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EP 33: Is Your Smartphone Changing You?

we master our cell phones or do they master us. @mferrell

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about our cell phone use and discuss whether we master our cell phones or do they master us. This podcast was on my mind because of two recent posts on Tim Challies blog on the use of our phones. I recently read the book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke and it was a challenging read.

I’m going to share with you some of what I took from that book to get us started, some thoughts on Tim Challies posting about him going back to a “dumb phone” and as we close today some questions for us to ponder from a quiz Tim Challies posted online called Are You Addicted to Your Phone? At the close, I share some ways I desire to make changes with the use of my phone in my life. 

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“We check our smartphones about 81,500 times each year, or once every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives.”

~ Tony Reinke

“We check our smartphones about 81,500 times each year, or once every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives.” Click to Tweet

Show Notes:

“The smartphone is causing a social reversal: the desire to be alone in public and never alone in seclusion”  ~ Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You


Two takeaway questions that helped me and gave me much to ponder from the book are: “What is the undistracted life?” and “What is the undistracted life for?”


“For some time I had been battling a growing conviction that my phone had taken an outsized place in my life. This manifested itself in a number of ways, but none more concerning than how it had come to fill up nearly every single one of life’s little cracks. In almost any spare moment of standing, waiting, or pausing, I’d unthinkingly grab it and start tapping, typing, and swiping. In almost any context of boredom, I’d find that it had somehow materialized in my hand, almost as if by magic. It’s like I just couldn’t help myself. It’s like I just didn’t want to. This little glowing rectangle had become my near-constant companion. I had to start asking myself: Do I own this phone, or does it own me? Who here is the servant and who’s the master?  I love my phone when I own it; I hate my phone when it owns me. And I just haven’t figured out yet how to be the one who remains in charge.” ~ Tim Challies, I Want to Buy Your Cheapest Phone


In 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You the last chapter gives us some practical ways to ponder how we can live Smartphone smart. He has us ask ourselves three questions to be self-critical  of our smartphone use:

1. Ends: Do my smartphone behaviors move me toward God or away from Him?

2. Influence: Do my smartphone behaviors edify me and others, or do they build nothing of lasting value?

3. Servitude: Do my smartphone behaviors expose my freedom in Christ or my bondage to technique?


Here are some limits I’d like to implement in my smartphone use:

1. Turning off all notifications except my phone and text messages.

2. Cleaning out and deleting unused apps or time-wasting ones.

3. Setting the do not disturb so I won’t have any disturbances after a certain time of the evening and until a certain time in the morning. For me, this is probably going to be from 9 pm to 7:30 am. This will give me time to get through my morning devotional time without having any notifications coming in – even text messages. 

4. Not feeling the need to respond immediately to texts or emails. I want to – especially emails respond to them twice daily. I want to get better at not responding to texts when I’m in the presence of someone – even my husband because that can be an easy relationship to neglect. In the morning after my morning routine is finished and I’m at work in the office and again around 4 pm in the afternoon so my evening is free from email.

Do we master our smartphones or do they master us? Click to Tweet

5. We already keep the phone away from the dinner table.

6. I want to get better at turning my phone off when I’m out with others so I’m not even distracted by a notification. I may not look at it but it is distracting when it comes in nevertheless so that’s an area I need to get more consistent on. I keep my phone off at church. My husband usually leaves his in the car. I keep mine on me to check the calendar if after service we’re trying to schedule a time to get together with someone. 

7. I want to start scheduling regular detox days. I’m not consistent with a Sunday Sabbath detox but would like to start. I want to set one morning a week to not be on social media at all. I’d like to do bi-annual week-long Sabbaths away from social media. I need to schedule blogging around it so I have a week off from posting on those weeks. I do us a post scheduler so my “presence” can still be online but I don’t physically have to be online. 

8. Here’s a helpful list of 50 Things to Do Instead of Scrolling Social Media.

Scripture & Resources:

2 Corinthians 3:18

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke

Are You Addicted to Your Phone? (Take a Quiz to Find Out) – @Challies

I Want to Buy Your Cheapest Phone – @Challies

12 Steps to Living Smartphone Smart – @Tony Reinke at Lifeway

Don’t Waste Your Mornings – @Thankful Homemaker

Podcast Ep. 6: What Does Self-Discipline Look Like in Our Homes

More Resources from Tony Reinke:

12 Tips for Parenting in the Digital Age – @Desiring God

Why We Should Escape Social Media (And Why We Don’t) – @Desiring God

Know When to Walk Away (A Twelve-Step Digital Detox) – @Desiring God

Going Deep on Our Smartphone and Social Media Habits – @Desiring God