When the smartphone was introduced, many of us quickly adopted it into our lives—too quickly to stop and think about the future costs we were unboxing along with the device. Now blessed with this revolutionary piece of handheld technology, we try to wield it with wisdom, fending off anxieties about how our digital habits impact our spiritual health. Drawing on the insights of numerous thinkers, published studies, and his own research, writer Tony Reinke identifies twelve potent ways our smartphones have changed our lives—for good and ill. Reinke calls us to cultivate healthy habits for smartphone use in the digital age, encouraging us to be grateful for technological advance, develop skills aimed at maximizing the blessing that we (and others) can receive through our phones, and grow in the wisdom we need to avoid the many pitfalls that exist with such a powerful tool.
- Great message for us all
Today I will share with you an audiobook called 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke. The title is self-explanatory, but I wanted to share a little about the book here.
What effect is your phone having on your life? The author shares a very insightful book that is very relevant to our culture. There is a whole lot of information here about phones, social media, etc. and our responses to this. It is really eye opening to think about how attached we are to our phones.
One thing that stuck out to me was how when we post pictures on social media we are looking for the approval of others. How many likes will this get? The author even shares stories of people who spend great deals of money getting the "perfect image" to share. What he goes on to say is are we more concerned with getting the approval of men or of God?
I do not have a smart phone but do have an iPad so this was still relevant for me. It has given me a lot to think about for myself. This is a message that we all need to consider. I highly recommend this book to you.
The book was read by Tom Parks. He was a great choice for this book in my opinion and very easy to listen to.
I received this book for my review from christianaudio Reviewers program. Thank you.
- Painful (in all the right ways)
This book is a painfully wonderful eye-opener. We KNOW we're addicted to our phones, but we tend to look at the addiction in a very general "I should use my phone less" sort of way. This book looks at the very real, very specific consequences of not being intentional with the why and how when it comes to our phones. I've already recommended it to a ton of people.
- Scriptural, Thoughtful, Edifying, Avoids Technophobia and Technophilia
The best way to summarize this book is probably to let the author do it.
"In the last twelve chapters, I have warned against twelve corresponding ways in which smartphones are changing us and undermining our spiritual health."
(The following is a verbatim quotation.)
- Our phones amplify our addiction to distractions (chapter 1), and thereby splinter our perception of our place in time (12).
- Our phones push us to evade the limits of embodiment (2) and thereby cause us to treat one another harshly (11).
- Our phones feed our craving for immediate approval (3) and promise to hedge against our fears of missing out (10).
- Our phones undermine key literary skills (4) and, because of our lack of discipline, make it increasingly difficult for us to identify ultimate meaning (9).
- Our phones offer us a buffet of produced media (5) and tempt us to indulge in visual vices (8).
- Our phones overtake and distort our identity (6) and tempt us toward unhealthy isolation and loneliness (7).
Sounds pretty dire. But Reinke is, at heart, a technophile, not a technophobe; and he doesn’t conclude from these dangers that every Christian needs to smash his smartphone. He offers positive practices in place of the negative.
(More verbatim quotation:)
Along the way, I have also attempted to commend twelve life disciplines we need to preserve our spiritual health in this smartphone age:
- We minimize unnecessary distractions in life to hear form God (chapter 1) and to find our place in God’s unfolding history (12).
- We embrace our flesh-and-blood embodiment (2) and handle one another with grace and gentleness (11).
- We aim at God’s ultimate approval (3) and find that, in Christ, we have no ultimate regrets to fear (10).
- We treasure the gift of literacy (4) and prioritize God’s Word (9).
- We listen to God’s voice in creation (5) and find a fountain of delight in the unseen Christ (8).
- We treasure Christ to be molded into his image (6) and seek to serve the legitimate needs of our neighbors (7).
A few more thoughts from this reviewer:
One question that really stuck out to me, toward the end of the book: do I deserve to spend time on social media trivialities right now? Sobering.
Another question Reinke pressed on me helpfully is one I have to ask all the time, especially in my line of work as a professional blogger: do I have an unhealthy interest in validation-through-social-shares? That one’s tough when your job description involves increasing social shares.
Chapter 11 was really excellent, about slander and "outrage porn." This is good wisdom:
"In an age when anyone with a smart phone can publish dirt on anyone else, we must know that spreading antagonistic messages online with the intent of provoking hostility without any desire for resolution is what the world calls 'trolling,' and the New Testament calls 'slander.'"
I sometimes wonder how much of our society’s public worry (and public kvetching) over the dangers of technology will seem quaint to our great grandchildren—like those who worried around the turn of the 20th century that people wouldn’t be able to breathe if cars exceeded 10 miles per hour, because the air would be rushing by too fast. But we’re not our grandkids. We’re us. I can’t shake the feeling that the world really has changed, that the Internet has amplified our fallenness more than it has increased our virtue. The overall tone of Reinke’s book is one of gentle warning and instruction, and I think that’s perfectly appropriate.
This is definitely my new go-to book for wisdom on the use of consumer technology. (Dyer’s From the Garden to the City is a good complement to it.)
The reader in the Christian Audio production was smooth and serviceable, though (to be a little too frank?) a little too much like a male version of Siri for my tastes. This book called for reading with a little more feeling, a little more homiletical intensity. But I was able to go triple speed (is that ironic?) and understand perfectly.
I got this book for free for review purposes from Christian Audio, but they attached no strings to my opinions.
- Show ALL Reviews
- A Much Needed Conversation in our Culture
Cell phones are a recent phenomenon and haven't been around for very long. The long-term effects have not been as easily observed, though sadly culture has experienced the negative effects, such as the rise of phone-related injuries and fatalities. Tony Reinke offers an insightful look into the gadget generation as one who makes a living online. As the book title unambiguously suggests, he identifies and explains 12 ways our phones are changing us. Some are more influential than others, but his overall assessment is convincing as well as convicting. He is careful not to approach technology as the devil but as a tool. The real problem with technology is our own tendency to make it an idol in our lives. The gospel radiates through these pages, constantly reminding us of our own need for salvation from the idols of our hearts. Along with these 12 observations, Reinke also suggests safeguards to put in place to remind us when technology starts to dethrone God. He maintains a balanced approach to technology by putting it in its place as a tool which can be used to make God's glorious name made known to an online community desperate for authentic relationships. I received this audiobook from christianaudio.com in exchange for an honest review.
Mr. Reinke's book is one of the most helpful, most important examinations of the impact that our smart phones are having on our souls that I have run across. Any Christian who owns a smart phone should read this book—and I would even broaden that to anyone who engages in any kind of electronic technology: computers, televisions, etc. Mr. Reinke offers each of us God-honoring resources to help "each one test his own work" (Galatians 6:4). (The narrator is excellent, too.)
- Earbuds for everyone
Since earbuds started appearing in our ears with iPods or other music devices, I have felt that those who do this in public in places like the grocery store are tuning out of the world into their own private space. I consider this to be rude and have stated such to those in my family who do this.
Such devices are very handy to pass the time when out walking or running exercise or even in the gym when struggling through a tough workout. These devices have also enhanced my knowledge base by offering various forms of audio books.
I currently have an audiobook library of several hundred books, most of which would never have been read if I only had physical books. I spend hours on the road as part of my job and commute. Audio books also pass the time in an entertaining way when on long road trips.
Almost all of this reading (listening) is done when I am alone.
This is unfortunately not the case for many, many people, especially younger folk. It is becoming more and more common to see ear buds in both ears of young people even when in the presence of friends and family.
As Tony Reinke points out in his book, these behaviors have only gotten worse now that we have instant continuous access to not only audio but also pictures, video and political speech twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week.
While there is a great deal of knowledge that is either necessary (google maps) or beneficial (election results), much of the information that is readily available through various online sources on our cell phones is either inaccurate, completely false or inconsequential to our lives.
It is very discouraging to see a group of friends or family members sitting together at a dinner table or out together, each one glued to his own cell phone. The breakdown of face-to-face communication which started with phones, migrated to email and now has blossomed with the various social media formats led by Facebook have in my opinion, moved us toward a less loving, less caring society driven by the opinions of others.
This book is a wakeup call to those of us who are unwittingly falling into this trap of information overload and the breakdown of our relationships.
The author makes a point of the effect of these devices on our spiritual life. I agree with some of them but as he admits, there can be an enhancement of our spiritual life through the expanse of Biblical truth and study also available on our pocketable device. I personally attend church with a netbook loaded with multiple versions of the Bible, commentaries and a newly downloaded set of sermon notes. This device has greatly enhanced my church experience.
The narrator, Tom Parks did an excellent job of narration and kept the book interesting all the way through.
I was given a free audio version of this book for my agreement to review it but this has not influenced my personal impressions of the book.
- Biblically Thinking About Tech
A Biblical and closely reasoned reflection on smartphone use, and Christian responses. Useful not just for thinking through smartphone use, but also as a model for Christianly thinking through technology use.
- Am I using my phone — or is my phone using me?
We all feel it, our smartphones grab more and more of our time, changing us in subtle ways over the years. For well-reasoned counsel to help us thrive under the new pressures of the digital age, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is a wonderful help, in these 12 ways.
1. The book is God-centered. Many technology books lack any serious talk about God — his character, his word, and his Son. But this book clearly addresses the questions of the digital age with a solid awareness of the Creator and his full intent for creation. God created us to enjoy him. God has also created a myriad of means, including the technological progress of the digital age, to help us enjoy him more. God governs over all technology, and this book shines the light of God’s sovereignty over the technological age.
2. The counsel of the book is wisely nuanced. Different readers will need to hear different messages, and the author is firmly aware of it. “So I cannot tell you to put your phone away, to give it up, or to take it back up again after a season of burnout,” Reinke writes. “My aim is to explore why you would consider such actions in the first place” (21). Given the diversity of our smartphone habits, we are called to carefully understand our own personal wiring.
3. From the first page, the back-and-forth nature of our smartphone habits is made humorously clear. This is not a one-sided book (pro-phone or anti-phone); it balances our habits well. As the preface begins: “This blasted smartphone! Pesk of productivity. Tenfold plague of beeps and buzzing. . . . Yet also my untiring personal assistant, my irreplaceable travel companion, and my lightning-fast connection to friends and family. . . . This blessed smartphone!” (15). The spectrum of what we do with our phones — from scrolling through witty response GIFs, to our nested conversations on Twitter, to personal productivity apps, or using pixels and podcasts to feed our souls — all of it is on the forefront in the book.
4. The message of the book is passionate, and not muted by drab truisms. For example, chapter three (on our craving for immediate approval), ends with this warning: “As we fight against the lure of self-glorification, Jesus, Paul, and Peter all plead with us: don’t waste your approval. Don’t crave the approval of man online. Don’t flaunt your righteous deeds in the cyber world. If we miss their warnings, we will make a cosmically foolish mistake, with eternal regret to follow” (78). The book is sometimes humorous, sometimes serious — but always earnest, with eternity in view.
5. The architecture of the book is ordered by an ancient poetic effect. I won’t give it away, but let me just say: Pay attention as you read. The entire structure of the book is woven together. (And if you don’t see it, don’t worry, Reinke will give it away in the end, making the entire content of the book a little more memorable, too.)
6. The book raises a lot of questions for personal evaluation, and those questions are theological and practical. There are suggestive helps for self-criticism, to help think about our own patterns of behavior, but they always come back to concrete and applicable questions. Using Paul’s guidelines in 1 Corinthians 6:12–13 and 10:23, the book asks us to think about our smartphone habits in three ways: (1) What is the end and aim of my life? (2) How am I influencing others? (3) Does my phone serve me, or do I serve my phone? Answering each of these three questions will revolutionize your habits by bringing clarity to your priorities.
7. The writing style in this book is delightful. Apart from the introduction (“A Little Theology of Technology,” which is panoramic in scope, but also too brief and perhaps a bit clunky), the prose style of the book is enjoyable, memorable, and beautiful. “Life online is a whiplash between deep sorrow, unexpected joy, cheap laughs, profound thoughts, and dumb memes. Our social media feeds give us what is sometimes riotous, sometimes amazing, sometimes dizzying, and sometimes depressing. But the disjointedness is something we have welcomed on ourselves” (178–179). Quotable gems like this are scattered on just about every page.
8. The book is thoroughly researched. Over the course of three years, Reinke — an author and the host of the Ask Pastor John podcast — crafted a couple dozen interviews with some of the most influential Christian thinkers. He also read about 50 books on technology and over 1,000 articles on smartphone research, all while keeping his attention focused on the spiritual effects of our habits. The result is what you would expect from a respected researcher and journalist. Reinke skillfully packages his far-reaching findings in a way that is concise and engaging.
9. The book focuses on eternity. There’s no shortage of books and studies on the physical and psychological effects of screen-time on our lives, but this book focuses on the long-term, the long-est-term — the eternal consequences of our smartphone habits on our souls. This is what makes the book most unique. Our phones demand our attention, and we willingly give our attention to them. But what do we really want? And what does that say about our own desires and cravings in our hearts? The goal of the book is simple: To get us “to move from being distracted on purpose to being less and less distracted with an eternal purpose” (52).
10. The book’s tactics are holistic: it appeals to our heads, our hearts, and of course our thumbs. But it is also balanced: it speaks to both digital consumers and digital creators. Do you need intellectual arguments and data and research? Do you need appeals to your longings and answers to your fears? Do you need immediate practical changes to your phone habits? Do you need inspiration to use social media for a strategic purpose? The book has them all.
11. The book is communal. Reinke is skilled at breaking through norms to show how, for example, our social media habits obligate others. “If I’m a social-media junkie, my lack of self-control feeds the social-media addiction in you,” he writes. “And the more I text and tweet and Snapchat, the more I drag you and others into the digital vortex of reciprocating obligation. This is the secret to how social-media giants grow their valuation into the billions. They need me to entice you” (198). This fresh perspective helps break us from the individualized consumer model that the personal electronics industry is built on. On the flip side, we need one another. We need to find our place in healthy local churches, and to that end, I can see this book being a great one for group discussions with church leaders and small groups, to talk about smartphone behaviors and to brainstorm personal changes for healthy Christian living.
12. Finally, the book’s cover image is epic! As explained in the acknowledgments, the iPhone guy on the cover stands 6-feet-tall and weighs 250 pounds! Designed and cut from hardwood and assembled by a guitar maker.
Take up 12 Ways, read it, discuss it, and challenge one another as you pray that God will use this book to change us in profound ways, all for the goal that God will grow more and more glorious to our eyes.
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