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Smart Phones & The Invisible Cord

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A reader who lives in a small town in Germany writes:

Children nowadays are connected to an invisible cord that is yanked once in a while. It is terrible to see how completely normal children change once they have access to smart phones. Not all of them but quite a few. The ones that don´t have any (like my son) are relentlessly bullied. I have been seriously thinking about sending my son to a catholic private school but it is to far away. I also don´t know whether it would help. As you write many Christians don´t understand the menace that smart phones pose and therefore don´t restrict the usage. Especially the less educated think having smart phones will help their kids navigate the future world. Sometimes I could cry so sad is all that.

Take a family I know. The father is a good mechanic who will always find a job.The mother is a simple sales woman. Their son will be none of that. He has a smart phone since he is 9 and completely glued to it. His thumb is probably able to do amazing swipe gestures but that is all he learns. Academically he is a disaster. The worst is that when he grows up he will not be able to do anything with his hands except swiping as he never does anything else. He will be totally useless in every sense of the world. What makes my blood boil is that there are thousands and thousands out there like that. And nobody telling people the truth.

UPDATE: A reader writes to say he was thinking of the Benedict Option when he read Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology And Less From Each Other:

It both goes deeper than standard critiques of smart phones and stays too shallow because she doesn’t have a metaphysics. She knows it’s a time bomb, but she doesn’t really have a way of seeing the deeper existential and cosmological threat it poses our children. Oddly enough, there’s a gay marriage connection early on in the book because her thesis is that we create new technologies, and the new technologies create us anew. An early proponent of robots saw no problem with robot-human interface, and accuses her of being a bigot because she sees this not as an advance, but as a privation of a fully human reality.

But what smart phones, I think, challenge us on is the deepest questions of meaning and purpose. In the end, when we are left to our own devices, they re-constitute us. We are differently human to a point, but our kids are now re-wired. Think about how Tinder has re-wired us: we f–k on the front end, only to decide if we want to make ourselves vulnerable enough later for a “real” relationship. F–king (anonymously via Tinder etc) is shaking hands. What?

And why do we really have a problem with smartphones? Isn’t it because we know that they distract us from our vocations, our ultimate ends? To know, love, and serve God? What are we for?

Smart phones tell us that we are for them.

I see it with the games I let my kids play on the iPad: “Daddy, I need to check to see if my dragons hatched.”

He feels compelled to serve the device.

I don’t know where this is going, but there is a huge makeover happening, right in front of us, and no one is REALLY caring all that much. So odd.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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