Confession time. I love fiction. I would happily spend all of my free time reading fiction, blissfully unconcerned with the other genres out there. But I’m married to a pastor who reads loads of non-fiction and feels a need to “recommend” books to me on a regular basis. And by “recommend,” I mean he suggests a book and keeps asking me again and again, repeatedly and relentlessly, “Have you read that book yet?” We share an Amazon account, so he can pull it up anytime and see that there’s zero percent progress on the book in question, which means that no, I haven’t read that book yet, but he asks anyway as a way of gently prodding me to pick up a challenging book now and then.
His most recent recommendation ended up being two books. “You really need to read them both – together – and then tell me what you think.” Based on those titles and covers alone, I wasn’t really looking forward to the thinking that was headed my way.
That said – wow. I’m so glad Wes encouraged me to read these.
12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke read like an academic paper, which made getting through it quickly an impossibility. I had to stop and process as I went along, as Reinke approached the issue of technology and its place in our lives not only from a practical standpoint but a theological one also. What does my phone, my easy access to so much information, and the limitless distractions it produces really do to my heart? Am I using social media for the good of the Gospel or for endless self-promotion? Do I strive for authentic, real time relationships with others, or am I too easily satisfied with online interactions that are staged, processed, and edited? And how can I live in a digitally-saturated world, using technology for good without being consumed by it?
Heavy stuff. Challenging stuff.
The Tech Wise Family by Andy Crouch was more of the same. This book was an easier read and attempted to give some practical advice, but I was so often distracted by the personal choices of the author and the black/white way his own family handled technology (or lack of it) that I had a hard time finding a way that it would apply to our family. I appreciated his honesty about the difficulty of keeping to some of his standards and how it wasn’t always perfect in his household, and I was really challenged to read his thoughts about how technology often robs us of having meaningful conversations with our kids. This book was a good nudge for me in honestly looking at the effects of technology and reevaluating its place in the life of our family.
Wes and I definitely came away from both books feeling convicted, and we attempted a little experiment to see just how addicted we are to our phones. The girls have had phones for a year and a half now, which we monitor very closely and have on strict time limits each day. Our experiment after reading these books was to put our phones away for an entire day, and I was expecting that the girls would get twitchy and bored, because even with the limited time and information they get on them, surely they were more addicted than me, right? Wrong! Every few minutes, Wes and I were the ones looking over to where we’d put all of our phones, not even because we needed them but because we’re so accustomed to always having them in our hands, randomly checking them over and over again! We checked them for five minutes at the end of the day, and we hadn’t missed a single thing. What we’d gained, though, was a day full of quality time with our kids, actually talking together as a family, having fun together, and then curling up at the end of the day in the same room, each of us reading a book as we settled in for the night. I think this may become a thing – being more tech-free – from now on.
All in all, I think both of these books are worth reading and will certainly challenge you as you look at your relationship with technology and how it’s affecting your heart, your relationships, and your family. Thanks for the recommendation, Wes!