Smart Phones: Humanizing or Dehumanizing?

Mark Beuving —  January 3, 2013 — 1 Comment

iPhone5Smart phones are destined to find their way into every pocket and purse in the country before long. Two years ago, when I purchased my last non-smart phone, I had to ask them specifically to pull one out of the back because they weren’t even displaying the unintelligent models.

It’s safe to say that the world is enthusiastic about iPhones and Androids. They have changed our lives. But most of us are not without our misgivings about these wonderful little devices. For example, we’ve all seen couples out to dinner who never make eye contact because they are both furiously browsing their phones. Or we’ve been at get-togethers with friends where everyone plays on their phones instead of talking.

You could make a good case that smart phones are dehumanizing. They are efficient and fun, yes, but they take away a lot of the human interaction we used to share. We neglect the people standing next to us so we can see who is posting what to Facebook. We carry on texting conversations with people across the country rather than having a real conversation with the people across the room. We play games on tiny screens instead of interacting with the human beings around us.

SmartPhonesWe have all seen the dehumanizing effects of smart phones. It looks so unattractive when other people antisocially hunch over their precious mini-computers, but we also know how easy it is to get sucked in ourselves. The conversations lulls, so we pull the phone out of our pockets. You have 45 wasted seconds while standing in line at Starbucks, why not check your ESPN app or see what your friends have been repurposing on Pinterest? It’s not long before the world around us disappears. We are no longer human beings in a room with other human beings. We are gods, manipulating our own universes with the touch and swipe of the finger.

But let’s not toss our smart phones into the fire just yet. We can also argue that smart phones are humanizing. It’s true that we are manipulating a small screen rather than looking into another person’s eyes, but very often, we are furthering relationships through our smart phones. I’m in better contact with friends, relatives, and coworkers on account of my iPhone. I know more about my friends and family living out of town (and those living in town, for that matter) because I can always check in on them when I have a few minutes to spare. My iPhone saves me time on a number of menial tasks, which gives me more time to spend with real people. And the calendar enables me to remember who I’m supposed to meet with, which definitely helps my relationships.

So smart phones are not inherently humanizing or inherently dehumanizing. It all comes down to how we use them. Like everything, it’s all about our hearts. If our hearts are focused on other people as those made in the image of God, as those that we have been called to love and serve, and as precious gifts from God, then our smart phones can be used at tools to help us do that more effectively. But if our hearts are focused no ourselves, looking to instantly gratify whatever desire springs up at the moment, seeking to build our own kingdoms rather than serve the people around us, then our smart phones can be used as tools to help us do that more effectively.

So enjoy your smart phone. And use it wisely.

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Mark Beuving

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Mark has worked in youth, college, and worship ministry since 1999, and now serves at Eternity Bible College as the Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies. He is passionate about building up the body of Christ, training future leaders for the Church, and writing. Though he is interested in many areas of theology and philosophy, Mark is most fascinated with practical theology and exploring the many ways in which the Bible can speak to and transform our world. He is the author of "Resonate: Enjoying God's Gift of Music" and the co-author with Francis Chan of "Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples." Mark lives in Simi Valley with his wife and two daughters.
  • Torri.

    Yeah.