Meanderings of a Minister


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 1

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.

The first way that our phone is changing us is that we are all becoming addicted to distractions.  If you have a smart phone, think about this.  When you get a notification sound that something has happened in your digital world, how long do you take to check it out?  For most of us, we have become programmed like Pavlov’s dog.  The bell goes off and we expect a treat, so we drop what we are doing and check our phone.  We can be in the middle of a movie, asleep, having a meaningful conversation with a loved one, or even using the restroom and we will disengage from our immediate surroundings to check what has just happened in our virtual world.

With the advent of people using their phones and tablets for electronic versions of their Bibles, this addiction to distraction is even causing us to disconnect from worship.  We may be in the middle of a worship song and our phone vibrates and we turn our attention from focusing on the infinite God of the universe to find out that 8 people liked our post on Facebook, or that our friend will meet us at the restaurant after church.  We can be sitting under the careful instruction of God’s Word and get distracted because our Amazon order has shipped, the weather is going to be cooler tomorrow, or we have two new emails.  We are addicted.  This distraction is taking its toll on marriages, families, employers, classrooms, and even Bible study groups.

So, we are addicted.  Say that with me.  We are addicted.  You might be thinking, “Okay.  I am addicted, but what can I do about it?”  I am glad that you asked.  Part of breaking any addiction is admitting that we need help.  Who do we seek help from?  First, we confess our sin to God.  Did you read that right?  Did I just call our addiction to technology a sin?  Well, if it is where we go to feel important, valued, or included, then yes, that is a sin because it is an idol.

Having confessed to God the sin of turning to something or someone other than Him for our comfort, belonging, or value, our next step is to begin to establish a plan of discipline to deal with our addiction.  We have to be so affected by our addiction that it drives us to change.  The only way change will happen is for us to become desperate for change and take action that will lead to change.  What are some steps we can take to begin to deal with our addiction?

When with family members, friends, at work, or in worship, we should put our phones in airplane mode so that the notifications can’t distract us.  Some phones have a “do not disturb” setting.  We could set that setting when going into a situation that deserves our full attention.  Even as you have read that statement, you might have begun to sweat a little bit because of all of the notifications you could miss during that time.  Don’t worry.  That is just a sign of withdrawal.  We could leave our phone in our vehicle while at work or in class or worship.  This is a more radical solution, but can be helpful.  There may be many other ways to deal with turning off the distractions.  Be creative, but be purposeful.

Finally, to deal with our addiction, we can turn to others who can help us by holding us accountable for making the changes we say we want to make.  Sit with someone at church that will check to make sure you aren’t on your phone dealing with distractions.  Give your phone to someone before going into work, starting your prayer time, or going into class.  Turn your phone off and have someone periodically check with you to see that the phone is turned off.

You might not think that this issue of addition to distraction is that big a deal, but what if God were talking to you and you missed it because you were busy checking a notification that someone posted another recipe or cat video?  You would walk away and quote Jacob from Genesis 28:16, “Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.’” Sobering thought.