Smartphone: Friend or Foe… or Both?

Do you own a smartphone? Odds are you do, especially if you’re reading this blog post. And if you do own a smartphone, then you have firsthand knowledge of this amazing device which serves as not only a phone but also a calendar, Bible, camera, calculator, alarm clock, and flashlight, while storing music, books, magazines, and task lists among other things. We can browse the World Wide Web, connect with people from all over the globe, and pay our bills with just one click on our smartphones. And our smartphones will even navigate us to our next destination! I recently learned that the GPS systems on our smartphones possess 30,000 times the processing speed of the navigational computer that guided Apollo 11 to the moon,[1] furthering the case that this handheld device, which is small enough to fit into a pocket, is simply amazing. But we all know that with any good thing, unintended consequences follow.

While our smartphones can be a tremendous blessing, unlocking possibilities that we once only dreamed about, they can also aid us in living a distracted life. In the early 2000s, I worked for one of the largest wireless providers in America and was part of a sales team that spent numerous hours convincing the country’s population that a cellular phone would make their lives easier and safer. Gone would be the days of waiting on the side of the road in your broken-down vehicle for hours on end, and gone would be the days of having to find the nearest pay phone in order to hitch a ride. However, with the great benefits also came the mass epidemic of texting while walking or driving. Sadly, smartphones have so greatly consumed our culture today that it’s as if we cannot be separated from our phones at all; in fact, some of us feel naked without them, so we take them with us everywhere. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with taking your smartphone with you to the bathroom or with checking it before you go to sleep and again as soon as you wake up in the morning, the problem comes when we live such distracted lives that we don’t even realize we have a problem.

As a result of the smartphone-distracted-life we now live, our attention spans are disappearing, our ability to wait on anything is almost gone, and time spent alone with nothing but our thoughts has practically vanished.

The smartphone allows us to fill every minute of our lives with work, conversation, or entertainment. We no longer have time to be bored but, in actuality, sometimes boredom is exactly what we need. It’s during times of boredom that we are forced to deal with weighty matters such as the origin of life or the reason for our existence. And it is moments such as these that God has historically used to draw men and women to Himself, as we contemplate significant questions and realize just how small and vulnerable we are in comparison to God Almighty.

When was the last time you sat in silence and pondered the great mysteries of life? Or would you rather run from these great mysteries and race to your smartphone in order to avoid greater realities?

If this describes you, please know that you’re not alone. I share in the struggle; it is a daily battle for me, often causing guilt and shame to a point that I try to hide my addiction. But rather than feeling self-disgust, it is imperative that we look to God to fill the void that our smartphones were never capable of filling in the first place, for only in Him is there lasting joy and pleasure. Our smartphones can actually aid our quest for joy in God, so let’s not feel guilty about using them, but instead let’s turn a potential idol into a God-glorifying, God-enjoying device. While I don’t advocate an “all or nothing” approach and am certainly not arguing that smartphones are of the devil, I do hope to encourage you to evaluate your smartphone activity. Please consider whether your smartphone is controlling your life or whether you are controlling your life. Is your smartphone serving you or are you serving it? Has your smartphone become an idol that you can’t live without? Or is it helping you as you seek a better kingdom, a heavenly one, where man will see God face-to-face because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ? Are you longing for that glorious day and using your smartphone as a means of continuing down the narrow path that leads to life? Or is your smartphone serving your sinfulness as you as you walk down the wide road that leads to destruction?

I hope you’ll seriously ponder these questions, and if you want to read more on this topic, I recommend reading 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke. Apart from the Bible, this might be the most important book you read this year.


[1] Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 41.

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