What’s the story?
In just two decades, mobile phones have become all-pervading, with an incredible four-fifths of the UK population now owning a smartphone. But as the technology has become popularised, so have a slew of bad social habits which are having serious implications on our work, life and relationships.
Deloitte’s annual Mobile Consumer Survey is consumed hungrily by journalists every year, because it contains ever-more-startling statistics about the way mobile phones have become so central to modern life. This year’s survey – of over 4,000 UK consumers – suggests we’re becoming even more antisocial, and seemingly unaware of how our phone use is driving our friends and families to despair.
The survey reveals that a third of people regularly use their devices while spending time with friends, and about 10% of respondents said they often got their phones out while eating at home or in restaurants. It’s perhaps unsurprising that about a third also admitted to rowing with their partner over too much phone use – these arguments being most common among 25-34 year olds.
It also seems that many of us have developed a somewhat obsessive relationship with our phones, with over half of 18-24 year olds admitting they check their phones in the middle of the night, and a third of all respondents saying they do so within five minutes of waking up in the morning.
However, Deloitte also suggest that the smartphone market may be slowing down after more than a decade of unabated growth. Firm spokesperson Paul Lee told the BBC: “it is clear from our research that we are reaching an age of ‘peak smartphone,’” adding that any further rise in usage would be modest. Four-fifths of those using a non-Internet-enabled phone said they expected not to trade up in the next 12 months.
These users aren’t all elderly; many are part of a growing wave of phone users who have decided to reject smartphones because of their addictive and invasive nature. And even Mr Lee agrees that consumers need to re-adjust their behaviours, saying “as with most emerging technology, consumers will need to learn how to best run their lives with smartphones, as opposed to having their lives run by their devices.”
What have others been saying?
Writing for CITY A.M., Deloitte analyst Paul Lee explains what he thinks might happen next in the age of ‘peak smartphone’.
Anti-porn ministry XXX church has suggested that using a so-called ‘dumbphone’ could have benefits for people struggling with addiction to sexually explicit websites.
A challenging article on John Piper’s ‘Desiring God’ site claims that there are “Six ways your mobile phone is changing you.”
#1 – GOOD FRIENDSHIP
1 Corinthians 13 includes an oft-quoted list of aspects of God’s love for us. It’s used at countless weddings every year, as an aspirational model for a married relationship, and it’s also a pretty good blueprint for how we should treat our friends. What’s interesting is how many of the attributes of love we find in this passage can be compromised by mobile phone use. Patience is undermined by a culture of constantly re-checking for social media updates; kindness dissolves in those online arguments we all seem to get drawn into; and as for not boasting... some days we all seem locked in a competition to prove who has the best life. Smartphones aren’t inherently bad, but our use of them can badly undermine our relationships.
#2 – GOING OFFLINE
The danger of smartphones – as borne out in these statistics – is that they ensure we’re ‘always on’: constantly available for work or other interruptions, even when we’re supposed to be resting. Jesus obviously lived long before the communications revolution, but he still manages to model a lifestyle which takes time out to recharge and reconnect with God. In fact, when his life becomes busiest and his ‘fame’ is at its height, the Bible tells us that ‘Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5 v 16). Jesus knew it was vital to disconnect from the world at times and simply spend time one-on-one with his father; it’s an idea that even many Christians have lost sight of.
Points for prayer
- Pray that we would all be wise in our smartphone use, and grow in self-discipline around them.
- Pray that the church would find creative, relevant ways both of engaging people through smartphones, and providing ‘offline’ spaces where people can switch off their mobiles.
- Pray for mobile phone manufacturers who allow their phones to be produced through unethical means; that workers in the developing world would not have to pay the price for our phone obsession.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor ofYouthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.