Book Review: 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Quick, easy read; short (just over 200)

Pretty self-explanatory; Reinke lays out 12 ways he believes your smart phone (and social media) are impacting you. The book is, unsurprisingly, broken into 12 chapters – addicted to distraction, ignore flesh and blood, crave immediate approval, lose our literacy, feed on the produced, become what we ‘like’, get lonely, get comfortable in secret vices, lose meaning, fear missing out, become harsh to one another, lose our place in time. There is also a preface and an intro called ‘theology of technology’, as well as a conclusion on how to live with a smart phone and an epilogue.

My Thoughts
I was torn on exactly how to rate this book, it is one of those times where I’d like to give a 4.5, but ultimately, if you haven’t read anything about the impacts of smart phones/social media or you haven’t read about those impacts from Christian perspective, I think then it is a must read. If you’ve read a few of these, it is worth putting on your list.

Overall, Reinke has given us a broad survey into the issues with technology/social media. The strongest aspect of the book is that he himself is a big advocate and user of technology. So, you have someone who is appreciates and enjoys the different media (though, somewhat amusingly, he doesn’t appear to know the origins of Snapchat), who also understand the dangers, while not wanting to let it go. I appreciate his honesty and preservative in that way.

The book is a good way to get a taste of the issues. Reading it, you might be left feeling a little wanting, as almost every chapter could be it’s own book. As I mentioned, it is broadly researched and he pulls from many sources and people. I had not heard of some of the ‘Instagram models’ who quit and pulled away. I’ve seen the research on how often people check their phone and the impact of Facebook on happiness and well being, but I had seen a response or commentary on these impacts from a distinctly Christian viewpoint.

I found much of the book to be fascinating, but I have to confess that I viewed much of it as an outsider. I’ve never been on Facebook (despite being in college when it started, when it was only for college students), I occasionally use twitter, and I still don’t really understand the point of Instagram. I also dislike starting at a glowing blue screen, and really only carry a phone when Mrs. MMT insists. However, the friend from whom I borrowed this book found it impactful and Mrs. MMT is actually attempting to modify some of her habits after reading.

While I couldn’t always relate, I do empathize with people who struggle in the ways depicted in this book and the book finishes strongly with suggestions on how to live with your smart phone and social media. I think the practical tips could be of value to many people. Realistically, if you have ever wondered if you use your phone/social media too much, or if it is negatively effecting you, then it probably is and for you this might be a book to add to your list or a must read.

Book Review: Irresistible

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Moderately easy, medium (300+) length

The subtitle is a pretty good summary of the focus of the book. Our technology is being developed at high levels to keep us coming back. However, it seems more of the book is focused on behavioral addiction as a whole than on technology specifically. I think this tactic actually makes pretty good sense, because of the popular conception of the word ‘addictive.’ Obviously, you won’t go into withdrawal from technology, the way you would from cocaine, however, when used, both ignite the same part of your brain.

The book is broken into three parts – What is behavioral addiction and where did it come from, the ingredients of behavioral addiction (or, how to engineer an addictive experience), and the future of behavioral addiction (and some solutions). The first and last part have three chapters each, while the middle has six. There is also a prologue and epilogue.

My Thoughts
As I mentioned above, the subtitle (likely written by an editor) focuses on technology, while the book (just look at the part and chapter names) is more focused on behavioral addictions and what they are, and then how smart phones/tablets/computers and social media/actual media/apps/games effect people. In some cases the companies themselves are aware of behavioral addictions and how they work and actively employ them. Alter starts the book with the damning contrast in the 90 minute speech by Steve Jobs about the greatness of the iPad and then his biographer learning that he does not allow his kids to have one.

The book has multiple examples of what the technology addiction looks like, but I’ll just point our a few here. Maybe the most pivotal one in history was the addition of the ‘like’ button on Facebook. This is what led to the massive growth of what used to be called social networking, now called ‘media’. Obviously, people are starting to learn more and more about the dangers of Facebook in particular, with their tailored news that almost helps grow ideas that are false and certainly promotes things that are more combative. When people see likes, it is a dopamine hit, the same as cocaine. It’s also a good reminder that when a ‘product’ is ‘free’, then really you are the product and they make money selling you.

I could go on with that, but I want to point out two other milestones – Netflix and the automatic playing of the next show, and the ‘endless’ scroll. I remember, years ago now, all of sudden everyone was talking about ‘binge-watching’ TV shows. It became so popular the word eventually became an adverb and people treated it like a normal way to behave.  Have you ever wondered why? That’s when Netflix started just automatically starting a show when you finished one. You had to opt out of watching.

Now, if you, like me and most humans, think you are hard working and fairly intelligent, you are wrong. Humans are incredibly lazy and easily manipulated. My favorite example of this is two countries that speak the same language, boarder each other, and have similar cultures, but one donates organs at a rate in the 80’s, while the other’s is in the 20’s. What is the difference? One auto enrolls you on your license, the other you have to opt in. That’s essentially 60% of the population that can’t be bothered to check a box, either way.

Of course, the companies know these things. They don’t want you to have to back out of the episode and do the ‘work’ to watch the next. If all you have to do is sit, they’ll have you for hours. It’s called ‘removing the friction’. Another example of this is endless scroll. On sites like Reddit, there used to be pages, and you’d scroll down through maybe 20 items then hit the bottom of the page, then you had to click next page. They, and others, have removed this, so that you can scroll in perpetuity. I noticed this a few months ago with ‘new Reddit’. I didn’t know why, but I’d be reading/scrolling, then look up and an hour had past. After reading this book, I switched back to ‘old Reddit’ and deleted the app together from my phone.

Alright, this has gone far too long for a regular review, but I find it endless fascinating. The book is littered with interesting/terrifying examples such as this.  He also writes well, very quick and accessible for a professor. To keep it at a lay level, it becomes a little redundant at times, but I don’t think that is too negative. If you have any interest in behavioral addiction or the impact of technology on your life, you need to put this book on your list.