12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

Tony Reinke, a journalist and senior writer for Desiring God, has written an insightful book on technology wherein he identifies 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was challenged to think more deeply about how our phones can help or hurt. I plan to write a few articles to think through pitfalls and possibilities that come along with these pocket-sized smart computers we sometimes still call phones. I’ll take two chapters at a time following Reinke’s chiastic structure (pg. 189):

  • Our phones amplify our addiction to distractions (chapter 1) and thereby splinter our perception of our place in time (chapter 12).
  • Our phones push us to evade the limits of embodiment (chapter 2) and thereby cause us to treat one another harshly (chapter 11).
  • Our phones feed our craving for immediate approval (chapter 3) and promise to hedge against our fear of missing out (chapter 10).
  • Our phones undermine key literary skills (chapter 4) and, because of our lack of discipline, make it increasingly difficult for us to identify ultimate meaning (chapter 9).
  • Our phones offer us a buffet of produced media (chapter 5) and tempt us to indulge in visual vices (chapter 8).
  • Our phones overtake and distort our identity (chapter 6) and tempt us toward unhealthy isolation and loneliness (chapter 7).

Given the influence of our phones, he recommends twelve life disciplines:

  • We minimize unnecessary distractions in life to hear from God (chapter 1) and to find our place in God’s unfolding history (chapter 12).
  • We embrace our flesh-and-blood embodiment (chapter 2) and handle one another with grace and gentleness (chapter 11).
  • We aim at God’s ultimate approval (chapter 3) and find that, in Christ, we have no ultimate regrets to fear (chapter 10).
  • We treasure the gift of literacy (chapter 4) and prioritize God’s Word (chapter 9).
  • We listen to God’s voice in creation (chapter 5) and find a fountain of delight in the unseen Christ (chapter 8).
  • We treasure Christ to be molded into his image (chapter 6) and seek to serve the legitimate needs of our neighbors (chapter 7).

Let’s just say I want to smack Tony a big high five, maybe even hoist him up on the shoulder for one of those game winning MVP walk offs. I’m pretty sure we need this book like the boys down the street need a bit of guidance with the 4th of July fireworks. We could learn a lot about independence with bombs bursting in air and what not, or we could burn down the neighborhood. Reinke helps us avoid the latter.

The general flavor here will be that we must exercise dominion over technology and use it to subdue the earth for Christ. We must not permit the opposite for, “‘All things are lawful for me’, but I will not be dominated by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). In other words, don’t let your phone put you in its pocket. I encourage you to pick up a copy. If you have kids who have a smart phone, or might get a smart phone, or can say the words smart phone, get a bunch of copies. Full disclosure: I not only own a smart phone, but first listened to Reinke’s book on it.

Here’s the table of contents:

  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
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