Meanderings of a Minister


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.”

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