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4 ways to be stupid with your smartphone

| by Brian Thorstad

Okay. I finally did it. After years of cajoling from family and friends, I finally bought a smart phone. Now I have to learn how to use it. More importantly, I have to learn how not to use it. 

As usual, our advances in technology have outdistanced our manners, our ethics. On a global scale, we invent nuclear fission or fusion and then learn how to use these technologies ethically later on. We have the same problem on the scale of personal technology, like smartphones.

So I’m putting myself on the record with this blog. I’m making myself accountable to the whole world. I don’t want to be stupid with my smartphone. 

Here’s what I’m not going to do:

Be only partially present with individuals

The famous philosopher/poet of the last century (Stephen Stills)  got it right: “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.”  You can start loving the one you’re with by being fully with the one you’re with.

Sometimes I want to scream at people. We’re supposed to be doing breakfast, or going for a walk.  Instead of being fully present with me, as I’m endeavoring to be with them, they’re staring into their smartphone constantly.  It’s bad manners. 

Be only partially present at meetings

When I set up the ground rules for meetings, I’ve often asked for a “phones left outside the door” policy, kind of the like the “guns left outside of town” policy the Earp Brothers imposed on Tombstone, Arizona. 

This doesn’t work so well anymore, as people have so many good excuses to keep their phones with them — like using their digital Bibles. But we have to do somethingabout this. Do we really need to check our texts and e-mails five times during a meeting? Really? If your wife is due to “deliver” that day it’s excusable. 

Talk too much, post too much, tweet too much

“When words are many, sin is not absent…” (Proverbs 10:19a). This is not an isolated text. The Bible has many warnings about talking too much and answering too quickly.  Humanism, not Christianity, teaches that all of our problems can be solved by better communication. 

In Bible times communication was slow. People had lots of time to think before arriving at their friend’s house on foot or on their camels. Letters were even slower. Was that really such a bad thing? In our overly-caffeinated Christian culture we’re sharing too many words too quickly. Unless I’m missing something, it doesn’t seem to be saving the world.

Let it distract me from what’s really important

Many of us have learned about discerning the difference between that which is urgent and that which is important. Steven Covey’s four quadrants gave us a wonderful tool for sorting out our lives. You can even download life-management “apps” for your smartphone.

But the same gadget also opens the door to distractions like never before. Not to sound “scoldy,” but with your smartphone, you can connect to “the world” — with all its distractions — like never before.  It has never been so easy to become a news junkie, a stock-market junkie, a sports junkie, a fantasy sports junkie, a celebrity junkie or even a Christian commentary junkie. Whichever you choose, you’re still a junkie. 


I used to grumble (for fun): “Jesus didn’t have a smartphone.” That’s not even relevant of course. The question isn’t “Did Jesus have a smartphone?” The question is “What would Jesus do with a smart phone?” Answer: He’d probably have one, but He wouldn’t be stupid with it. 

Brian Thorstad

Brian Thorstad is a Redevelopment Transitional Pastor. He is the author of Heaven Help Our Church! (A Survival Guide for Christians in Troubled Churches) and Redevelopment: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches.

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