In 2003, Time magazine published a book entitled 80 Days That Changed the World. Time editors reviewed the 80-year history of the magazine from 1923-2003 and selected people and events that changed the world. The collection included Gandhi, Churchill, Pearl Harbor and the moon landing. But do you know what happened on April 1, 1976?
In Los Altos, California, two young college dropouts, interested in electronics, started a partnership. Steve Jobs, 21, was the dreamer and Steve Wozniak, 25, the technical genius. Wozniak had been experimenting with a new design for the computer. Unlike the typical room-size computers of the 1970s, his computer was small, inexpensive, and easy to use. Jobs came up with the name inspired by an orchard in Oregon where he once worked. On April 1, 1976, Apple Computer, Inc. was founded, and it would significantly change the world.
In the Times book, Lev Grossman, author of “Apple Boots Up,” describes the phenomenon this way: “They didn't go out and celebrate that day…. Nobody, not even Jobs, saw what was coming next: that Apple would create the look and feel of every desktop in the world and start our love affair with the personal computer.”
Thirty-one years later, in 2007, while Jason and Lauren Schmick of Madison, Wisconsin were anxiously awaiting the birth of their first child, in California, 2100 miles away, another baby was developing. At the Macworld Conference in January, Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s new product, “a widescreen iPod,” a “revolutionary mobile phone,” and a “breakthrough internet communicator.”
On June 29, 2007 Apple released the first iPhone. The creators thought it would be a fun, easy way to send a few messages. They had no idea how dramatically it was going to change the world again—how people learn, work, communicate, and are entertained.
On the same day the iPhone was introduced, the Schmick’s baby, a son, Noah, was born. In a fascinating documentary, “The iPhone Baby: How 15 Years Shaped a Generation,” Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal Senior Personal Tech Columnist, highlights the most significant changes in the iPhone’s 15-year history. She also traces the impact the iPhone has had on those born since 2007 and beyond, specifically, Noah Schmick. He is the “iPhone baby.” He’s never lived a day when there was no iPhone.
Over the past fifteen years, Apple has increased the iPhone’s power, battery life, and features. With digital music, front-facing camera, and thousands of apps, people began spending more and more time on their phones. As Noah expressed, “This is everything you need in the palm of your hands. Why would you ever be off of it?”
This unexpected and disturbing trend hit home in 2011 for Tony Fadell, one of the creators of the iPhone. While on vacation in Hawaii, he noticed that people could not put their iPhones down. Instead of enjoying the world around them, they were trying to capture the perfect paradise selfie. As he told Ms. Stern, “We are disintermediating reality with this screen in front of our face.” Apple creators wanted the iPhone to be helpful. “We did not think,” noted Fadell, “it was going to become the center of your life.”
Ms. Stern concludes her documentary with a thought-provoking question: “After 15 years of living with the iPhone we now have to figure out how to live with it less…will we control it or will it control us?”
Increasing data on cell phone use and abuse should be cause for alarm and vigilance on the part of every individual, certainly every Christian. What seems totally harmless in itself is gradually and surreptitiously robbing us of our time and our lives.
We are told to Pay careful attention to how you live…making the most of the time, because the days are evil (Eph.5:15-16, CSB), yet we spend hours on our phones texting and swiping. We check them first thing in the morning, even though the Lord calls us to seek Him first. (Matt. 6:33) We’re on them while driving, with full knowledge of the danger. We text people we’re in the same room with. We interrupt meaningful conversations to check non-essential messages. We light up our phones in dark theaters and look at them during meetings. We are spoiling family meals and disturbing others with our endless chatter in public places. We are locking ourselves into a prison of ever-increasing dependency. Has the iPhone become another idol?
Young Noah in the documentary shows maturity and insight: “... no one can stop you from being on the phone at all times besides your own self-discipline.” Don’t we owe it to the people in our lives, particularly the younger generation, and to God, to practice self-control and to genuinely love our neighbor? The answer is yes, and the action to take? Simply, turn it off.
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering…. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking (Romans 12:1-2, MSG).