Meanderings of a Minister


How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 8

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy and causing us to feed on the produced images others want us to see as well as changing us to become what we spend time with online.  Our phones are also making more connected when alone and more alone when we are with others.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Yet another way in which our phones are changing us may seem like nothing new.  Our phones, tablets, and ubiquitous internet access give us the ability to engage in secret vices with virtually no accountability.  Before you brain automatically jumps to pornography as the only application of this statement, the issue is much more than pornography.

Back a few years ago, everyone was shocked when the Ashley Madison became a household name for nefarious reasons.  Ashley Madison was a website people could register with, and pay a fee to, that would allow them to be listed as a married person available for an affair.  Tens of millions of people, including Christian businessmen and women, Christian leaders, and even pastors, registered for the site.  Many people registered, paid the fee, and then had second thoughts about what they had done.  They deleted their accounts, but the company never deleted them from their servers.  In 2015, a group of hackers broke into the databases and released the names to the general public.  A website was created that allowed people to go and check to see if their spouse had been a part.  Many families were destroyed because the portability of access to the internet provided a false sense of secrecy that emboldened people, Christians, to engage in secret vices.

And it is not only sexual issues that are vices that are enabled and encouraged by our phones.  Online shopping, escapism, and many more opportunities exist as well.  For instance, the husband that is trying to hide spending from his wife no longer has to wait until she is out of the house to order his next model airplane or computer game.  He has access to do so when no one is around because the computer is in his pocket.  Nowhere is this seen more prevalently than when it comes to online gaming.  A person downloads a “free” game only to find that there are in-game purchases required to continue playing the game.  Some people simply click to buy without thinking about the true cost.

We could also add some of the previous topics to this list of secret vices.  What about the middle-aged woman who is bored with her marriage and life and escapes into Facebook to secretly engage in coveting her neighbor?  What about the teenagers that can listen to music with objectionable lyrics without their parents’ knowledge because the connection to that music no longer has to be purchased and stored in a CD (or cassette) rack to be perused by a concerned mother or father?  And what about the young man or lady that is questioning their sexuality or religion and accesses information contrary to scripture and their parents’ instruction because it is always just there?

How does a young man keep his way pure?  This was a question posed by Psalm 119:9. By keeping their way according to the Word of God.  So, when one delves into the secrecy their phones affords them, they ought to begin with the reality that God sees all, knows all, and is everywhere all at the same time.  We ought to punctuate our time online with the same phrase with which we often end our prayers.  “In Jesus’ Name” Additionally, we need to think about why we do what we do where we do it online.  And we need to submit our plans, ways, and clicks to God’s Lordship in our lives.

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How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 7

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy and causing us to feed on the produced images others want us to see as well as changing us to become what we spend time with online.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Our phones are also changing us in a way that many did not see coming.  With social media, many of us are more connected than ever before.  We have hundreds or thousands of “friends” to whom we are connected constantly.  We can look at their pictures, read their status, play games with them online.  You would think that this would mean that people would never have a chance to feel disconnected or lonely, but actually it is quite the opposite.

Recent studies have shown that the average online user actually feels lonelier than those who are not as engaged online.  How can this be?  Related to earlier articles, one of the ways that people feel lonely is that we disconnect ourselves from what is going on around us for the sake of making sure we are connected to our phones and social media accounts.  We can be in a crowd of people, but mentally (and technologically), we are alone because it is just us and our phone.  Instead of feeling the presence of people around us, we are in a virtual world that is based upon our online activity.  If people have not liked the video we posted, the quote we posted, or the picture of our lasagna, we can feel alone, rejected, isolated, and frustrated.  We can feel as though no one in the world likes or loves us even though we are in a room full of people waiting for us to engage with them.

There is a flipside to this equation that is also troubling.  Not only can we feel alone in a crowd, but we can feel crowded when we are alone.  The human brain was wired to take in incredible amounts of information, but due to the fall in the Garden of Eden, our brains do not process and store that information as efficiently as they were originally designed to do.  This means that we need down time to rethink, reprocess, and restore images and information accumulated through our busy lives.  Combine that fact with the amount of information we take in each day compared to previous generations and we need time like no one else ever has in the past.  Sadly, we do not get this time because we cannot disconnect enough to do this critical process.

Many people use their phones as alarm clocks.  To do so, the average person leaves their sounds and notifications active throughout the night and their phone within reach.  What this means is that, even asleep, we are not able to process things like we should because our phones constantly beckon us from the deeper sleep cycle needed.

Once awake, many people go straight to their cell phone to turn off the alarm that woke them up.  While there, they check email, social media, etc.  The time needed to process and plan their day is short-circuited by whatever flickers across the pixels on their screen.  This is not an isolated incident and there are very few boundaries this does not cross.

Even as believers, we find ourselves truly desirous of a deep and meaningful prayer life and Bible Study routine, but we get in the middle of our prayer and our phone beeps and we put God on hold (pun intended) to find out that we could save 14% or more on car insurance.  We try to read our Bibles only to find that our phone beckons us to a friend’s latest rave about the local Chinese restaurant.

So, our phones are encouraging us to be alone in a crowd and crowded when we are alone.  It does not have to be this way.  With a little discipline, and recognizing the problem, we can combat this by turning off our ringers or phones when spending time with God, family, or crowds we need to get to know.  It sounds simple, but our prayer needs to be, “Lord, I don’t want to miss out on the life You have given me to live because I am so busy trying to create my own online.”



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 6

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy and causing us to feed on the produced images others want us to see.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Another way that our phones are changing us is very related to last week’s issue.  Reinke says it this way, “We Become Like What We ‘Like’”.  Many of us remember Middle School.  We remember trying to fit in.  We remember trying to decide if we would be a jock, nerd, preppie (Hey!  I’m old!), or some other subset of Middle School culture.  How did we make these decisions and which group did we choose?  We usually made these decisions based upon their perceived benefits to us.  If we saw a pretty girl (or handsome dude) that was a part of a subset, then we chased that particular one.  If our friends suddenly joined another subset, then we would decide if we wanted to be friends with them any longer.  If we did, we joined, or tried to join, that one.  Our phones encourage this as well.  That effect can be positive or negative, but it is an effect and it is changing us.

The Bible addresses this on a personal level when Paul said, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NASB95) Many of us realize this and that has some to do with why we choose the friends we choose and the places we visit, etc.  But have we stopped to think that electronic company corrupts good morals as well?  For instance, if a friend is always posted pictures of family time, we begin to feel dissatisfied with our own family time and take actions to change to align our reality with the images we have ‘liked’.  Conversely, if a friend posts pictures of their new girlfriend and the fabulous life together, all of sudden we find ourselves critical of our spouses and more demanding because our reality does not measure up to what we are seeing in social media.  The direction of the influence is not the main issue, but the fact that we are influenced is the issue.

The average reader could easily stop and see through a perceived subterfuge here.  They might be tempted to say, “But isn’t Reinke attempting to influence people through his book?”  While they are correct in assuming that the author is aiming at serious thought and potential changes in the behavior of the reader, consider that the average person doesn’t read that much anymore (see earlier article on losing literacy).  Consider also that a picture truly is worth a thousand words and it does not take one long to realize this might have potentially powerful effects.

Reinke quotes an old adage that is becoming more and more the situation in which we find ourselves.  “We are not who we think we are; we are not even who others think we are; we are who we THINK others think we are.”  While other chapters have hit upon the temptation to be inauthentic in how we present ourselves, the effect is not only on us as we present ourselves, but how we consume what others produce (last week’s article) and then how that changes the way we think.  We become like what we “like”.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 5

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Another way that our phones are changing us might not seem so obvious on the surface.  Oh, the effect will be apparent, but the deleterious aspects might not be.  Our phones are tempting us to become those who feed on the produced.  What does that mean?  I am glad you asked.

Our nation has created a class of person that other generations and other nations have not known.  We have people that are famous for nothing other than being famous.  We no longer have heroes that are actually heroic, but we have celebrities that are celebrities because of their celebrity.  In order for them to remain famous, they must remain the spotlight, in the news, or trending on social media.  How do they accomplish this?  Through produced moments in the sun.  Whether it is a contrived celebration or a made-up catastrophe, the only way for them to remain famous is the remain in the social conscious.  Not only do they benefit from this, but those who pay for endorsement deals with them must have this constant social conscious or their investments do not pay off for them.

What does that have to do with you and I?  First, we have been fed these produced moments so regularly that we find we must have them to continue to be the rabid fans of our favorite celebrities.  We find ourselves checking their social media, searching google for the latest news of their exploits or going to the latest gossip sights hoping for a glimpse into their lives.  We feel like we actually know them, but don’t realize they are feeding us the produced parts of their lives.  That is one of the reasons that we feel such shock when one of our celebrities takes his or her life or gets arrested for a heinous crime.

Additionally, we find ourselves wanting badly in their company.  No, not the way people used to stalk celebrities by hanging around outside their house hoping for an autograph, but we actually want to be in their number.  With social media, we can be.  We can get a million people to like a video of us making a sandwich and we are celebrities for an instant.  We can begin to produce our own lives and cause people to approve, which we talked about in a previous article.

Another byproduct of this effect is that many of us are not actually living in the moments we find ourselves because we are so busy trying to produce moments for others or trying to capture the moment, but paradoxically ignore the moment with our capturing.  Instead of watching our children perform in their school musical, we are busy staring at our phones to make sure they are in frame, the app is working properly, the recording is working, the lighting is right, we have zoomed into the right distance, etc.  Instead of enjoying the performance, we are distracted from the moment we are so busy producing for others.

If we are not careful, this obsession with produced moments actually can lead us to attempt to take God’s place as the Creator and Sustainer of our world and our lives.  God spoke and created everything.  Those things tell us about what He made, but it also tells us about Him.  He is creative, personal, enjoys variety, etc.  When we begin to obsess over the produced moments of our lives, we are subtly telling God what He created was fine for then, but we will take it from there.  For some, this might even mean that we are telling God that He has not done well enough for us so we have to attempt to generate more through our productions.  Ultimately, this can lead us to the point that we no longer appreciate our lives or what God has done for us.

So, the next time you are out with your children, will you be WITH your children, or will you be leveraging your time with your children for the benefit of others who are just as stuck on produced moments as you are in producing them?



12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, Part 4
July 21, 2017, 4:11 pm
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I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways you Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Probably one of the insidious ways that are phones are changing us as Christians is that they are robbing us of our literacy.  When I read that statement in Reinke’s book, I had to stop and think about what he was trying to say.  As I looked at his definitions and examples, I realized he is right.  Our phones are taking the place of most serious reading and thinking.  Because they are a form of amusement, we are encouraged to check our brains at the door and just interact with what is on the screen.  This is one of the reasons that urban legends continue to make the rounds of the various social media platforms.  People read something online and no longer stop to apply the sniff test.

One area that is problematic for Christians is that we are losing our ability to read our Bibles and think deeply about spiritual matters.  In some of our churches, people even laugh and say that they do not read anymore and will wait for the movie to come out.  Men and women alike find that the amount of attention for reading expands only slightly beyond the 140 characters allowed by Twitter.

In addition to a lack of focus on serious Bible study, this slides over into prayer as well.  Many people, myself included, struggle to spend the kind of time the ancients spent in prayer because we simply cannot quiet our minds and souls that long.  Our phones encourage this as we move from image to image and sound to sound.  The constantly updating pixels work together to convince us that anything that requires effort and does not produce an immediate and measurable goal is not worth pursuing.

Another interesting correlation is that this tendency also manifests itself in the way we lack self-control when it involves a deeper and more important commitment.  We impulse buy, impulse eat, impulse attack, impulse post, impulse share, etc., with no thought about whether or not it is appropriate or the best use of our time, money, and effort.  We not only lack self-control, but to suggest someone might want to exercise some self-control seems old-fashioned or even controlling.

While many people might not see this side-effect of our phones as important like some of the other effects covered in other chapters of the book, we would do well not to pass it too quickly because our ability to read widely, think deeply, reason logically, and live self-sacrificingly is the basis of society, innovation, and survival.  If we lose it, we lose much more than we realize.

None of these effects are irreversible and none of them have to lead to destruction or even damage to our lives, but we need to be aware that they can be a tendency so that we remain vigilant to resist the pull of the digital glow.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 3

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways you Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

Two weeks ago, we looked at the issue of our addiction to distraction.  In addition to this, phones also encourage us to ignore flesh and blood relationships in favor of virtual relationships.  This happens for several reasons, some of which can provide quite the minefield for a follower of Christ.

Last week, we looked at this issue of how our phones are training us to ignore flesh and blood in favor of virtual relationships.  This is shone through many avenues, but we looked at distracted driving, ignoring the safety of others, distractions from personal interaction, rudeness, and other aspects of treating people in the virtual world with more importance and urgency than even God.

The next way Reinke listed as a result of how our phones are changing us in the area of causing us to crave immediate approval.  As we look at social media, we are constantly checking to see if we have more friends, followers, mentions, downloads, likes, and other electronic measures that would indicate that we are worth someone’s time and effort.  We check our phones constantly to get a sense of our importance, value, or worth.  And we are becoming more and more addicted.

One way that this particular aspect of how our phone is changing us that can become actually physically dangerous is how people are having to find more and outlandish ways to get noticed.  Used to be that we could post a picture with our pet and we would get a certain number of likes from friends, pet enthusiasts, and parents.  Now, we have to find ways that are grotesque, outlandish, or just plain weird.  For instance, some girls are trying to make their waists smaller and smaller to make their pictures and videos catch people’s attention so that they might become celebrities.  One particular girl went so far as to have her bottom ribs removed to enable her to have a smaller waist.  Doctors have suggested that this is dangerous for the organs those ribs are supposed to protect, but the girl got her 1 million shares and her fifteen minutes of celebrity.

Another aspect is how we have taken to concept of celebrity and elevated its importance to go far beyond the neurotic actor or actress that has to be the headliner on the marquee.  Now, the average public can compete for this title.  How do they do so?  Not by being self-sacrificing or heroic, but by being noticeable.  Recently, a man went live on Facebook to show himself shooting a crowd of people and then turning the gun on himself.  Viewers were shocked and horrified by the violence; however, they also shared the video hundreds of thousands of times.  He achieved his celebrity and it was mostly not even questioned as to whether or not it was infamous to do so.

Another particularly dangerous area where this aspect is hurting individuals and families, even within the church, is that people are turning more and more to online friends for comfort.  You might not think that is such a big deal, but what does this do to developing fellowship in the local church?  How does it affect families?  Couples?  How many times have we heard the story of the man that comes home and tells his wife that he met someone online and is leaving her to be with this online person with whom he has been having an online affair?

Additionally, anything that we turn to for comfort that did not live a perfect life, die, and conquer death for us is not worthy of our worship.  Turning to someone or something for comfort is a form of worshipping that someone or something.  That something does not live forever and does not stand at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.  Simply put, to give anyone or anything God’s place in our hearts, schedules, or lives is not wise because they will not meet the need we are looking for them to fill.  Only God can do that.

When we look for constant approval, we are focused on ourselves, our wants, our needs, and our demands for attention.  This necessarily means that we are not living otherworldly lives.  We are focused on here and now and ignore eternity and the needs of others.  This is not how we are commanded to live as believers.

Our phones are changing us into attention-addicts who, like children, constantly say to the virtual world, “Hey!  Look at me!”  In the meantime, they are yelling the same and relationship is lost in the ensuing contest for attention.  This is not good and we better be careful.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 2

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways you Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

Last week, we looked at the issue of our addiction to distraction.  In addition to this, phones also encourage us to ignore flesh and blood relationships in favor of virtual relationships.  This happens for several reasons, some of which can provide quite the minefield for a follower of Christ.

The first way that our phones encourage us to ignore flesh and blood relationships is the way that our phones encourage us to ignore laws against distracted driving.  No matter how many ad campaigns we see, stories of tragedy we hear, or laws that are passed against it, our addiction to distraction carries over to us while we are steering a multiple thousand-pound missile through the streets and highways of our land oblivious to our surroundings for “just a quick check”.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we are expected to obey the government, but our phones trump the law and God’s Word without us even realizing it.  Romans 13 tells us to obey the government, but we find ourselves checking Facebook, responding to a text or email, or even playing a game while driving despite the laws against such behavior.  I say, “we” because I also am guilty.

Another part of ignoring flesh and blood relationships is the way many people engage in viral anger in ways they never would if the person they were addressing were standing in front of them instead of checking a message many hours later.  We know that Jesus told us to do unto others as we would have them to unto us, but we cannot seem to pass up the opportunity to go off on someone who is not standing in front of us.  We are more critical, use harsher language, care less about potential hurt, and the list goes on and on.  James said that cursing and blessing ought not come out of the same mouth, perhaps we should apply that keyboards as well.

Still yet another area that indicates we might be tempted to ignore flesh and blood relationships can be seen by the fact that many of us even screen calls so that we do not have to have an unrehearsed conversation with someone in which we might reveal more of ourselves than we do when we can type, delete, edit, or dress up our virtual posts.  Someone calls and you can choose not to call them back.  James tells us not to neglect doing good for someone in need, but we can filter out the needs because we are hiding behind our keyboards and phones and pretend that the virtual need being expressed is not the same thing as seeing it before it.  If we don’t want to deal with it, we just pretend we didn’t see the post, receive the email, read the text, or get the phone call.  That is plainly ignoring the flesh and blood people in our midst.  It would seem that Jesus told us if we did not do it to the least of these, we did not do it to Him.

Finally, another area that indicates that we are ignoring flesh and blood relationships is the way that we lack opportunity to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.  Sure, we can read their rants, cries for attention, and silly emoji posts, but that is hardly the same thing as putting an arm around them, looking them in the eye, and praying with them.  We are being trained to no longer value this type of interaction because it is messy, unscripted, and belies a potential for embarrassment over an inability to understand or empathize.  When our relationships are little more than pixels of information, we miss an opportunity to connect on a personal or spiritual level.

So, our phones are helping us to be or become addicted to distraction.  They also might be encouraging us to ignore flesh and blood relationships.  We would be wise to be aware and fight the temptations this might provide.