12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

We’re living in a period of technological progress unique in the history of mankind. What’s more, technology has now become interwoven into every aspect of our lives, not least through the smartphone. The smartphone has become a central part of everyday life. So it would be foolish not to ask what effect smartphones are having on our lives and our society. This is the question Tony Reinke asks in this volume, focusing on the impact of our smartphone on our spiritual health.

Reinke is not “anti-tech”, but he is convinced that we need to rethink our use of the telephone (ch 1, 23). Reinke’s aim is to help us answer the question: “What is the best use of my smartphone for my flourishing? Writing from a Christian perspective, Reinke defines our flourishing as our ability to cherish Christ (23).

Technology is not neutral.

Reinke begins with a brief theology of technology. His presentation is rooted in Scripture and demonstrates the complexity of judging a given technology. Whilst technology is neither good nor bad in itself, it is not neutral either. Technology shapes us. It’s our duty to ensure that it shapes us for the better.

So, what impact does the smartphone have on our lives? Here’s what Reinke has to say:

  1. We Are Addicted to Distraction
  2. We Ignore Our Flesh and Blood
  3. We Crave Immediate Approval
  4. We Lose Our Literacy
  5. We Feed on the Produced
  6. We Become Like What We “Like”
  7. We Get Lonely
  8. We Get Comfortable in Secret Vices
  9. We Lose Meaning
  10. We Fear Missing Out
  11. We Become Harsh to One Another
  12. We Lose Our Place in Time

I won’t develop any of these points. I imagine that most of us see bits of ourselves in the titles of these chapters. Reinke is careful to show how each point impacts our spiritual life. His presentation shows the enormous potential of telephones to undermine our spiritual life, to turn us away from love for God and neighbour. They do this in subtle and often imperceptible ways. Reinke brings all this to light. So it’s not just a question of potential: in the vast majority of cases, telephones do have a negative impact on our spiritual life.

Living smartphone smart requires discipline

There are also regular diagnostic questions to help us evaluate our use of telephones. In each chapter, Reinke offers suggestions for countering these negative points. None of this is easy, and it requires discipline. But that shouldn’t surprise us, for discipline is an integral part of the Christian life. Reinke is concerned to be both concrete and practical, and I found his questions and suggestions useful on many occasions.

Readers will appreciate the thought-provoking questions in the conclusion, particularly under the heading “Should I ditch my smartphone?”, as well as the 12 limits Reinke suggests readers adopt to control their phone use.

This book meets a real need for our generations. His treatment of this subject is realistic, to the point where it sometimes gives a painful description of our lives! But its aim is not to guilt trip us, but to use this awareness to present us a better way. A path that leads to a better life through the wise and godly use of the telephone. Reinke convincingly show that the pull of telephones is so powerful that radical measures may sometimes be required (more often than would like to admit). This last point is a strong point of this book, which recognizes that phones have a unique and phenomenal ability to capture our attention, more often than not for worse.

A book to read and re-read.

Reinke, T., 2017. 12 ways your phone is changing you. Crossway, Wheaton.

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