*NOTE: This Blog Post is Also Published on Cru.org: *https://www.cru.org/communities/city/orangecounty/blog/

“We gather to be seen, to feel awkward, and perhaps to feel a little unheard and underappreciated, all on purpose.”

Authentic community is hard in the best of times. We show up to sometimes feel unseen. Over the past month, the majority of our relationships became virtual and we have had to be more intentional than ever to stay connected to our people.

IG followers are no substitute for true friendship and when we are on the other side of COVID19 may we continue to show up in relationships even when they are weird or inconvenient, messy or exhausting.

In Tony Reinke’s book, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, he challenges readers to answer this question: Do our tech devices serve our mission or are we slaves to them?

Tony offers 12 ways we are being transformed by our machines and I will discuss a couple that resonated most with me below.

**We lose meaning. **Reinke says that approximately 36 million “books” are typed out each day via social media and email.We are hit by daily tidal waves of information and that has some pretty serious side effects. 

Ever heard of StrengthFinders? My number one strength is input. I love taking in information. That is sometimes from my Smartphone, but I also read a lot of books and a few years ago I decided to get a Masters degree because I love learning that much. I have come to realize, however, that I am not so great at output. Input without output can manifest itself as information overload, but it also looks like consumerism. I hoard and collect all the information I can but if I have nowhere to invest it, it has no purpose. I lose meaning. I’m just consuming without creating and I am not being a good steward of the information I gather. 

Reinke mentions multiple times in this chapter the danger of forgetting our past and our future. It is easy to lose where we came from and where we are going. Because we are trapped in the moment by moment constant flow of breaking news and “this just ins”.We have all probably experienced the sensation when we succumb to the black hole that is our smartphones and forget how long we have been disengaged from our surroundings, lost in the world behind our screens. We lose time in our pursuit for relevance and ironically, the most relevant text that any of us have access to is ancient. There is no remake of the Bible with younger actors and better special effects. God’s word was the same then as it is now and to infinity and beyond! However, can you think of another book that has meaning and purpose across all generations?

Here is an alarming statistic from another book (Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon). The average 15-23 year old church goer spends approximately 291 hours a year engaging in spiritual content. This is a miniscule amount of time compared to the 2,767 hours per year spent by the same demographic using screen media. “More important than information access, more valuable than social media prominence, is Godward obedience.”

**We fear missing out. **Perhaps the most powerful statement Tony made in this book was this: “Yes, to have smartphones is amazing, but to have the internet on our phones is to also have immediate access to all the world’s major tragedies, sorrows, bombings, and acts of terrorism. Are we prepared to carry this burden?”  My answer to this question is no. Even on a less drastic scale, I have scrolled past posts from acquaintances when they started to go in a heavy direction because I didn’t believe that I could hold it. I felt reading the entire post would mean I had a responsibility to react in some way and that was overwhelming.

 We want to be in the know about everything, but our finite and limited hearts and minds do not have the capacity to take on the burden of responsibility that knowing everything requires. We were never meant to be all knowing. Adam and Eve thought they could be and we all know how that turned out. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually we cannot handle omniscience. Yet, our desire to always be in the know, to be privy to the latest and greatest news keeps us glued to our devices. 

Don’t get me wrong, it is not a bad thing to be informed. In fact, I actually think I sway too far to the opposite extreme. In an effort to protect my own mind and heart, I tend to “shut out the world” a lot and forget to stay updated on current events. 5 years ago my therapist told me this was normal. It was her opinion that God gave us natural defense mechanisms to block out some of the world’s sorrows because if any single one of us tried to feel the weight of all the bad in the world, we would crumble. 

The Good News is that we don’t have to. Jesus went to the cross for that. We don’t have to carry the weight of our sin or anyone else’s on our shoulders. So, stay informed, but don’t fear missing out. 

“The motto over the allurement of the digital age is set in the slightly altered words of the apostle Paul: I count every real deprivation in my life - and every feared deprivation in my imagination - as no expense in light of never missing out on the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my lord for all eternity.” 

This book gave me a lot to think about in terms of accountability in smartphone and social media use. I was humbled as someone who sometimes prides myself on my different approach to social media by just how much my phone has changed me too. I highly recommend this book not only to millennials but to any generation accustomed to viewing life through the lens of their handheld devices. 

Grab your copy here: 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You: Reinke, Tony, Piper, John to find out the other 10 ways your smartphone may be changing you.