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Media – Smartphone drawbacks

May 2016

There is a price to pay by being addicted to the smartphone, particularly the loss of face-to-face conversation, Rev. Canon J. John has claimed.

In his latest blog post, the director for the Philo Trust, said it was becoming clear human culture has been changing since the ‘first iPhone in 2007 unleashed an unstoppable flood of smartphones’.

Although he does not question their usefulness, Mr John says, ‘You don’t have to look hard to start to suspect that there might be a price to pay. Reading books has clearly suffered: anyone with any time on their hands now simply engages with a smartphone. Equally, many people now struggle to handle silence: they are never alone with their thoughts, nor, it seems, do they want to be’.

He said, ‘I want to suggest while smartphones give us communication — and do so well — they do not allow us to take part in conversation in any real sense. Think for a moment about what a traditional, old-fashioned, flesh-and-blood conversation involves.

‘It’s not just words: there are silences, hesitant exploratory phrases, eye contact, facial expressions, laughter, hand gestures and possibly even physical touches of reassurance or encouragement’.

Smartphone conversation promised so much more, and, in reality, delivered so much less. ‘We end up with a pale shadow of a real conversation; the equivalent of junk food for the mind. I believe we were made by God to communicate in the deepest and richest possible way.

‘Famously, John’s Gospel in the Bible begins, “In the beginning was the Word”. The Christian belief that God is a trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. From eternity, there was conversation within God. Before the universe was created, at the heart of the eternal God, there was conversation. To be made in God’s image is to be made for conversation.

‘There are many rules and guidelines I could come up with for not letting smartphones dominate our life. Ultimately, however, they boil down to the key idea that we must always put direct conversation above digital communication’.

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