Are your smartphone habits healthy?
If we are to assess whether our smartphone habits are healthy or not — and this is hardly a question that should be exclusive to young Christian adults! — perhaps a helpful place to start is by challenging the underlying cultural script that typically drives our adoption of new technologies. This script is one that rests heavily on choice and potential as such and the notion of freedom from (upon the removal of constraints, limitations, and restrictions) and is much less attentive to the reality of freedom for — to our being liberated to become more fully and faithfully human in communion with God and each other.
The familiar cultural script is that more is typically better — more interactive, faster, more efficient, more connected, more fluid, more integrated, more social, more intimate, more inclusive, more “user-friendly” — and that the further our limitations are rolled back, the freer we become. Yet many of us are rediscovering the truth of Edmund Burke’s dictum that many of the restraints upon us, and not merely our liberties, should be reckoned among our rights and the grounds of our freedom. Pursuing unguarded liberty with things puts us in very real danger of having those things “take liberties” with us (1 Corinthians 6:12). The loss of natural limitations often doesn’t leave us better off, and many struggle to re-establish these broken barriers in the far less certain form of sanity-restoring disciplines.
The diagnostic tests that we should run — and should continually be running — ought to be informed by a clearer concept of what our freedom is for and the sorts of shapes that it takes. The bigger questions that we need to address are as follows:
- Do our particular uses of our smartphones, and our use of a smartphone more generally, have the actual effect — not just hold the theoretical possibility — of making us better servants of God and of our neighbors?
- Are our smartphones tools that facilitate our commitment to the central purposes and values of our lives, or are they — and our habitual modes of using them — constantly distracting, diverting, or obstructing us from them?