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This book’s self-help title conceals a thoughtful, broadly researched reflection on the impact our smartphones are having on our spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual lives. The world will never be the same, and it is not possible to put the genie back in the bottle, but it is possible to consider how we are being shaped and prayerfully take real steps to walk faithfully with our own weaknesses and callings, treating the smartphone as one more thing we must use with wisdom. While Reinke is fundamentally a technological optimist and does not follow those who would advocate a strategic retreat, he does acknowledge that there is a need (collectively) for some people who are brave enough and well-suited to be “digital monks.” These people are able to speak to the rest of us from outside the matrix, and to challenge practices and patterns that we may unwittingly adopt. I think this is right and helpful, and also believe that social media has nearly an equal size impact as the smartphone itself, and Christians would be served to consider/reconsider their use of such platforms. Again complete abstention may not be right, as the Christian can play a leavening role even in those contexts, but wisdom is needed, and Reinke provides some helpful reflects as to what kinds of things we should think through.


So here’s an exercise to help ground our self-perception. Once a day, set your phone down for a moment, hold out your right hand, palm out and fingers to the sky, and imagine the timeline of history reaching a mile to your left and an eternity to your right. Your time on earth intersects roughly the width of your hand (give or take). Nothing puts social media and smartphone habits into context like the blunt reality of our mortality. Let it sink in a bit. Feel the brevity of life, and it will make you fully alive. (698)

God created us in order to shower his gifts over our lives, beginning with the natural wonders of breath, sunshine, food, water, rain, beaches, and mountains. As we receive these gifts (and many others), we stop at key moments to respond to him with joyful thanks. He must break the power of sin for this gratitude to work properly in our lives, but when it does, we are given the gift of God-centered thankfulness to embrace his natural order, to receive all of his cosmic wonders, to enjoy the “thickness” of his material gifts, and to delight in our friends and spouses—receiving from God our entire existence: our lives, our lots, our souls, our bodies, our biological genders, and his astonishing but unblushing design for human sexuality and procreation. (1559)

“Loneliness is the nucleus of psychiatry.” He also wrote, “If loneliness didn’t exist, we could reasonably assume that psychiatric illnesses would not occur either.”2 To these stunning quotes, theologian Peter Leithart adds this spiritual interpretation: “Humans connect to other humans at so basic a level that when we disconnect, our souls shatter into a thousand little pieces.” (2065)

As technology improves, machines replace people and automation replaces interaction. Street vendors gave way to vending machines. Fresh milk deliveries gave way to dairy products preserved in refrigerators. Bankers gave way to ATMs. Two hundred years ago, laborers were personally acquainted with their clients. In today’s technological society, many laborers work in remote locations, in industrial or business parks, serving faceless clients or nameless consumers from whom they are separated geographically or by a very long production chain. (2089)

The smartphone is causing a social reversal: the desire to be alone in public and never alone in seclusion. We can be shielded in public and surrounded in isolation, meaning we can escape the awkwardness of human interaction on the street and the boredom of solitude in our homes. Or so we think….So as Christians, we push back our phones in the morning—in order to protect our solitude so that we can know God and so that we can reflect him as his children. And we push back our phones during the day—in order to build authentic eye-to-eye trust with the people in our lives and in order to be sharpened by hard relationships. Without these two guards in place, our displacedness dominates, isolation shelters us, we can find ourselves becoming more and more lonely, and our gospel mission will eventually stall out. (2129-2210)

“Even if we’re just casually chatting, at heart that conversation is either a way for me to keep you at a distance, or a way to build a bridge between us. Small talk can be saying: ‘I don’t want to know you, and I don’t want you to know me,’ so I’m going to keep it light, as quick as possible, and see you later. Or, small talk can be a way to say, ‘I care about you and I’d like to get to know you.’ We might start by talking about football, or the weather—but it’s heading somewhere more honest,” he says. “Our small talk is going to be judged by God for its deeper intentionality.” (3210)

C. S. Lewis called it the “Nothing” strategy in his Screwtape Letters. It is the strategy that eventually leaves a man at the end of his life looking back in lament: “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” This “Nothing” strategy is “very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years, not in sweet sins, but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them . . . or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.” (3344)