How Smartphones Shape Us

Restoring our impersonal bodies to God’s original intention.


John Stonestreet

Jared Hayden

We are constantly looking at ourselves in this digital age. From Zoom calls to profile pictures to Instagram posts, our faces and our bodies are ever before us. 

As a result, we have become more concerned about our appearance. Teens take multiple selfies to make sure they get the “best” angle. Most adults even will quickly review the pictures taken of them and ask for more if they don’t like how they look. It’s easy to become self-obsessed or self-critical in a world where we are regularly forced and constantly enticed to look at our own appearance.  

Of course, scrutiny over our looks is nothing new. Humans have been obsessing about their appearance since before the Greek myth of Narcissus, the hunter so in love with his reflection in the river he drowned himself. Mirrors have also been around for millennia, and cameras have been around for a couple of centuries.  What is novel, however, is the ubiquity of smartphones and their ever-tempting, self-facing cameras.  

Henry David Thoreau once observed about the technology of his day: “We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us.” In other words, we may think we are the ones in control when it comes to our technology; however, our technology deeply shapes us—our understanding of the world, others, and ourselves.   

The same is true of our digital technology today, especially our smartphones. As one philosopher noted, as soon as something is placed inside a frame—whether that be a piece of art or our own reflection on a screen— “it asks to be examined. … what is within the frame is cut off from the rest of the world and cut off from me.”   

Put simply, when it comes to viewing ourselves on our screens, our smartphones (and related technologies) have taught us to view our bodies as something separate from our very selves. They have become impersonal objects—not only to be obsessed over or scrutinized but to be modified constantly, without consequence to the person. It’s becoming a short distance between airbrushing a photo and surgically changing a body. 

We’ve seen this especially with younger generations. For example, in the same decade that smartphones and social media usage became common and average daily screen time hovered around eight hours, the number of young women who experience body image issues or rapid onset gender dysphoria skyrocketed.   

It’s also affecting older generations. Zoom has confronted Baby Boomers with their appearance more regularly than in the past. As a result, according to one author, “Zoom dysmorphia” has set in and is likely a contributing factor to the increase in the number of female Baby Boomers pursuing cosmetic procedures.   

But Scripture teaches us something very different about our bodies. Fundamentally, they are not something separate from who we are. God made humans in His image, physical and spiritual, body and spirit. As the creation narrative describes it, God formed Adam out of the dust in the ground (physical) and breathed into him the breath of life (spiritual), and man became a living soul. This means that the body is a gift to be stewarded, not just some customizable accessory.  

Of course, we need more than a classroom education to counteract our screens’ dissociative effects. Thankfully, the Bible offers a better catechesis. As Solomon reminds us in Proverbs, the way of wisdom—and of personal wholeness—lies beyond our screens and in the real world. What is needful is to marvel at the ant or the locust—to live in, observe, and embrace the real world that God has given us.   

Unplugging from our phones and social media platforms allows us to do just that. While digital communication may be necessary for various aspects of work and life, endlessly scrolling through infinite feeds is not. When we “unplug” from our phones and social media, we are doing more than avoiding bad content or protecting our kids. We are engaging in a kind of re-formation, a reformation of our hearts and minds, using the wisdom found in God’s creation. That points us, above all, to the truth about our Creator, who made us embodied creatures.  

This Breakpoint was co-authored by Jared Hayden. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to 


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