Smart Phones and The Me-Monster Within

Jared Longshore
| March 16, 2018

One of the distortions that get us all tangled up is the context-neutral myth. This myth says that our surroundings have no effect on us. It is this myth that leads parents into letting their 16-year old daughters go on unsupervised Spring break beach trips. Young boys play this myth like a well-tuned fiddle, “I’m a Christian, mom. I can handle it. Jesus was a friend of sinners.”

But Scripture says our context matters. Our surroundings shape us. On the upside we have, “He who walks with the wise becomes wise” (Proverbs 13:20). On the flipside we have “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Calvin cut it clean when he said, “evil communications have more effect than we might suppose, in polluting our minds and corrupting our morals.”[1]

Now there have always been scoffers. And we’ve always been warned about not sitting in their seats less we become like them (Psalm 1:1). But the peculiar situation we now face is the scoffers have taken up residence in our pocket. It is far easier to plop down in the sinner’s counsel given our smart-phones. Undoubtedly it is far easier to sit among the Christian sages, too! That point needs attention. The upside of every one of these posts need attention. But my aim here is to mitigate the downside. Which is an aim not at odds with commending the upside. We can’t simply choose for or against. Nor should we say, “Well there are pros and cons.” and go right on using phones unwisely.

The point is this: There are stupid people easily accessible with a flick of your finger; and if you listen to them too much you will become like them–“the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20). Fools are not just to be avoided on some subjects. Parents are especially tempted to think that they only need to steer their kids away from certain conversations. But fools speak folly no matter the topic. Their worldview is foolish so every piece in it is foolish. If our kids are merely following sages, or liking and sharing insightful pieces full of common grace, amen and amen. But let’s not kid ourselves if they’re not.

The world of social media is one of flattery frenzy. “We tabulate the human approval in a commodity index of likes and shares. We post an image, then watch the immediate response. We refresh. We watch the stats climb–or stall” (75). That kind of foolishness encourages the me-monster within.

Yes, since our father Adam’s fall, we have sought approval in the wrong ways. Phones did not start this problem, but they have a great ability to “feed our craving for immediate approval” (189). We can get so much affirmation through our devices that we fear missing out on it when we’re disconnected (chapter 10).

After being offline for forty days, Andy Crouch admitted, “I discovered how attached, or maybe addicted, I was to the small daily dose of reassurance that other people ‘like’ me and ‘follow’ me… It was sobering how strong the pull was on me” (156).

I’m confident this is not a problem for all Christians. But I’ve got a pretty good hankering that a whole heap of believers are feeding the me-monster with hours of Facebook and Instagram scrolling. If you feed it, it will grow. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

I am particularly zealous for youth and parents of youth. Both 1 Corinthians 15:33 and Galatians 6:7 begin with, “Do not be deceived.” With advancements in social media and technological communication it is easy to be deceived about how much bad company and sinful sowing occurs through a youth’s smart phone. We would not hand our sons a stack of porn and say, “Lust not.” We would not drown our daughters who are concerned with vain, external beauty in a sea of celebrity magazines and say, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain.” Do not be deceived. Unrestricted and unsupervised smart phone use drowns them in far worse; it locks them up in a room with material tremendously more damaging than a stack of Playboy. Drill down deep and be willing to make them angry. 10 years down their road of sanctification they will thank you for not falling prey to the context-neutral myth.

[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Vol. 2, p. 42). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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