You are the smart in smart phone

Written by Sean McDowell
Published on July 19, 2022

Did you know that roughly forty thousand people die each year in car accidents in the United States? That’s a lot of people. And many of them are teens.

Does that make cars bad? Should we ban cars? Of course not! People make poor decisions behind the wheel, such as driving angry, drunk, or while messaging, and thus endanger other people. We certainly need to be wise about how we use cars, but cars are not the problem. The problem is how people use them. Cars are not morally good or morally bad but morally neutral.

Like cars, smartphones are morally neutral. They become good or bad based upon how we use them. Do we interact with others kindly on social media? Are we wise about what we look at on our phones? Do we steward our time wisely? The key question about our smartphones isn’t if we use them but how do we use them?

Not long ago, I had a public conversation with Matthew Vines, an influential author and speaker who believes the Bible supports same-sex unions. In assessing our conversation, one young man commented that he thought Matthew Vines had more authority to speak on the issue than I did because Matthew had a YouTube video on the topic go viral. At that time, Matthew had more views and subscribers on YouTube than I did. Does that make him right?

This young man didn’t consider our educational credentials. He didn’t even consider the arguments themselves. Rather, he sided with the presenter because he had more views on YouTube. Hopefully you can see how crazy this is. The number of times something has been viewed has nothing to do with whether it is true or false. In fact, since provocative videos tend to draw viewers, false videos might even have an edge over true ones. Be careful not to confuse viewership with truth.

This is how screens can shape the way we think. They encourage us to focus on appearances rather than ideas. They encourage us to focus on popularity (views, subscribers) or entertainment rather than truth.

Social media is all about you. Do whatever it takes to get followers and “likes” so you can be popular. Be funny. Be outrageous. Be crass. Getting followers and views is all that matters. Promote yourself. Quite obviously, this is the opposite of the gospel, which is about glorifying God (not self) and loving others (not seeking love from others), and from those two pursuits we find the joy we’re actually longing for. Again, the point is not that all social media is bad—it’s not!—but that it subtly fosters ideas that conflict with what Jesus teaches.

Have you felt the temptation on social media to compromise your values for likes? Of course. We all have. Sexy pics. Workout pics. Crass pics. Celebrity pics. You know the drill. If a certain post gets likes, we do it more to increase our popularity. Can you see how this encourages us to find our value in what other people say about us rather than in what God says in Scripture?

The Bible says that we have value because we are made in the image of God. Regardless of our race, biological sex, athletic ability, looks, or popularity, we have value because God made us in his image. Our value comes not from what we do, what we say, or what others think about us but from what God says.

I think fellow writer Scott Slayton said it best:

In our social-media dominated age, we are so image conscious that we think more about the impression that we make than we do about making genuine friends. If you are not careful, you will carefully craft an image using social media and not allow people to get too close because it would ruin the image. Then, you build your identity on the number of people who are impressed by you and who respond to the image you have created. You have an important choice to make—you can impress people or you can have genuine friends. When we develop real friendships, our friends will know we are not that impressive. They will see the rough edges and the ugliest things about us, but we will be known and we will be loved. That is the beauty of true friendship—it sees the ugly and it stays.

Quick Tips for Using Technology Wisely

  1. Think before posting a picture, video, or comment. If there is a slight hesitation in your mind, check with someone else first. Since anything posted online is potentially permanent, err on the side of being cautious.
  2. Take a break from your smartphone. Have specific times during your day when you don’t use your phone, such as at dinner or bedtime. Leave your phone in your room when you’re having a conversation. Take a day off from your smartphone. Biblically speaking, take a Sabbath from technology.
  3. Use technology for good. Rather than building up your own platform for the sake of popularity, build a platform that elevates God’s Kingdom. There are endless ways to do this. Post Bible verses. Make creative videos supporting pro-life causes. Start a channel dedicated to reaching your generation.
  4. Be positive. It is easy to criticize others online. In fact, sometimes it is hard not to. But you can be different. Be kind. Be gracious. Follow Paul’s advice: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

Smartphones and social media are amazing technologies. They do affect the way we see the world. But if we are wise, we can use them to encourage other people and to build God’s Kingdom.

Adapted from A Rebel’s Manifesto: Choosing Truth, Real Justice, and Love amid the Noise of Today’s World by Sean McDowell. Copyright ©2022. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.  All rights reserved.


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Sean McDowell

Sean McDowell is an associate professor of Christian apologetics at Biola University. He is the bestselling author, editor, or coauthor of more than twenty books. He speaks internationally on issues related to culture, apologetics, and Gen Z. He is the cohost of the Think Biblically podcast and has a popular YouTube channel. Sean and his wife Stephanie have two children and make their home in California. Visit Sean online at seanmcdowell.org.

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