Smartphones Can Make You Dumb

February 3, 2010 at 4:32 pm 9 comments

Don’t get me wrong:  I am a techie at heart.  I was one of the original Mac users at our church in the 1980’s–yes, long before PC’s started making better machines at half the cost!  (Rest assured, I got smarter and have been a happy PC user for the past two decades.)  🙂  As you can tell, I’m not afraid to be counter-cultural.

Well, when my Verizon “New Every Two” came up last month, I finally got one of those “smartphones”.  The price was right (it was free!) and this one was smart enough to connect me to my [Google-owned] world of email, calendar, tasks, etc.!  I thought it would help me with my maxed-out life of reading 100+ emails per day and keeping track of the ever-changing schedules/calendars.  (In a pastor’s life, only Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow!)

Well, today’s Breakpoint column got me to think a little smarter than my phone…

It referred to a New York Times article on a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study which found that kids between the ages of 8-18 spend more than 7.5 hours a day staring at a screen (smartphone, computer, TV, etc.).  Add another 1.5 hours for talking & TXTing!  Factoring in multi-tasking of multiple devices they are chained to, it’s close to 11 hours a day spent on media!

Breakpoint cited Ben Witherington’s observation on the connection with boredom:

This “boredom” is “in most cases…the state of mind of those who lack imagination and therefore require all kinds of stimuli to prevent them from losing interest in things, and even in life.” That’s why people, adults as well as kids, are “constantly fiddling with their cellphone.” The alternative to all this fiddling is being alone with your own thoughts, which terrifies people used to the constant stimulation provided by our media-saturated culture.

Furthermore, neuroscientists suggest that “many, if not most, of our most creative and productive moments come when we step back from all the stimulation.” All this got me thinking:  Maybe being free from a smartphone (ringing/buzzing/chiming in all the time) might be more productive in  more important ways!

And besides, having unrestrained access to all the junk on the Internet in the palm of your hands is something I don’t need.  Especially as I minister to countless brothers who are daily wrestling with such temptations, I don’t want to be a stumbling block in any way to anyone out there.  I guess it’s one of those “everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial” situations of 1 Cor. 6:12.

So…(and some of you might call me dumb for doing this), I am going back to my non-smartphone.  This is going to cost me because I just went past my 30-day worry-free exchange period.  But as with many important lessons in life, it is worth the price.  And besides, I want to be known as someone who is smarter than the cell phone I use.  🙂

Entry filed under: About Life, Leadership Lessons, Ministry Lessons. Tags: .

It’s worth the hassle! How’s Your Spiritual Health?

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. robolai  |  February 3, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Dear Pastor Jonathan,

    Thank you for the post and your reflection.. I am challenged by how you take your life and actions so seriously, even in seemingly small ways. I am grateful to be part of this community in which our lives matter to God and to others.. it makes me think twice before I do something and compels me to ask myself whether it’s building up those around me as well..

  • 2. kelly  |  February 3, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    whole hearted amen to everything you wrote!

  • 3. mom  |  February 3, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Yes pastor Jonathan Lee
    You are smarter than smartphones .
    It is better to lose some money now than lose more priceless time later.

  • 4. sarah yue  |  February 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you, Pastor Jonathan, for leading by setting an example for us. It makes sense that creativity and productivity are heightened without all the distractions of technology. I’m challenged to be a deeper thinker by choosing to limit my media intake in practical ways like this.

  • 5. biglem  |  February 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Pastor Jonathan, I was yet again very challenged by your post and the concrete ways you live out your faith. I will keep this in mind when my “new every two” period comes up.

  • 6. joongwlee  |  February 4, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Hi everyone,

    Just want to add that there are some people who (because of work, etc.) need to use one of these smartphones. And there are people who use it “smartly” (i.e., wisely, appropriately, etc.).

    It’s just for me, I didn’t need it and all things considered, I felt I would be better off without it, and so I decided not to keep it. It’s as simple as that. 🙂


  • 7. emmelinek  |  February 4, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    amen, pastor jonathan! thank you for your post which reminds me of what’s really important. i too made the “smart” decision to go back to a non-smart phone, and i already feel myself less distracted, keeping my emails at bay in an ever-busier 21st century life.

  • 8. Fran Lopez  |  February 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    thank you for your post and expanding on that very important topic of constantly being saturated with information, images and all kind of stimuli. It served as a warning for me to make sure I”m not falling into this kind of lifestyle where I can’t be alone with my own thoughts or too busy to pay attention to the world around me because I”m staring at some screen. I ‘m encouraged by your concrete action that you saw as a way to fight this or at least preventive measures.

  • 9. Jenny Cha  |  February 6, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Whoa thank you Pastor Jonathan! In simple ways like this we can choose to please God by limiting things that can be stumbling to us.


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About Joong “Jonathan” Lee

This weblog contains thoughts & reflections as I pastor Gracepoint Austin Church (previously at Gracepoint Davis and Berkeley Churches) and engage in various ministries.


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