12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

So far the best I read on this subject (I only read half of The Tech-Wise Family and half of Virtually Human). By the end of the year, I’ll have lead two seminars on the topic of social media and its impact on Christian life (one in November last year and one at some point this year). And for both seminars, I’m indebted to this book. Most of the teachings are originally from this book and then adapted for different audiences. So I feel like it’s only fair to do a book review here on my blog. My co-leader and I could not cover everything mentioned in the book (and we would probably also be arrested for plagiarism) so we picked the most relevant issues for our participants. So to the November lot, if you have time, please read this book to get a fuller picture of how our phone is changing our life. To the upcoming lot, if you read this before the seminar, you don’t need to come (but please come anyway).

The subtle but massive impact on our lives by mobile phones and social media is discussed widely. What’s special about this book? I’ll use one of my own examples to illustrate. I noticed how I spent an increasing amount of time before bed looking at my phone instead of reading books, and how I reached for my phone first thing in the morning. Then I read and heard more than once that this was a bad habit and I shouldn’t be enslaved by my phone and I needed to leave it outside my bedroom. So I said (to who?), ‘I can’t do it because it’s my alarm clock in the morning, how else do I get up?’

To give myself some credit, I tried: I left it out, when the morning alarm went, I got out of bed, ran to turn it off and ran back to bed WITH IT, for another 10 minutes snooze. What’s the point? I tried again: I bought an old-fashioned alarm clock from IKEA. It beeped as it should. But it didn’t stop me taking my phone to bed. I failed and failed until I read this book.

The difference is this: I failed when I tried to change my phone behaviour for the reason that ‘this is the right thing to do’. But now I knew the reasons behind – ‘why this is the right thing to do’, the behaviours changed a lot easier. Much the same as most things in life. When there’s a heart change, the behaviour changes naturally as a result. That’s why I recommend this book.

So for example:

  • Stop refreshing the page to see how many ‘likes’ and ‘hearts’ you get on your selfie. Why? Are you trying to get self-worth and to feel satisfied by receive people’s praises? It will not satisfy you, not for the long run. A satisfying life both short-term and eternal-term is found in Christ.
  • Stop looking at other people’s stylish outfits, big houses and holidays on beaches. Stop looking at other people getting married and children being born or going to school. Why? Are you more jealous and discontent with your life the more you look? Comparing yourself with others makes you either feel sad about yourself or proud of yourself. Contentment is found in Christ.
  • Stop putting earphones in wherever and whenever. Why? Are you using them as a shield in public so say ‘leave me alone’ and ‘I’m not interested in you’? If you fell off your bike one day, would you like to see people rushing past your bloody face with their earphones in? Love people as yourself and do to them as you would them do to you.
  • Stop leaving harsh comments and shooting careless words into the cyberspace. Why? Though you cannot see behind your Apple retina screen, there is a real person at the other end. If you will not say something to their face, don’t say it digitally either.
  • Stop being handcuffed to your phone, and talk to people and see the physical world around you. Why? Because seeing the lost and the creation groaning reminds us of the urgent tasks we’ve been commissioned and the terrifying but glorious Great Day to come.
  • Stop wasting your time. Why? Because the Lord Jesus is looking at you and we’ll need to give an account of how we used his gift of time in our life here on earth. And we are in a race and the baton is in our hand. So run!

One thing I’d like to see more is the positive roles the phone and the social media play in various ways, and how we can use them for Christ-centred goals.

Not for this book obviously, but just in general, it’ll be interesting to do some study on the effect of the phone and the social media in this episode of COVID-19. The kindness and generosity in the online communities have been overwhelming, for example, many of the free online resources made available. But it does spread bad news, uncertainties and fear quicker than the spread of the virus itself.

If there’s only one take-home point for you from reading this book, let it be this:

“It is no longer I who live [online], but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live [online] I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2.20 with additions by Tony Reinke)

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