Smash Your Smartphone, Part 4: Drastic Measures
Admittedly, “Smash your smartphone” is a bit of a dramatic exaggeration, meant to shock you into paying attention. I didn’t smash my smartphone. It wasn’t until I dropped my smartphone in the toilet that I finally got rid of it. My wife still uses her iPhone 6 for a camera. My warnings around digital technology are not meant to be strict rule-following, but a wake-up call. Digital Technology has taken us captive. It is time to take drastic measures. So in conclusion to this series, I have three changes that I recommend for our families and communities.
First, we must change from thinking in terms of digital influence to real-world influence. It took me around a decade to fully detoxify my mind from the internet’s unholy trinity of social media, news, and pornography. Eventually, a shift took place in my perception. I began seeing opportunities for immeasurable influence that I was missing or neglecting: my wife, my children, my friends, teaching at a small classical school, leading in a small church community. The real world of God’s Creation is infinitely more powerful than the digital world of man’s making. A short-circuited computer may electrify a man, but splitting one atom takes out a city. As much as digital influence can shape our souls, it is nothing compared to the real world influence of parents, friends, and churches. It is because of the neglect of the latter that the former is filling the void. May God give us new eyes to see our real-life, face-to-face relationships and opportunities as infinitely more precious and powerful than anything online.
Second, we must learn to make hardware changes, not just software changes. A software change means deleting an app or installing an internet filter. This is good but only gets you so far. A hardware change means taking the step of faith to get rid of your smartphone, move your TV out of the center of the room, subscribe to a magazine, throw away devices, or unplug your wifi after 9 p.m. It is a physical change that forces you to readjust your expectations and mentality toward technology. This is where lasting change really happens in your life and household over years and decades. Your mind adjusts, your relationships alter, and your desires change. It is harder but the change is more permanent.
Lastly, we need practical legislation that can protect our citizens and children who are less able to recognize these dangers. Some propose to make social media illegal for those under 18. That is excellent. On a local level, we need to root out the assumed good of digital technology in our public schools, such as 1-to-1 iPads, and reinforce prohibitions on cell phones. But I dream of a day when Big Tech has the same stigma as Big Tobacco, when adult over-indulgence in social media and screens are both seen as a clear social ill, when “binging” language is forbidden in advertising, when pornography is banned, and when even smartphones, like cigarettes, are illegal for those under 18.
Jesus once said, “If your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell (Matthew 18:9).” Yes, this is ruthless, but that’s how seriously Jesus takes sin. This must be our approach to the digital technology and screens that are consuming our lives and children. Freedom is possible and it’s worth it. Also, for the record, if you come down to Garwin Methodist and smash your smartphone in the parking lot, I will personally buy you a $300 Light Phone 2.