Technology has always been a big part of who I am. All my life, I’ve heard stories about how good I was at Pac-Man on our Atari 2600. Building and tinkering with older computers marked my teenage years. I’ve owned a smartphone for about half of my adult life and have photos of my son playing games on my iPhone 3G when he wasn’t even two yet.
If it sounds like tech and I go together like peanut butter and jelly, well, you wouldn’t be wrong. I believe we have two very well-rounded kids: both of them have iPads and their own Nintendo DS. But, neither of them use them daily. Sometimes they don’t see their iPads for weeks at a time. They love reading physical books. They both play outside on their swingset. They’re sociable. And while they might complain sometimes, they are capable of driving back and forth to Columbus without having tech in the car.
That’s why I don’t feel guilty when I tell them, yes, you can have your DS today — and why we don’t set screen time limits. They’re (relatively) good at self-regulating their tech usage. I’m proud to be their dad.
But what about Steph and me? Have we embraced the same kind of balance we’ve instilled in our kids? I like being challenged, which is why I purchased a copy of 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke.
”The Smartphone Revolution”
The author is a self-professed technology power user. He makes his living in the digital Christian non-profit sector, similar to what I do here at TV-44. Also, he understands social media inside and out — an area that has grown exponentially as a result of these mini pocket computers we all carry.
In his book, Reinke describes the instant “hook” he felt after he replied to an email for the first time while on-the-go. I could relate. At one point, my USA Today supervisors encouraged everyone to purchase a smartphone. For me, the intuitiveness and convenience of being able to work while on the go were groundbreaking, efficient, and — honestly — life-changing.
Last year, when I was on a pastoral retreat I ran across Reinke’s book. It coincided with a comment I made during Bible study. By that point, I was actively trying to limit my smartphone usage while at home. However, I usually read my Bible on an app. Kids learn by example, and I didn’t want mine to think I was spending time on social media instead of playing with them. An attendee joked that I should tape a note to the back of my phone whenever I was reading so my kids realized what I was doing.
Wouldn’t it just be easier for me to get out a physical Bible and read it?
12 ways your phone is changing you
Reinke does a really good job tackling the permanent place technology will have in our society. It’s here to stay, and the group who will feel the greatest impact of this will be Generation Z: those born between 1995 and 2012. The boundaries we set for them today will define their habits tomorrow.
I encourage you to buy this book. I won’t recap all of the 12 changes but instead will focus on the two ideas that spoke to me the most.
I have a question for you: in the time you’ve been reading this, how many times did you feel an urge to check something else? Perhaps you received a Facebook notification. Maybe you felt I wrote too many words and mentally was ready to move on.
Look I get it. We’re all busy, we want the information now and as quickly as possible. Our attention spans are shorter and there’s a lot vying for our time.
Welcome to the first change: we get distracted a whole lot easier. From 140 character limits on Twitter to text messages to push notifications, we’ve been trained to move from thing to thing very quickly. But, how much of that do you actually remember?
And here’s the big ramification: the Bible is not meant to be read in the same way. In a later chapter, the author highlights that the Word of God is meant to be studied, absorbed, and internalized. We’ve broken our ability to slow down and hear His voice through the Word because we’re already to move to the next thing.
We become harsh to one another
Right now, I — Jeremiah Wright, author of this blog — am just words on a screen to you. When we text, email, or tweet, we’re engaging in an “out of the body” way. We can’t read visual or auditory cues of how the other person is responding. We feel more liberated to say what we think because the interaction is less personal.
How many times have you personally witnessed Facebook flame wars? How easily do we criticize the other side online? How many memes do you see in your newsfeed that attack another viewpoint? How many times have you fought with someone over text messaging?
Is any of this edifying? Does any of this reflect our Savior? As I said in another blog, the world is already angry and hurting. Why should we add to their pain? But yet we do: the barrier to entry has been broken down by the smartphone. We say what we what to, using excuses such as “That’s just the way I am” or “Jesus knows my heart.”
Ask yourself: does the world see Jesus in my online interactions?
The next step
As the author makes clear, and I’ve already stated, the technology is here to stay. We now must figure out how to navigate these waters within Biblical guidelines. While he brings up the idea of “digital monks,” he does not encourage it. Rather, we are in the world: how can we best use the tools God gave us — the smartphone among them — to further the Kingdom?
The author concludes with 12 boundaries we should consider for our digital life. While I won’t spoil them here, I will say that #4 resulted in an instant text rant to my best friend about how unreasonable it was. Maybe I actually do need this book?
Think of it like this. If an author can create that kind of reaction in me, it only means one thing: you need to buy the book, read it, and then discuss it with your family.
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