Whether you’re in an airport, in line at the grocery store, or just sitting at your house, humanity’s new default setting seems to be lived through a screen. And Tony Reinke says we are changing as a result.
12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is a book most of us need and some of us need desperately. As the title suggests, Reinke chronicles 12 of the main ways our phones are changing us. All of our technology changes us in some way; much for the better as it lives out its intended purpose, but as we stray from the purpose of our devices, they have the habit of creeping into more and more of our lives and creating/exposing idols. That’s what makes this book so important for both Christian discipleship and understanding our tech-obsessed culture. If you become what you worship (see Psalm 115:4–8), our phone lives may transform us into their image that are shallow, selfish, distracted, and lonely.
Tony Reinke shares his struggle: “Some days I feel as if my phone is a digital vampire, sucking away my time and my life. Other days I feel like a cybernetic centaur—part human, part digital—as my phone and I blend seamlessly into a complex tandem of rhythms and routines.”
The twelve ways listed below diagnose how we change and share the biblical vision of what’s better than letting tech warp our lives. Since the phone is a portal to a bigger world through the internet, Reinke explores broader topics like social media and digital addiction.
The 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You
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
Each chapter is rich and revealing, clear and convicting. Reinke’s breadth of sources both Christian and secular helped ground him in real struggles we face in the 21st century. As you might expect from a staff writer of Desiring God, Reinke pushes readers to not only examine how longings reveal themselves through our devices but also how only Christ can satisfy these deep longings (Matthew 5:6; Jeremiah 2:13). Christ is the true key to overcoming smartphone addiction without having to throw your phone in the dumpster.
You’re not going to want to skip the book’s beginning and concluding matter; they tie the whole book together with theological foundation (intro) and practical application (conclusion and epilogue). These portions may be what the majority of Christians Christians need most: a biblical way to think about technology, the purpose of our lives, and technology’s role in our lives.
Here are five ways I was challenged:
- We must not let the deluge of news information hinder us from feeling weighty stories and processing them as believers. How easy is it to shrug off a new terrorist attack and move to the next cat video?
- Texting and driving is not loving your neighbor because it might kill them.
- Face-to-face interactions should always be preferred and prioritized over screen-mediated relationships. Chew on this: “The smartphone is causing a social reversal: the desire to be alone in public and never alone in seclusion” (124).
- I didn’t realize how much I FOMO—fear missing out on things. Pray for me in this and forgive me if I’ve caused you to fear missing out through this blog!
- I never thought I would need to be challenged to live ’embodied’ (that is, with my mind in the physical world and not the digital world), but after examining my habits more closely, apparently, I did!
If you frequently use social media and struggle, you need to read this book. You need to think through how your device is disrupting your life and hindering you in pleasing God with your life. Just keep in mind this book won’t solve your problems. It will probably dig up unhealthy motives lurking beneath the surface of your phone use, and maybe even discourage you (as it did for me, albeit temporarily). Much of this discouragement slowly disappeared as I have pondered Reinke’s key questions: “What is the undistracted life?” and “What is the undistracted life for?”
“Our greatest need in the digital age is to behold the glory of the unseen Christ in the faint blue glow of our pixelated Bibles, by faith.” Tony Reinke
These two questions, a convicting analysis of how my devices are changing me, and a greater vision for life in Christ (with a phone) are my biggest takeaways from this book. Our phones don’t have to change us for the bad, and in fact, they can change us for the good as they help us behold the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18) and live out our callings in our homes, churches, and workplaces.
Title: 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You
Author: Tony Reinke
Rating: 5 Stars
A telling photo shared in the book