“The smartphone is causing a social reversal: the desire to be alone in public and never alone in seclusion.” It is truthful statements like these that (should) cause concerning evaluation of technological uses in our lives. When the iPhone burst onto the scene, and now with the wave of smartphones, we had a new technology that not only transformed our lives, but was given the ability to infiltrate them in an unbridled manner. While the technological revolution is still new enough that we are unable to anticipate the full effects. However, we have enough information now to be thoughtful in our examination of technology’s impact upon varying areas of people’s lives. Tony Reinke’s look at such issues in 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is noteworthy.
If you do not know Tony Reinke, you need to. He is the author of one of the best books on reading, Lit!, a book that I freely recommend. Currently, he serves as a senior writer for Desiring God. However, it’s his background as an investigative journalist combined with a deep Christian worldview that makes him extremely capable in writing this book. Both Lit! and 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You confront technology’s transformation, not only of society but also of individuals.
Few of us probably give serious thought to how our technological use, specifically the smartphone, creates issues in our lives. Sometimes those are manifested through our relationships, other times the issues are found in our emotional stability and turning from the things of God, or the impact is found in our physical failures. Because of the lack of examination, we often fail to connect our issues with our technological usage. Tony Reinke confronts readers on these very issues.
As an investigative journalist, he conducted his own survey with 8,000 people, interviewed a wide variety of people (including some well-known theologians). This is not a book then that was hastily put together. Instead, the author has researched the topic, developed conclusions, and put them together for others. His conclusions will no doubt be confrontational. Assertions such as society’s addiction to distraction, desire to be comfortable in personal vices, and the increased fear of missing out are difficult realities that few want to admit to. Yet, his assertions are not only confirmed by his own research but by our own experience. This is not a mere report of information though. Instead, Reinke has put together the information in such a way that readers can evaluate both its truthfulness and reliability, but also evaluate one’s own life in light of this information.
What makes 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You such a worthwhile read is its theological interpretation, personal confrontation, societal implications, and individual applications. Tony Reinke does not merely present findings, facts, and figures, but instead he uses a solid theological basis from the Bible to interpret those findings and deduce applications. Thus as he writes about what is happening in our society through the increasing smartphone use, his information becomes very personal as it confronts the reader’s individual habits and ultimately soul.
12 chapters of the smartphone’s impact upon our society suggest that the author is anti-technology. However, each chapter closes with some quick thoughts on reigning in technology and the final conclusions of the book are meant to help readers to live smart with their smartphone. Such implications serve his goal to answer “What is the best use of my smartphone in the flourishing of my life?” Therefore, he is not suggesting that readers get rid of technology, but instead learn how to embrace technology with discernment.
Perhaps Tony Reinke’s next book should be one that lays out 12 advantages of technology with an overview of how to engage with technology while putting up barriers of protection in the process. For now though, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is a necessary book for our current culture and I would encourage all to place this book on the ‘to read’ list . . . and while you’re at it, pick up a copy of Lit! as well. You will learn much from both books.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free from the publisher for the purposes of review. However, the review provided was the result of my own reading of the book and not influenced by the publisher, author, or agents.