods. No longer do we watch live musicals (well, sometimes) or go to movie theaters as much, we can simply watch on our phones or iPads. We are encouraged to isolate ourselves. When we're in public, we isolate from real-life people by using our phones. When we're in private, we fear isolation and loneliness so we go to our online 'communities' and 'groups.'

6. Because our phones and the internet can connect us to people all over the world, we're less likely to focus on building local community or allowing ourselves to be rubbed by people who are slightly different than us and could help us grow. We simply seek like-minded people online instead of doing the work of building relationship (and evangelizing) with those who truly live near us.

7. We become addicted to novelty. We would rather mindlessly scroll through our social media feeds than take time for reflection. It's easier to sort through fun things in the here and now than allow ourselves to sit with the past or ponder the future. We're afraid of them and don't allow the time to focus on see where God might be inviting repentance and growth, change and freedom, redemption and mission.

Not all of us are affected by every single one of these points, but our world in general is definitely affected by all of them. I see our phones changing our social abilities, our spiritual abilities, our intelligence. I see it changing my own. This book was a powerful read for me, so much so that I decided to delete social media apps on my phone and do a "40 Day Smartphone Fast." I'm already seeing fruit from it after only a week, and my ability to live more fully is enhanced. I'd love to hear your own thoughts on how you manage technology and smartphones in your own life. I'll never completely eliminate it (hello, blogging!) but I'm more convicted than ever to put it in its rightful place, to use it for God's glory, and not allow it to become an idol.

Sorry but not sorry for such a serious post! Normal content and kid pics to resume soon, haha. Happy weekend, all, and stay off your phones! ;)

Joining Kelly and the gang for Quick Takes!


  1. Oh man, there is so much truth to these points. And I definitely added this book to my to-read list! I've noticed many of these in myself, which makes me mad. I do not want to be isolated or incapable of meaningful interactions with people, so I make many efforts to combat both those problems. I force myself into initially not the most comfortable situations to grow. And it's worth it. It's funny how that surprises people sometimes too!

    I went cold turkey on social media for two weeks during a trip earlier this summer. It wasn't fun to think about ahead of time, but it was surprising how little I missed it. I think the isolation many of us feel (and sometimes choose) drives a lot of our social media habits, which is just a revolving circle. So many people haven't experienced what they're missing out on when they're constantly on social media, but I have, and I know it's worth changing habits to get there! Great topic, and I'd love to hear more about your social media fast when it's over.

    1. YES to so many of your comments. I don't miss it as much as I thought I would. And I'd like to think you and I are both somewhat friendly, social people anyway so I agree with you that it's a bit maddening to realize we are still changed by our phone habits! I think that's what made me do realizing that no matter how intentional I am with my phone, there are still ways it will change me. I'm not sure what I'll do when the 'fast' is far, I think I'm realizing that a laptop controls my habits so much more than having a smartphone at my fingertips.

  2. Oh wow, this book sounds so awesome!!!!! I love all these points. It's funny, I've actually been looking around at phones because my current phone is slowly but surely dying, and it's been difficult to find a good phone I want because most of the phones out there are smartphones. And I really, really don't want a smartphone-most of the phones that appeal to me are the ones labeled "Great for seniors!" :P

    1. Hahaha! Love that! And if you don't already have a smartphone, definitely don't get one! Although I totally get that it's cheaper/easier to buy one sadly...I looked into getting a home phone line for us and then just having a cheap 'tracphone' in the car but that would be more expensive than my cell phone. :(

  3. Laura,

    I just found your blog. What a wonderful place to stop and visit. I look forward to reading more in the future.


  4. Well I'm totally behind reading this..but wanted to say thanks for sharing because I'm totally adding this to my TBR list!