The User Manual Every Phone Should Include: A Review of “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You” by Tony Reinke


We all feel it. That instinctual itch to reach for our back pockets where a glassy world of digital possibilities awaits. We can’t seem to stop ourselves. The urge to pick up our phones to “just check” this, that, or something else is almost irresistible. And once we’ve picked them up, we can’t seem to put them down, binge-browsing our newsfeeds, notifications, or the latest mind-numbing memes.

Even if you’re not a binge-browser, I think we all can admit (if we’re honest) that we have some smartphone habits that are not, well, smart. And whether it’s texting at the wheel, constantly checking our likes or re-tweets, or escaping to our screens in a room of people, our smartphone habits say something about who we are, who we are becoming, and how our phones -whether we realize it or not-  are changing us.

Timely, engaging, and well-researched, Tony Reinke’s “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You” is a much-needed diagnosis of our digital habits and their power to shape our lives. As a self-proclaimed technophile who makes a living online, Reinke writes from a perspective that both undestands and appreciates what a powerful tool a smartphone can be, and throughout the book, marvels at the myriad ways our smartphones can bless and enrich our lives. So, as Reinke makes clear in the preface, this book is far from anti-smartphone or anti-technology.

But as a Christian seeking to take captive “every idle click”, Reinke aims to take an honest look at how our life online is impacting our life and joy in Christ. As he walks through the 12 Ways, Reinke skillfully casts a convicting yet compelling vision for our digital lives that is wise, humble, and filled with gospel-hope. Reinke doesn’t come off as someone who has his digital life all together, but as a fellow struggler in the fight to lay aside every weight and sin which clings as close as our back pockets.

In every chapther I found myself thinking to myself, “Yep. That’s me. Guilty. Got me. Is he watching my screen?” I was especially convicted by the chapter “We Fear Missing Out,” better known as FOMO. As I read it, I realized FOMO lies at the heart of a lot of my compulsive phone-checking. Yes, I felt convicted and ashamed, but Reinke wouldnt let me stay there very long. As he does in every chapter, Reinke points you away from your smartphone failures to the grace, glory, and joy that are in Christ. Here’s a taste of how he does that in one of the most personally helpful paragraphs:

“But if you are in Christ, the sting of missing out is eternally removed. FOMO-plagued sinners embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he promises us no eternal loss. All that we lose will be found in him. All that we miss will be summed up in him. Eternity will make up for every other pinch and loss that we suffer in this momentary life…The new creation… is the reimbursement of everything we miss out on in our social-media feeds.”

Reinke’s ultimate goal is not to guilt us into giving up our phones, but to guide us and our digital lives into the gain of Christ’s all-surpassing worth. This Christ-exalting aim pervades every page of the book. While it may lead to some guilt and grief for how we’ve used our phones, I’m convinced you’ll find it to be the godly sorrow of 2 Corinthians 7:10 that brings a repentance which leads to digital lives without regret.

If you’re scared to read this book out of some fear of smartphone guilt, don’t be.  Rest assured Reinke is a gracious guide who doesn’t seek to shame us, but to strengthen us in the battle to believe that all we’re looking down to our phones to find can only be found in looking up in faith to Christ. The battle is not simply for our habits and what we do, but for our hearts and what we love. And it’s a battle to find our greatest joys in unseen, eternal realities that will never fade or run out of battery. Thats a battle worth fighting.

So put down the phone, pick up this book, and join the battle. You’ll be eternally grateful you did.

Buy “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”


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