Left to Their Own Devices: Smartphones and Relationships (Albright)

Left to Their Own Devices: How Digital Natives Are Reshaping the American Dream by [Albright, Julie M.]  Here’s another helpful resource on how smartphones and other similar screens have been detrimental to relationships, health, and wholeness: “Left to Their Own Devices: How Digital Natives are Reshaping the American Dream” by Julie Albright.  This 2019 publication isn’t exactly like Sherry Turkle’s “Alone Together,” but there are overlapping themes.  I don’t have time to give a full review here (I did write one on Amazon), but I do want to mention that it is worth reading.  Although it’s not a Christian book, it is one that will be helpful for Christians seeking wisdom on the use and abuse of screens.

Here’s one section I highlighted:

This intervention of smartphones mediating our relationships at one level or another has left us, as MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle puts it, ‘Alone Together.’  Many adults fail to understand just how vital connectivity has become to kids.  Teens and young adults would rather lose their wallet or purse, or go home without house keys than lose their cell phone.  Because of this growing dependency on devices, some psychologists have suggested that they are addictive.  Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat all present users a vast array of imagery, films, and text ranging from boring to novel or exciting, serving as something that psychologists call ‘random reinforcers’ of behavior.  It’s the same process that goes on when you pull the lever on the flashing slot machine – and keep on pulling it.  Random reinforcement – where sometimes you win, sometimes you lose – is the most powerful behavior reinforcer there is.  It’s no surprise then that it’s baked into all of the major social media apps to keep users coming back for more.  Parents are also getting sucked into the same addictive vortex, compulsively using devices with their kids, leaving kids hungering – and perhaps acting out – to get their attention.  In one study, 38 percent of kids said they felt unimportant when their parents were with them, staring at devices; even sadder, 28 percent of the parents agreed with them” (p. 130-131; footnotes not included).

If you’re interested in this topic, this book makes my “recommended reading” list: Left to Their Own Devices by Julie Albright.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015