Tony Reinke has written a book called 12 Ways Your Cell Phone is Changing You. In light of what he has written, I might suggest that if your child of any age or stage says to you, “All I want for Christmas is a new cell phone”, I might suggest you say, “No – you don’t!” or “Wait – we have to think about this…ALOT…before we make any decisions.”
From Reinke’s book, here are some of the troublesome things we should ponder before we are convinced that we just have to buy the newest and best of the mobile devices that are available for purchase this Christmas. Let’s not be a mindless consumer but a mindful one, listening to wisdom more than the commercials that entice us to buy without thinking.
What challenges do cell phones bring to us?
1. Enslavement – The average American checks their cell phone 81,500 times per year (that’s 15 checks every waking hour).
- Our brains are wired to be attracted to things that are novel – we love new experiences. The more your phone can do – the more novel experiences it can bring to you – the more likely you are to be enslaved to it.
CONSIDER: Consider going for a phone that can do less, not more. Get a phone that is limited in what it can provide and you will find yourself less a slave to it.
2. Echo Chambers – In the online world, we can separate ourselves from people who don’t think like us and gravitate toward people who do.
- Sadly, people choose where to find their news based on their pre-existing beliefs; “news that fit my views” is what consumers go to. We gorge on media outlets, bloggers, podcasts and even memes that support what we already believe, staying away from perspectives that challenge us or conflict with our position.
CONSIDER: If you choose to get data on your phone, choose to challenge yourself to seek out other sources that do not conform to what you already believe. Think diversity in sources that challenge you to use your critical thinking skills. Who knows, you may learn a different perspective and realize, if you always practice humility, you’ve been wrong all along.
3. Still in Jr. High – The sad truth is that many of us are addicted to our phones because we crave immediate approval and affirmation.
- Millennials and Gen-Zers are characterized by experiencing high degrees of anxiety. One way this anxiety is often combatted is by seeking the approval and affirmation of others through social media. Unfortunately, social media can also be a source for self-doubt and bullying.
CONSIDER: Parents – I challenge you to consider either getting a phone that doesn’t allow the user to engage in social media (think “no data” or “no wifi” usage) or limiting how much time your child uses it for social media. Be done by 7pm. Put it away. Protect your child from bullying, predators, and the feeling of being “less” when they compare themselves to everyone else out there.
4. Squirrel! – We are called to suspend our chronic scrolling in order to linger over eternal truth.
- Thinking deeply and critically over a sustained period of time is more difficult for today’s students. Having had a steady diet of instant information (just ask Alexa or Google whatever you want to know with a voice command), video games and texting, students are finding it more difficult to think their way out of a complex situation or a not easily discernible solution. To be able to linger over eternal truth, you have to give yourself uninterrupted space and time to do so – meaning, stop scrolling!
CONSIDER: How much time do my children or myself spend mindlessly searching for irrelevant information? Whatever we own, we need to control; it should not control us. What limits will you need to enforce if you get the newest and the fastest mobile device out there? Do you have the time and strength to do it?
5. Living or Image Management? – We must learn to enjoy our present lives in faith – that is, to enjoy each moment of life without feeling compelled to ‘capture’ it.
- I’ll confess, I have to stop and enjoy the moment and put the camera down. Stop with all the picture taking, already! Or take 1 and be done with it.
CONSIDER: If your cell phone has the best image quality out there, how much more self-control will it take to enjoy life’s moments vs record them on your phone? To record a moment but not really live it – how sad that would be!
6. Well like, like... We are becoming like what we like.
- You know the “thumb’s up” or “heart” or “wow” emojis that you can put out there on anything and everything? Whatever you’re liking (approving of), it is having an impact on who you are becoming. If you say you like something, your brain will automatically program itself to be more like that.
CONSIDER: Can you be more discriminating about who and what you “like”? That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself, not to affirm random bits of information or trivia. Be able to regulate your responses to people and information before you get the newest and best new mobile device.
Dear Readers, the fruit of the Spirit includes self-control (Galatians 5:22,23) and you will need a lot of it if you get the newest, fastest and most diverse mobile device out there. Realize that when Paul tells the Colossians (3:2), “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (NLT) that to obey this command requires the ability to say “no” to the things your phone offers. Do an honest assessment of yourself and your children and what you can and can not handle.
BOTTOM LINE: Choose a cell phone wisely with self-control, humbly and honestly assessing what would lead to the most godly and God-glorifying life.
Praying we all make the wisest choices when it comes to deciding about the newest technology sure to be offered up for Christmas this year.
Blessings Abundant, Elizabeth