Archives For Smart Phones

From time to time, articles will circulate on social media that illustrate the evils of social media. Get off of Facebook and start living. Step outdoors and look around. Talk to a stranger on a train. Play with your kids.

That’s a great message. Don’t allow social media to keep you indoors. Don’t let it steal the attention that your kids need. Don’t sit in a room full of real-life friends and stare at your phones. If your screens keep you from seeing the world around you, then you need to take immediate action.

However, these anti-social-media articles bug me. If you’re convicted by them, then you probably do need to make some adjustments. But I also believe these articles are missing the mark, at least with many of us. For one thing, there’s an irony in using social media to badmouth social media. With many of my friends, I would have no idea they were wrestling with appropriate technology usage were it not for technology.

Does social media take our eyes off of the real world?

There are other, bigger problems with the arguments against social media. It’s true that smart phones can keep us indoors and keep our eyes off of nature. But when I see photos of the sunsets my friends are witnessing, the hikes they’re taking, and the roads they’re travelling, I’m often inspired to look up and around. Social media gives me an opportunity to appreciate nature through the eyes of my friends. Rather than distracting me from the real world, social media often draws my attention to the real world.

Does social media make us anti-social?

It’s also true that if you’re standing in line at Starbucks (or anywhere), everyone in line is staring at their phones rather than chatting with each other. But how chatty were retail lines before smart phones anyway? I’m not the type to small talk with strangers just because we’re both waiting to order coffee. So I’m not upset that they’re all looking at their phones while we wait. Personally, I’m glad I can use those few minutes to see what my friends are up to, to read a quick article or blog post (are you reading this in line somewhere?), or to knock out an email or two during a few spare minutes that would otherwise be wasted. In some contexts, you need to put down your phone and be social. I’m not sure that sitting on a bus or standing in a line qualify.

Does social media take our attention off of our families?

Being distracted from your family is probably the most serious accusation against social media. I don’t want to minimize this. I sometimes have to fight the urge to pull the phone out of my pocket when I’m at home with my family. When God has given you an opportunity to be with friends and family, don’t choose that moment to nose around the internet. But many of my friends use social media in a family-centered way. They’re posting photos of their family doing fun things because (this will blow your mind) they’re doing fun things with their family! Social media allows them to preserve and share memories—real memories that they’re really making with their real family. In my opinion, there’s a valuable place for social media, even in family life.

Do we pretend to be happy and perfect on social media?

I’ve also heard social media attacked on the grounds that people try to make themselves look good. All of these superficial Facebook users post their happy times but conveniently pass over their embarrassing or tragic life events. I’m sure some of that goes on, but I think the critique is misguided on two counts. First, I see people posting unhappy content all the time. The loss of loved ones. Requests for prayers in the midst of trials. Stories about their failures in parenting. So I’m not sure that critique is even valid much of the time. But secondly, isn’t that more of a human issue than a social media issue? How many of us go around telling people about what makes us sad when we’re chatting after church on Sunday mornings? In my experience, not many people answer the casual “how are you?” by saying “depressed” or “angry” or something equally unflattering. We know there’s a time and a place to go deeper. And in my view, social media is not the place to work through deep, sad, tragic issues. Call me old fashioned, but I’d rather do that face to face. Maybe people aren’t pretending to live perfect lives; maybe they’re using social media appropriately.


Here’s the thing. Social media doesn’t ruin lives. We ruin our own lives. Social media doesn’t force us to neglect our kids. It’s there when we want to stop interacting with our kids, but so are books, television, phone conversations, etc. Social media is not to blame; it always comes down to the heart.

Technology is an excellent tool if you use it well. But if you find yourself dehumanized through your use of social media, it’s time to check your heart. Deleting your Facebook app might help, but there are probably deeper issues in your heart that need to be addressed. If you’re not using your time sacrificially for good things, then the time you spent on social media will simply go towards some other non-essential pursuit.

We should be intent on living fully, and maybe social media can help us do it.

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 conversation 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 as tools to help us do that more effectively. But if our hearts are focused on 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.