Book Review: 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You
Review by Peter Bunnell
This book is primarily about theology and people’s hearts, not about smartphones. It delves into theologies of technology, man, salvation, life’s purpose, idolatry, communication and relationships. Its perspective is founded solidly on Scripture and informed by theologians and philosophers. This is mostly a self-critique, not a smartphone critique.
Even though my time using a smartphone and social media is comparably short, I have been impressed by how my phone has changed the way I think, spend my time, connect with others and connect with God. I see these changes not only in myself but also in my church family.
As Reinke argues, some of these changes may be wonderful and others completely hazardous. For example, I was convicted that this “omnipresent” technology has created too much competition with my omnipresent Lord.
Readers will not find an exhaustive list of the smartphone’s societal impacts. For one, the influence of being constantly at work through our connectivity is largely overlooked. The trend of texting between family members is also not a major consideration. However, the deeper doctrinal issues are presented, and readers can draw their own applications.
As a result of my reading, I am changing how my smartphone is changing me. I will seek for this to be read by our church’s men’s group and other Bible studies. Christ’s church must embrace this powerful technology wisely, theologically and in holiness.
Review by Jennifer M. Kvamme
We can talk about whether or not our digital technology is shortening our attention spans, making us less productive or isolating us, but that doesn’t compel me to leave my phone upstairs for the day.
However, when the author writes, “Our joy in God is at stake,” I pause.
When Reinke says we crave immediate approval, we get comfortable in secret vices, we lose meaning, we become harsh to one another and we lose our place in time, I’m paying attention.
In neglecting the people God has placed before me, to respond to my phone’s pings, I am failing to love my neighbor—and thus, God.
I found the title to be somewhat incomplete. These 12 truths are not new because of the smartphone; they are struggles that humanity has dealt with since the Fall, magnified by opportunities the smartphone offers. In this way, the book is broader than its title.
And yet the book is also narrower in focus than its title: It is specifically about how this technology changes our spiritual selves, our hearts and our relationships (rather than our posture, eyes or sleep). I found a few points somewhat redundant, and a few to be missing (such as how the ability to shop online from anywhere affects our contentment or stewardship), but all 12 points rang true. And his writing is backed by research, surveys and interviews.
In spite of painting a sober picture, Reinke’s tone is hopeful as he offers a robust theology of technology and points us back to the ultimate goodness of God. And his conclusion offers practical suggestions for living “smartphone smart.”
The conversations this book prompts will be fruitful in creating healthy rhythms in our own lives, but also in coaching and mentoring others. Whether addressing pornography addictions, ungracious social media usage or simply wasted time, this book takes the conversations to a deeper heart level and shows us that Christ wants to redeem even our texts and tweets.