Tony Reinke’s book, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, discusses the various ways smartphones affect the users’ lives by addressing the important topics of increased distraction, the search for approval, becoming the things one likes, the development of loneliness, secret vices, and the loss of meaning as well as time and place. Reinke believes that our smartphones shape the way we live, but he also suggests that Christians can live a life set apart from the world while still embracing technology to glorify the Lord. After analyzing Reinke and Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung’s works, it is evident that smartphones empower lust to flourish, contrary to the misconception that they conceal and privatize such vices. This argument will address the ways that the use of smartphones enable sexual curiosity, the everlasting negative effects of sexual curiosity, and how satisfying lust ultimately fails to quench human longings. (145)
Ch. 8: Secret Vices, Curiosity, God’s Omnipresence, and Filling a Void
Smartphones have become society’s tool for satisfying sexual curiosities due to their new capabilities. Reinke suggests that visual dating apps have opened the door for culture to embrace casual sex. Recent apps, such as Tinder, allow the user to swipe right if the account sexually entices their lustful desires. Tinder, furthermore, encourages shallow encounters between individuals with sexually provoked intentions. A smartphone also enables its user to view online pornography because it can search for explicit content with a few simple clicks. Reinke refers to free pornography as the “spiritual epidemic” of young adults amongst the “acid of unchecked lust.” Viewing online pornography is convenient for any smartphone user craving to satisfy their sexual appetites.
Any sexual fantasy, thus, is accessible to the smartphone user that types his or her dirty desires into the phone’s browser. Reinke further suggests that smartphone capabilities make avoiding “forbidden fruit” inevitable, severely harming the smartphone user in secrecy. Caving to lustful desires, smartphone users that view free pornography skew their vision of true love. If utilized in the right context of marriage, however, DeYoung suggests that sexual desires can enhance our relationship with God and others, but sexual desire reduced merely to lust is the individual’s search for personal satisfaction ignoring those involved, which leaves the individual feeling less than fully human.
Smartphone users, therefore, can utilize their phones as a tool for indulging in their sexual curiosities, which empowers disordered lustful desires with the wrong vision of love to creep into their hearts. This use of the smartphone negatively affects the well-being of its user and those in close relation to that person. The smartphone’s ability to search the internet and remove search histories encourages the misconception that smartphones can hide lust-driven fantasies. This misunderstanding encourages the smartphone user to utilize his or her search engines to gratify pornographic addictions that they believe are concealable. Reinke, however, reminds his reader that God is not obligated to abide by society’s rules of privacy and has the ability to display every smartphone user’s dirty fantasy in His court.
Final Judgement in the Lord’s court, thus, will hold smartphone users accountable for their explicit searches. Although smartphone users believe their internet searches are invisible to the rest of world, Reinke asserts that search histories remain permanent in the eyes of God. While search histories may be erasable, the explicit images the smartphone user consumes remain in his or her soul forever having long lasting effects. Referencing Robert Solomon and William Gass, DeYoung dismisses the misconception that lust is a hidden issue by expressing that pornography’s addictive power can leave addicts prone to visible self-loathing and tear families apart.
The smartphone’s online capability to increase the viewing of pornography, therefore, result in the destruction of relationships and inhibit God-intended intimacy between married couples. Society embraces the smartphone because of its ability to provide the user, who is attempting to fulfill his or her human needs, with momentary satisfaction of lustful desires. DeYoung asserts that pleasure is confused for human fulfillment that individuals merely seek for its own sake. Vices, furthermore, develop through the misuse of something good in an effort to fill a gap only fillable by God.
Smartphone users, who are trying to mollify feelings of loneliness, often find themselves enslaved to free online pornography. Reinke suggests, ergo, that people utilize smartphones to satisfy these longings with vices accessed on their phones. Smartphones become a self-destructive crutch for temporarily satisfying human longings. The satisfaction of lust, moreover, is an empty promise incapable of delivering the true intimacy found in God and other people, not the digital individuals portraying fake love on the screens of smartphones. This brief satisfaction fails to sustain human longings, which requires the continuous feeding of lustful desires always leaving the consumer hungry for more.
The effects of lust, DeYoung expresses, connect the wants of our hearts to the thoughts of our soul resulting in a brutal cycle that encourages the imagination to oblige a narrow vision of the good. Pornography distorts God’s intended use of sex intended for bringing two together in marital union. Those enslaved to lust fall victim to a never-ending cycle of improper sustainment struggling to fill voids only God and His sovereign law can satisfy utilizing their phones as the tool that intensifies this cycle. Smartphones, therefore, hinder their users from relying on God as their true source of love. (732)
As a society constantly immersed in smartphone usage, avoiding lustful temptations becomes extremely difficult. Referencing John Piper, Reinke asserts that in an effort to restore purity amongst the constant use of smartphones, a two front war occurs and the importance of guarding the internal front, the heart, by learning to love God and all that He represents as well as to fortify the external front by removing obstacles to the smartphone user’s faith.
For this reason, Jesus emphasizes the necessity of removing things that invoke sin. If a smartphone user is struggling to break free from the chains of lust and their smartphone is hindering their efforts, removing their social media, dating apps, and search engines can be helpful solutions. DeYoung emphasizes the benefits of community for confession and the study of scripture for the reminder of God’s abundant love for His children as effective tools for conquering this vice.
The most important solution for coping with the smartphone driven age is to understand the nature of love and its sources. A true understanding of God and His love for us, moreover, is vital for resisting the vices found in our smartphones. Continuous engagement with scripture and establishing a firm accountability group that provides a true sense of love and intimacy is essential for fighting off the temptations of lust and feeling loved as a Christian focused on his or her walk.
- Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (Illinois: Crossway, 2017), 134
- Reinke, 135
- Ibid, 136
- Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung (Michigan: Brazos Press, 2009), 163
- Reinke, 137-8
- Reinke, 138
- DeYoung, 171
- Ibid, 169
- Ibid, 167
- Reinke, 140
- DeYoung, 176
- Reinke, 143
- DeYoung, 177