In 2007, Apple introduced the first iPhone – hour zero for the smartphone. It is estimated that in 2018, more than 5 billion people will own a smartphone. That means that over the course of 11 years, 1.245 million devices were sold each day. In 2017, it is said that approximately 97% of all youth aged 12-19 years in Germany owned their own device. Three years earlier, it was “only” 88%.
As the smartphone enjoys a seemingly unstoppable penetration and enormous acceptance, its impact on society permeates nearly all areas of life. As most of us have probably experienced, these effects are not all positive–quite contrary, in fact! Meanwhile, medical professionals are warning, among other things, that there is potential for addiction to these devices and recommend conscious and mindful management of smartphones.
A new phenomenon, which never had a name until 2013, is the so-called “phubbing,” coined from the words “phone” and “snubbing” (treating someone disdainfully). It refers to reading and typing on your phone while you should be engaging in conversation with a person. Surely we have experienced this in our daily lives. As you are in the middle of a conversation with someone, their cell phone suddenly beeps or vibrates. Reflexively, they pull out their device and focus completely on it. At the same time, you are inevitably(!) neglected. Marriage counselors are finding that the smartphone can be the starting point of many relationship problems. For example, answering your WhatsApp message during a conversation can be hurtful for your partner. While this doesn’t seem to be detrimental in an isolated incident, it can lead to a huge problem down the road.
Did this perhaps happen to you as well recently, as God was speaking to you? As you were reading your Bible, your cell phone that was lying nearby suddenly vibrated. (Perhaps you only read the Bible on your phone, which in this case is truly not an advantage). You quickly glanced at the display, and there was that message that you had been waiting an hour for. You quickly formulated an answer and a minute later, you focused back on your Bible. “Now, where was I again?” “What was the thought that I was contemplating?” And before you had a chance to get back into your study, your device was notifying you of a new message. Distracted again. Can you imagine what God’s thoughts are about this? What regard are we giving God and His Word? Is it possible that our smartphone is damaging our relationship with God?
In 2017, a comprehensive survey was conducted asking young people between the ages of 12 and 19 what their most important apps on their smartphone were. The answer was: WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook. These were the 5 choices that were named the most. Every one of these networks require one thing: our attention – at any cost – even if your relationship with God or other people should suffer as a result.
Therefore, take this opportunity to examine your electronic usage behavior. Do you need to change anything? Start by putting your phone into airplane mode before you begin your devotions. You should do the same in a church service or a youth meeting. Make sure it is out of reach when you sit down to a meal with your family, or just purposely leave it at home the next time you visit your grandparents. It certainly won’t damage your relationship with your companions. And then, when God has your full attention, He can show you things that you won’t learn anywhere else!