I live in iPhone World. My guess is you do too.
I woke up early this morning thanks to the alarm on my iPhone. Later, I had a text-based conversation with my 13 year old son, while he was in the middle of a Jr. High class. I commented on a conference, going on two states away via Twitter, and at least a couple of people noticed my comment and seemed to appreciate it. I used the Weather Channel App to decide what kind of clothes I will wear to my office at the University tomorrow. Through earbuds, I listened to approximately three hours of music today- everything from The Doors to Martin Solveig. I watched four different YouTube videos this evening. One based on neuroscience research and one that was… let’s just say that I was laughing out loud and I was glad that I was enjoying it privately. A friend messaged me on Facebook regarding a quite serious personal matter they are dealing with. At various times, throughout the day, I cut and pasted different quotes and ideas into the Notes App. I scanned and replied to work emails from the palm of my hand all day long.
Like you, I depend on my iPhone. It has changed me. It is has become an extension of my very self. If this little technological device was suddenly and permanently discarded from life, I would quite literally become a completely different person.
I am clearly not a Luddite. I am largely a fan of technological developments. But I am also painfully aware of the things that I am losing, and of a few of the ways that my soul is even twisting within me, thanks to my relatively new citizenship in iPhone World.
You may or may not agree with Karl Marx when it comes to economic theory, but he was clearly right about one thing: Human beings are shaped by ideas far less than we assume. Technological developments, and the new human experiences they bring with them, are what radically shapes the very core of who we are.
I do not believe that we are necessarily being led like sheep into some dystopian, machine dominated, nightmarish future. Yet at the same time, I also do not believe that we are slowly emerging into a higher and better epoch of the human experience. As my mentor and friend Leonard Sweet says: All ages are the same distance away from heaven. The New Age that the iPhone World is dawning offers promises and perils; redemption and damnation; truly heaven and hell. Everything is changing. Our minds. Our bodies. Our consciousness. Our values. Our souls. Some things are much better. Some things are much worse. But we are all becoming something altogether different than we were before.
We could not stop this iPhone World from emerging if we tried. But it is important to understand what is happening among us, and to us, and in us.
iPhone World and Its Redemptive Gifts
1. Those of us who are naturally scatter brained are increasingly becoming organized and dependable. For several years, I would leave people eating lunch alone, forgetting that I had an appointment with them. For a long time I was hard to reach. More than once I forgot to play the fatherly role of tooth fairy to a very disappointed 7 year old. But no longer. I never miss a meeting anymore. I am fairly easy to reach. The alarm feature reminds me to sneak into a bedroom, steal a tooth, and leave four quarters under a pillow.
2. All of us are becoming more cognitively sophisticated. Since we all have all of the world’s information in our back pockets, we actually know less facts than we did before. Why memorize something when Siri or Google can instantly retrieve it for us? But since we are constantly exposed to the world’s best art (serial television dramas), the world’s latest ideas (Ted Talks), the entire catalog of music (Spotify), and all of the latest trends from all over the globe (YouTube and Twitter) our collective I.Q. is increasing. That teenager who is flunking out today is still more cognitively advanced than the majority of people were 25 years ago.
3. Honest (and potentially) life-giving connections and conversation are much more common. We may be losing the art of face to face conversation, but the lonely, and the dejected, and the introvert now have all kinds of platforms to reach out and connect with others. As a former Pastor, I cannot begin to tell you about the numerous counseling sessions I engaged in with people over social media networks. No one has to suffer in silence anymore. This is a great thing.
4. You can live anywhere and still be in the center of it all. In former times, if you grew up in rural Iowa, it was highly unlikely that you would ever have the opportunities of learning and culture that someone in a place like Manhattan would have. There is still a difference. But nothing like before. We are no longer capped by geography.
5. Injustices are no longer hidden. All suffering is now center stage in our collective awareness. Crooked politicians can no longer hide. Brutalities are caught on camera and broadcast globally. The muzzled voices of the marginalized have all been given a megaphone. What could be better?
iPhone World and Its Damning Effects
1. We are all unconsciously becoming narcissists. It is called an iPhone for a reason. It allows everything to center around the ego-driven “i.” Through social media, I only need to interact with like-minded people. I can produce my own public self and broadcast to the world as I see fit. I don’t have to trouble with others at the shopping center- I can buy whatever I want online. Instagram features can make us all look like models. Google maps can keep me from ever having to drive through low-income neighborhoods, sparing me from the guilt of witnessing others in their plight. I can be entertained endlessly, whenever and however I want. All of this helps to explain the rise of the “singleton” culture (increasing numbers of people who never marry) and the “nones” (people who consciously avoid all religion.) In an iPhone World, who wants to be burdened with complex relationships and a demanding faith tradition? It’s an “i” world after all.
2. The rise of Gnosticism: the never present person. We walk past others on city streets, oblivious to them, locked in our own world of Beats headphones. We sit in the same room with our families, not conversing, but head down texting. We have no sense of embodied place. We are somewhere else via internet connections. We don’t live in this neighborhood. We don’t live in this region. We don’t even live on this planet. We live in the Matrix.
3. We have killed the long-term future and the Eternal. We are trapped in an endless Now. No one prays. They Tweet. No one reads. They scan status updates. No one plans for the future. They currently trend. No one takes on serious callings. They play video games. No one lives into a spiritual drama. They Netflix binge.
4. We may be narcissists, but we are no longer individuals. We are all cogs in the mass opinion machine. Blogs and social media do not truly foster individual opinion- they churn out groupthink. For all of the ranting against religious legalism, we have replaced it with a legalism of the masses. Everyone online knows they cannot truly speak their mind. All they can hope to do is to agree with the public-at-large in a more clever way. If they don’t, well, they will pay dearly.
5. We have forgotten mercy and forgiveness. We socially ostracize anyone who is caught actually living as a flawed human being. Stoning not only occurs in backwards parts of the Middle East. College-educated Westerners “stone” people every day. We collectively shame. We collectively condemn. We collectively call for people to be fired. We collectively retweet and post videos of any and all personal infractions. Why? Because we can? No. So that condemnation will be permanent online and so that no one can find absolution.
“The times, they are a changin’.” – Bob Dylan
“O brave new world, That has such people in’t. Tis’ new to thee.” – William Shakespeare
For good or ill, I now live in an iPhone World and so do you. It does not allow its citizens to remain who they previously were. We are all pledging allegiance to this new device. Some of us will thrive because of it. Some of us will be lost due to it. But we all live here now and there is no returning to the world that once was.
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