Is Your Phone Changing You?


After my blog post “Where’s Your Phone Right Now?” your comments made me feel better.

I’m not the only one who struggles with finding a balance with my phone.

We want to use our phones for good things only, but even at best, they can become time-drainers. And at worst, they are tools to say mean things, watch ugly things, and steal our hearts from God.

One suggestion you gave in the comments that day (thanks, Lynn Morrissey) was to read the new book by Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You.


I read it. I’m glad I did.

Here are quotes from 4 of the 12 ways our phones are changing us.

  1. Addicted to Distraction

If you’re a typical American, you check your smartphone an average of every 4.3 minutes. That’s 81,500 times a year.

Facebook? 70% of people check it daily (over one billion others around the world do the same!). On Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram alone, we spend at least 50 minutes a day.

Why are we so addicted? Reinke suggests we use digital distractions to keep work away, keep people away, or keep thoughts of eternity away.

  1. Ignore Flesh and Blood

While I often use my phone to connect with flesh and blood people, I don’t want it to replace in-person encounters. Given the choice, face-to-face beats digital.

“We become content to ‘LOL’ with our thumbs or to cry emoticon tears to express our sorrow because we cannot (and will not) take the time to genuinely invest ourselves in real tears of sorrow. We use our phones to multitask our emotions.”

And in the car? Let’s please stop checking our phones while driving. It’s killing us.

“Talking on the phone while driving a vehicle makes you four times more likely to get into an accident, but texting while driving makes your chance of a crash twenty-three times more likely.”

  1. Lose Our Literacy

Reinke points out that a few people actually read more books as a result of online interactions. (He is also the author of Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books, one of my favorite books I read in 2012.)

But more commonly, smartphone users read fewer books now.

“It can be said that literacy has fallen to such a degree that, for many Christians today (perhaps most Christians today), the Bible stands as the oldest, longest, and most complicated book we will ever try to read on our own.”

Plus, reading digitally teaches us to scan at fast speeds. Can we train ourselves to read online text slower?

  1. Fear of Missing Out

Do you know what nomophobia is? No-mobile-phone phobia. FOMO (fear of missing out) hits us on two sides: anxiety that we’re not staying updated on information if we’re not checking our phone, and insecurity of not getting the affirmation we want if we’re offline.

“This desire for personal affirmation is perhaps the smartphone’s strongest lure, and it is only amplified when we feel the sting of loneliness or suffering in our lives. At the first hint of discomfort, we instinctively grab our phones to medicate the pain with affirmation. This habit could not be more damaging.”


Along with the bad news, Reinke also gives lots of suggestions in the book for ways to live smarter with our smartphones. (He doesn’t say get rid of them altogether; he’s no technophobe.)

These include:

1. Turn off all nonessential push notifications.

2. Delete expired, nonessential, and time-wasting apps.

3. Use a real alarm clock, not your phone alarm, to keep the phone out of your hands in the morning.

4. Guard your morning disciplines and evening sleep patterns by using phone settings to mute notifications between one hour before bedtime to a time when you can reasonably expect to be finished with personal disciplines in the morning (9 p.m. to 7 a.m., for example).

5. Recognize that much of what you respond to quickly can wait. Respond at a later, more convenient time.

Ask Your Family

Are you brave enough to take this suggestion?

“Invite your spouse, your friends, and your family members to offer feedback on your phone habits (more than 70 percent of Christians in my survey said nobody else knew how much time they spent online).”

Our phone use affects others in more ways than we realize.

“If I’m a social-media junkie, my lack of self-control feeds the social-media addiction in you. And the more I text and tweet and Snapchat, the more I drag you and others into the digital vortex of reciprocating obligation. . . .

Even something as simple as pulling out your smartphone in a crowd is ‘the new yawn’—everyone else around you will feel the immediate pull and lure to check their own phones.”

I highly recommend this book. We all can benefit by periodically evaluating why we are using our phones.

“Apps can help me stay focused on my Bible reading plans and help me organize my prayer life, but no app can breathe life into my communion with God. . . .

What shall it profit a man if he gains all the latest digital devices and all of the techniques of touch-screen mastery but loses his own soul?”

* * *

How do you use your phone the most? Calls? Texts? Apps? Please share your thoughts here.

Read the preface and introduction here of 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You.


My thanks to Crossway
for the review copy of this book

47 thoughts on “Is Your Phone Changing You?

  1. Michele Morin

    This is so good. Nancy Guthrie interviewed Tony on her podcast (Help Me Teach the Bible), and it was incredible, because she was questioning him from the perspective of those who teach and study.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, wow, I’ll have to track that down, Michele. Thanks for sharing about the podcast! I really liked reading Tony’s book, “Lit!” a few years ago, so that encouraged me to pick this one up as well, and also because of the topic.

  2. Jean Wise

    great list and reminder. What it here I read about taking facebook off their phone? Someone made it hard to connect to social media on the phone so it wasn’t as easy and tempting. The one here that hit me was losing out literacy. ouch.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Our phones definitely make everything so convenient. I don’t use mine for social media as much as I do just for general internet reading and everything else app-related. 🙂 I definitely know my online reading is different than my book reading. It is hard for me to actually read every word of an article online. 🙁

  3. BettieG

    Dear Lisa, Thank you so much for these eye-opening thoughts! I agree that it’s so important to step back and evaluate my use of media and technology. This quote especially: “Apps can help me stay focused on my Bible reading plans and help me organize my prayer life, but no app can breathe life into my communion with God,” should point to these tools as being just that–only tools. Oh, may I let Him keep my focus on the things that really matter–the people behind the screen, and the Lord over us all! Blessings to you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you, Bettie. There are many great things about our phones that can draw us into a closer relationship with God, but they are still just tools. Nothing replaces the relationship itself!

  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    It’s not really a problem for me as I don’t have a phone. Just an old laptop that runs the Internet very slowly, and FB makes it lock up.

    Nonetheless, the virtual world is important to me; I’m now unable to leave the property except for emergencies, and no one comes by, so the friends I’ve made online are the friends who are carrying my heart when I’m not up to the task.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re probably not missing a whole lot by not having a smartphone, Andrew. Most everything I do on my phone I can also do on my laptop. But I do have quick internet so there’s that. Blessings to you, friend.

  5. Heather Hart

    Turning off push notifications is huge! I also try to make sure that I prioritize people who are with me over people on the other side of my phone. Some people don’t understand why I don’t take phone calls in the middle of something else, or respond to text messages later, but it’s all about priorities. I’m not saying I’m perfect at it, but making an effort.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Those are great boundaries. I’ve tried following those more myself, and just those can make a HUGE difference. Thanks for sharing what is working for you, Heather! Keep it up.

  6. Bill (cycleguy)

    Good advice Lisa. My only problem is due to my job as a pastor, I have to have my phone turned on. I do keep it by my bed but only for the alarm clock (due to mine not working) and for emergencies. I leave it in my cave during meals. Ironically, my wife or daughter will tell me “Your phone went off.” “I know. I’ll get it when I’m done.” 🙂 Being a slave to my phone is not on my agenda.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I like your approach, Bill. Sounds like you have healthy boundaries. Being a slave to our phones is something we should all eliminate from our lives like you have, and as soon as possible.

  7. Barbara H.

    I’m so glad he advocated balance rather than abstinence. I don’t have push notifications on anything – I hate that constant dinging and the urgency to check on it.

    I was just reading somewhere that as a general rule, our attention spans are shortening due to our media use to the point where people are becoming less inclined to read whole books, especially those that make them think. That’s sad.

    I still have yet to read Lit! One of many books stacked up to read…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      As a fellow true book-reader with you, I lament that news, too. We gain so much from reading full books, not just short articles (although those have a place). Yes, I also was glad he didn’t suggest throwing away our phones (not that I would have! ha). We have so many touch-points with our phones that it would be too great a loss. I’ve eliminated almost all my notifications now except messages, phone calls, and Snapchat. 😉 My girls use that the most so I like to see when they send me something.

  8. floyd

    Boy, the old adage, “less is more” has never been more true than right now.

    I try to use my phone for mostly business, but it still spills over. My favorite time of day is still when I can put it away for the day. It’s starts soon enough the next one anyway…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You sound like Jeff. He’d do away with his phone altogether if he could, but of course he can’t due to work. And due to me. ha. I want him to keep his phone with him so I can reach him. 🙂 (Although now that he’s traded in his Blackberry for an iPhone, I’ve noticed he does spend more time on his phone…)

  9. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Lisa, this is wonderful!! And I’m thrilled that you read and liked Reinke’s book enough to share this excellent review. I just wrote a mini post on your blog on FB and connected readers here, but for some reason, I couldn’t get it to tag you. Alas… I found his work really impressive and deep. He stops to make you think (if we stay off our phones long enough to read his book . . . and other books!) I did read Lit! when it came out, and it’;s excellent. I think America is becoming an illiterate country for a number of reasons, including our dumbing down of literature in schools and our waning attention spans. How wonderful that you could mention both in one post. I’m so glad that you shared this, and hope others will read his work!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I loved it, Lynn! Thanks so much for recommending it. Lots of good information in it that hopefully will prompt a few more boundaries for me with my phone. I do appreciate Reinke’s writings and his heart for God’s glory. So much of his book could also be applied to other idols that we also create. Thanks for sharing it on FB. I couldn’t get it to show up either, but I appreciate you letting me know. Have a blessed week!

  10. Lynn

    You’ve captured my full attention.
    Of course, I came upon this post while using my Facebook app.
    I am putting the book at the top of my to-read list now.
    This subject is of extreme importance.
    I plan to share your review.
    Your blog is a new discovery for me and I am definitely going to following.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ha. How appropriate that you found this while on your Facebook app. 🙂 This book is good for many other areas of our lives as well, so hopefully you’ll get lots of use out of it if you have time to read it, Lynn. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Rosanna@ExtraordinaryEverydayMom

    Such great thoughts here! I, too, struggle with this. I used my phone most for texting. There are several things I do to help me keep my phone usage under control. #1: Even though I have a smartphone, I do not have data on it so I can only use wifi at home. #2: I place my phone in my bedroom during the day so I’m not tempted to use it as much. I actually forget about it for hours on end, at times! #3: I turn off my phone in the evening and leave it in the kitchen when I go to bed. #4: I often leave my phone at home when I go to church. #5: I turn off the volume when I’m visiting friends. #6: I don’t have any apps on it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Wow, you have lots of great boundaries with your phone, Rosanna. I appreciate you sharing these. I’ll try to adapt some of them myself. Ironically, I’ve almost used all my data this month (I streamed the James Comey hearings on my phone and it ate up so much data, ha), so I have turned off all my apps for the rest of the month except for when I’m connected to wifi. And it’s actually been nice! So maybe I’ll keep more of them off from now on. Keeping my phone in the bedroom is also something I should do more often. Lots of good tips from you–thanks!

  12. Diana

    I love all the suggestions made here,Lisa! it is an important message for all of us because PEOPLE have been replaced by PHONE. I have no apps on my phone, instead I have to manually log into Facebook which I give up most of the time(I forget my own passwords).
    Now I need to go buy that book for myself 🙂

    Visiting you from salt and Light link up

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      If I had to manually log in my passwords, I’d definitely use everything less. ha. That’s a smart trick you use, Diana! 🙂 What a sad commentary on us that phones can replace people. Your words make it a stark reality. Thanks for sharing here.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      My husband is better at this than I am, so I hope to follow his lead in this area more. Granted, he had a Blackberry instead of an iPhone until a year ago, so that helped him not use his phone as much. ha. You’re doing good if you turn your phone off at night, Jodie. Even that can be hard for me to do.

  13. Aimee

    I am truly addicted. Ugh. I hate it and love it all at once. Thanks for recommending this book and I am praying I can find the right mix of self-control and boundaries with it!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This is me, too, Aimee: “I hate it and love it all at once.” I often remark about how much I love my phone and the internet. And they are wonderful inventions! But yes, only with the right mix of self-control and boundaries. Praying for all of us to find that line!

  14. Meghan

    I had to click this. I am always feeling weird because I get irratitated when people (even those hanging with me) use their phones in conversation. I find it rude but know I also get distracted too, so it has been a weird and humbling catch 20/20 of giving mercy knowing I need it too. Am I making sense? Ehhh… I took Twitter and FB off my phone over a year ago and it helped, then I also unfollowed people to stay focused. Now I just have a little go phone and feel out of place around most who stand with their phones in hand staring at the screen. I want to romp and roll down grassy hills and have face to face talks. Old school I guess but I am hoping God helps my rawr attitude. That is where I need prayer!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, you are making perfect sense, Meghan. Sometimes we notice more in others what we’re trying to kick ourselves. Now that I’m trying to let go of my phone more, I’m more aware of when others don’t let go of their phones! ha. I like your old school attitude. I hope we’re not losing that sense of connection when we’re with people. I’ve noticed in between services at church that I’ll stay off my phone…until I see others sitting there with their phones, then I’ll pick mine up too. 🙁 We’re being bad influences on each other. Back in the old days we’d talk with each other instead. It’s not too late to return to that! Thanks for sharing here, Meghan. We can all pray for each other in this.

  15. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Wow, Miss Lisa. I’m so thrilled for how many comments you are receiving here, which means you have piqued people’s interest (and my conscience!), and I hope they’ll read Reinke’s books (Lit! too). I shared your blog on my FB page, but couldn’t get it to tag you. Thanks again for such a marvelous post!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing the book with me and now the post. I do hope others will read this book as a result. We never know what will help another person, but when we throw the net wide enough, at least a few can get what they need!

  16. nylse

    It changes your posture and gives you a crick in your neck. So I’ve turned off all notifications; removed most social media apps from my phone; don’t keep my phone near me at night or in the morning; frequently hide my phone so I’m not tempted by it.

    I do like to read my bible on the phone and listen to music as I work out. I used to track my workouts and post automatically on Twitter but that feature seems to have changed and I don’t miss it.
    Really I just try to balance and my phone wisely.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love hearing the good boundaries that people have set up for themselves, and you definitely have many good ones, Nylse! I will continue to use my phone for various things as well (I use the timer and calculator feature a lot, ha) so we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s all about boundaries. Thanks for sharing here your balanced approach.

  17. June

    Great post, as always! I try to keep my phone and social media use in general geared toward my ministry vs. personal stuff. But it is definitely a challenge not to get sucked into “scrolling” and “surfing.” I try to be outside as much as possible and lately, I’ve been “forgetting” my phone inside the house, ha! My Dreamer and I are always amazed when we are out and about – seeing how families sit around the table all engrossed in their phones rather than each other. It’s sad and dangerous. I’ll be sharing this on FB. Thanks! and blessings on your Sabbath, my friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like you have your priorities in the right place, June. I hope to get to the place where I forget where I put my phone. For now, I have to intentionally set it aside, but I am doing better about that anyway so I’ll claim some measure of success. 🙂 I’m not particularly addicted to it, but I still would like to use it less. Thanks for sharing this, friend!

  18. Amy Jung

    I appreciate you sharing all of these points to the book. I think it would be a great one for me to read and to share with my kids as the grow up with this technology!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a wonderful idea to share it with your kids, Amy. As much as we “older” folks need to get a grip on this, the younger ones have an even larger challenge since it’s all they’ve ever known.

  19. Pingback: Step away from the phone | Luke 7:39

  20. David

    Dear Lisa

    This is so true. Good suggestions too. I have started wearing my wristwatch again (had been using the phone as a kind of 21st century pocket watch) and, when not using the phone, placing it well out of reach.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s a wise choice, David. I have fallen temptation to pulling out my phone “just” to check the time, but then of course one thing leads to another. I have friends who have the actual iPhone watches, but so far I haven’t even wanted one. It’s tempting enough to have a phone in my back pocket, but if it was on my wrist, I might never look up. ha.

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