12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You
If you’re like most people, you check your phone every 4.3 minutes of your waking life, check email and social media before reading the Bible, and scroll through facebook for nearly an hour every day.
These are just a few of the consequences explored in Tony Reinke’s 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, a wonderfully written, thoroughly researched, and practical guide to that thing in your pocket right now (or maybe your hand) and its impact on Christians – with a pretty awesome cover.
It’s broken into twelve chapters and I’ll share a few thoughts from the ones that struck me most and sum it up with my main takeaways.
We Are Addicted to Distraction
This shocked me: “We check our smartphones about 81,500 times each year, or once every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives”. The fact that a little piece of technology invented a decade or so ago captures our attention every couple of minutes of our conscious life is mindblowing. And scary.
I must admit, I checked my email and texts once or twice while editing that last paragraph!
But, why do we give in to distraction? How are we so addicted that we check our phones tens and tens of thousands of times a year? According to Reinke, the three main reasons distractions lure us are: they keep work away, people away, and thoughts of eternity away.
We Ignore Our Flesh and Blood
This chapter focuses on issues that affect other people, like texting and driving and digital anger.
It finishes by talking about finding true joy in Christian fellowship: “If anger is the viral emotion of online disembodiment, then joy is the Christian emotion of embodied fellowship.
We Crave Immediate Approval
This chapter is all about addiction to immediate approval, likes, shares, and comments through social media.
Another great quote: “If you follow Christ, the world will unfollow you.”
We Lose Our Literacy
The average Christian reads 1 nonfiction book per year. And nonchristians read even less!
Quick, easy, light digital distractions seem more attractive than the slowness of longform, extended reading.
Trip Lee said this about digital vs paper reading: “The more time I spend reading ten-second tweets and skimming random articles online, the more it affects my attention span, weakening the muscles I need to read Scripture for long distances”
We Get Comfortable in Secret Vices
I think this quote sums up this section perfectly: “To live an abundant life in this insatiable consumer society, we must plead in prayer for God-given power to turn our eyes away from the gigs of digital garbage endlessly offered in our phones and tune our ears to hear sublime echoes of an eternal enthrallment with the transcendent beauties we “see” in Scripture”
We Lose Meaning
The chapter focuses on trivial, novel noise overload online compared to wisdom.
“We must learn to treasure what is most valuable in the universe—God. When we turn to God, we find that the most precious wisdom and knowledge is not hidden under a mountain or embedded in the newest device, but found in Jesus Christ.15 He defines the purpose and meaning of all life. He orients what is truly important and valuable for us in the digital age, and in every age.
We Fear Missing Out
Fear of missing out is a very common problem – but the only FOMO that truly matters is the fear of eternally missing out.
We Become Harsh to One Another
With technology and anonymity, we become harsh and outraged more easily towards each other.
“as children of the sovereign King, who has already won the climactic victory in the universe, we have no cause for pessimism. We have every reason to joyfully and optimistically “stick to the script.”
We Lose Our Place in Time
This final chapter is about wasting time.
“I am not my own. I am owned by my Lord. I have been bought with a price, which means I must glorify Christ with my thumbs, my ears, my eyes, and my time.”
Conclusion: Living Smartphone Smart
I know I’ve included a lot of quotes from the book but I think these 12 suggestions Tony ends with are too valuable to leave out:
- Turn off all nonessential push notifications.
- Delete expired, nonessential, and time-wasting apps.
- At night, keep your phone out of the bedroom.
- Use a real alarm clock, not your phone alarm, to keep the phone out of your hands in the morning.
- Guard your morning disciplines and evening sleep patterns by using phone settings to mute notifications between one hour before bed- time to a time when you can reasonably expect to be finished with personal disciplines in the morning (9 p.m. to 7 a.m. for me).
- Use self-restricting apps to help limit your smartphone functions and the amount of time you invest in various platforms.
- Recognize that much of what you respond to quickly can wait. Respond at a later, more convenient time.
- Even if you need to read emails on your smartphone, use strategic points during the day to respond to emails at a computer (thirty minutes each at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. for me).
- Invite your spouse, your friends, and your family members to offer feedback on your phone habits (more than 70 percent of Christians in my survey said nobody else knew how much time they spent online).
- When eating with your family members or friends, leave your phone out of sight.
- When spending time with family members or friends, or when you are at church, leave your phone in a drawer or in your car, or simply power it off.
- 12. At strategic moments in life, digitally detox your life and recalibrate your ultimate priorities. Step away from social media for frequent strategic stoppages (each morning), digital Sabbaths (one day offline each week), and digital sabbaticals (two two-week stoppages each year).
This book was amazing. I love Tony Reinke’s writing style and I love how both research-based and technical this was and how practical it was at the same time.
My biggest takeaway is definitely action #12 on that list right above. I’m going to schedule in a few weeks where I just don’t use technology (or use it just for school).
And the biggest thing I learned is just how much impact these little, seemingly harmless devices can have on a Christian.