A new report from CNN/Money Magazine shows that a majority of cellphone owners now own a “smartphone” (meaning an Internet-capable cell phone). Millions of dollars are spent in commercials to reach those who do not yet have one, targeting ever-younger students and children.
According to a survey in the London Telegraph, the average age is eight for children to get their first cell phone. In America, it is common to see toddlers playing with an iPad, which the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has warned parents to limit.
With cell phones seemingly everywhere and a growing part of everyday life, many Christians are trying to recognize the tremendous consequences of this technological explosion. While there are new avenues for the Gospel to be advanced, to go along with all of the obvious conveniences, what are some of the drawbacks and cautions of living in an “iPhone World”?
Distracted people living in a fake world
God made man in His image and breathed a soul, giving life (Gen. 1:26). He meant for us to live life in the vessels of these bodies. In an iPhone World, however, much of life is lived through a 2” x 3” touchscreen.
While it may be easier for grownups to avoid the pitfalls of this perspective, many among us have never lived life before there were cell phones. The Atlantic has coined the term “touchscreen generation” to describe children who are growing up around smartphones.
The nonphysical nature of phones and our dependency on them leaves children especially vulnerable and less able to distinguish between real and fake. One of the dangers of pornography is that it paints a false portrayal of reality and thus distorts our view. The general dangers of being subsumed into a touchscreen world includes ignoring the real world around you while staying connected to the virtual world.
User or used?
Technological advancements, at their best, are brought about to make everyday life more convenient for mankind. Whether it be the automobile to expedite travel or medicines to alleviate a headache, God allows us to invent things for our own good.
When those creations are used for outright evil (such as the Tower of Babel), technological advancements are a bad thing. Moreover, when the technology we own ends up owning us, it becomes a problem as well.
Cell phones in heaven?
My four-year old recently asked me, “Daddy, will there be toys in heaven?” As tied as we are to our technology toys, I sometimes wonder if we hope to take our iPhone with us when we die. We must stop to think that until two decades ago, every person who walked the Earth did so without a smartphone.
If finances or personal choices prevent us from having them, life can go on. C.S. Lewis warned of technology separating us from truth. “There is something which unites magic and applied science (in technology) while separating both from the ‘wisdom’ of earlier ages.”
Religion and relationship with Christ conforms us to Him. In magic and out-of-control technology, we attempt to conform reality to our liking and end up spoiling our humanity. The less beholden we are to technology, in this case cell phones, the more like God’s image we are. As Christian George said, “Christ came as a person, not a pixel.”
Lest you think me a Luddite or contrary to technology, let me add a positive concluding note. I carry a smartphone. I am a user of Facebook and other social media, and the Baptist Messenger will continue to harness, not hate, technological advancements for the glory of God. In the process, we must simply remember that all we do is for God’s glory and His Kingdom, keeping a balanced view of life all the while. After all, if God can redeem sinners like you and me, he can redeem any technology.