Discipled by Your Phone?

Michanne and I went for a walk together recently and the conversation we had really stuck with me. She shared about a talk she heard that argued persuasively that we are addicted to our phones without knowing it. Companies pour millions of dollars to keep us addicted to our phones and to social media. Essentially, what they’re competing for is our attention. Many people call this the ‘attention economy’. Our attention is a scarce resource that they want to tap into, so they spend a lot of time and money to gain it and persuade us to buy into whatever they’re selling. I know a pastor who often says we are being ‘discipled’ by our phones… which is a bit of a scary picture! Now, maybe you’re reading this and you don’t think you have much of a problem with your phone. If that’s you, here are some diagnostic questions you can ask yourself to think about whether your phone might actually be controlling you:

  • Is your phone the first thing you check in the morning?
  • Is it the last thing you look at before bed?
  • If you’re at a café with a friend and they go to the toilet… is the first thing you do to look at your phone?
  • What about when you’re on a toilet break?! Do you usually check your phone?
  • Do you keep socialising with people virtually even when you’re already socialising with people physically? E.g. texting and checking social media while you’re with friends already.

I was surprised at how many of those question I answered yes to! The idea of this exercise is not to shame you, but to make you aware of how smart phones and social media are designed. They have a particular goal in mind, they want your attention! Awareness of this creates the opportunity for change. And I think as Christians we want to be asking ourselves questions like:

  • Am I being discipled by Jesus more than by my phone?
  • Am I allowing there to be a moment of space when a friend leaves for a toilet-break? Am I using the small spaces in each day to commune with God in prayer rather than with my phone?
  • Am I intentionally creating habits and rhythms that draw me deeper into relationship with Jesus and others? Or am I totally unaware of how my phone and other forces are shaping me and discipling me?

I want to encourage you to ask these questions and to build your life around Jesus. If we want to be his disciples, we need to create time for his Word and his Spirit to disciple and shape us! And the beautiful thing about Jesus is that there is no selfish or hidden agenda behind his teaching. He isn’t scheming about how to get our attention to ultimately sell us something or get our money. Rather, he came that we “may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Let me leave you with these words of Jesus:

31…“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

God bless you,