Earlier this year on his blog, Tony Reinke interviewed author and podcaster Alastair Roberts about smartphones and how they change us. Alastair shared ten helpful questions to help us think through whether our personal smartphone habits are healthy, or need adjustment. He writes:
Do our particular uses of our smartphones, and our use of a smartphone more generally, have the actual effect—not just hold the theoretical possibility—of making us better servants of God and of our neighbors? Are our smartphones tools that facilitate our commitment to the central purposes and values of our lives, or are they—and our habitual modes of using them—constantly distracting, diverting, or obstructing us from them?
More specific diagnostic questions could include such as the following:
- Is my smartphone making it difficult for me to give the activities and persons in my life the full and undivided attention and self-presence that they require and deserve?
- Do I habitually use my smartphone as an easy escape and distraction from the difficult task of wrestling through the experience of lack of stimulation and boredom to the rewarding reality of true engagement?
- Is my smartphone use squeezing out my inner life, encroaching upon time that would otherwise be given to private contemplation, reflection, and meditation? Do I use it as a way to distract myself from unsettling truths and realities that can slowly come into focus in moments of silence and solitude?
- Am I using hyper-connectedness to substitute a self unthinkingly immersed in a shallow and amniotic communal consciousness and its emotions, for the difficult task of developing my own judgment, character, disciplines, resolve, and identity?
- Are my uses of my smartphone arresting and hampering my processes of deliberation and reflection, encouraging reactive judgments and premature decisions?
- Is my use of my smartphone mediating my relationship with and understanding of myself in unhealthy ways?
- Is my smartphone a tool that I use, or has it fettered my attention and time to other persons and activities that are wasteful and overly demanding of them?
- Are my uses of my smartphone preventing me from developing and maintaining healthy patterns and routines in my life, disrupting my sleeping patterns, interrupting my concentration upon my work, habituating me to the fragmentation of my time and attention?
- Is my smartphone usage consuming time that I used to or could potentially devote to worthier activities? Do I use my smartphone to ‘kill time’ that I could otherwise fill with prayer, reading, writing, edifying conversation, face-to-face interactions, etc.?
- Are my uses of my smartphone conducive to the faithfulness and freedom of others? Am I using my smartphone in ways that create unhealthy demands and pressures upon them?
Drawing from the insights of numerous thinkers, published studies, and his own research, writer Tony Reinke identifies twelve potent ways our smartphones have changed us—for good and bad. Reinke calls us to cultivate wise thinking and healthy habits in the digital age, encouraging us to maximize the many blessings, avoid the various pitfalls, and wisely wield the most powerful gadget of human connection ever unleashed.