Why I Don't Have a Cell Phone

I don’t have a cell phone. 

There was a time, not so long ago, when that statement wasn’t shocking or strange. But that time has passed. Now pretty much everyone has a cell phone. Here is why I do not.

I don’t need a cell phone

I can’t say I don’t want a cell phone. 

There are many times when I do want a cell phone. I am writing this article ‘offline’, because for some reason, just this morning, I have awakened to dead wi-fi. If I had a cell phone this morning I could tether to its cellular internet. That’d make life easier. I think.

I want that cool device. The new gold one. I want that good camera in my pocket. I want to rule Instagram. I want to be able to send real-live text messages. When the iPhone 6 comes out, with its new bells and whistles, I’m going to want that.

But I should not have everything I want.

Every time the want rises like a tide around my neck, just before my head is submerged, I drain the sea with a simple question;

Do I need a cell phone?

Is it worth $60-70 a month to have a cell phone in my pocket? 

It may surprise you that the answer is always ‘no’. 

What about keeping in touch?

I still have a landline. My wife has a cell phone for work. And you would be surprised how easy it is to borrow a phone if need be (forget pay phones, they have almost vanished). If I really need to call someone, I find a way. I am grateful for the customer service desks in department stores. 

Most of my communication doesn’t happen on a phone line, anyways. I do have a laptop and an iPad mini. Oh, and an iPod touch. I have plenty of ways to connect to wi-fi and get email. And wi-fi is pretty much everywhere these days.

What about emergencies?

About 5 years ago I had a cell phone for emergencies. 

It was a flip phone, with few options – hard to find even then. My plan was just $15 a month. I got two consecutive bills with zero minutes used. No calls. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Even $15 is too much to pay for absolutely nothing. The emergency never happened, and I don’t believe in paying a bunch of money for a 'just in case'. We become incredibly inventive in emergencies. 

Emergencies are a good reason to have a cell phone. But for me, hypothetical crises don’t necessitate the purchase.

Oh, and your kids probably don’t need one either. You never had one. You’re still alive.

What about social media? 

I’m no luddite. I have apps and games. I have an iPod touch, which is pretty darn close to a cell phone, with the important distinction that it is not ‘connected' at all times. I am on Twitter. I am on Facebook. I am on social media as much as I’d like to be. Likely more. 

I'm not worried about social media. I prefer face-to-face engagement. That takes priority. And when I have face-to-face engagements, I am there.

I like to be present

When you are with me, turn your bleeping phone off. I understand how tempting it is. Heck, even I want to reach across the table and play with it. But I am right here, right now, and if you cannot be present with me, in this moment, when can you be present?

Can you be present with your family? Can you be present with God? Can you be present with your self even?

Four friends. Round table. Restaurant. Every one of them looking down into screens. Here, but elsewhere. I don’t believe in this. 

I am way too easily distracted. 

I like to be present.

I like to be creative

Creativity requires presence. It takes mindfulness. According to Warren Berger in A More Beautiful Question, the internet is awesome for answers, but weak for forming new, curious questions. This is where you and I come in.

You read this blog because you want to be creative, right? Well you are creative, and the more you free yourself up to tap into that inner well, the better. 

Cell phones do not lead us down the path of mindfulness and silence. They are reactive devices by design, with all their ringers, and vibrations and notifications. They demand attention

Creativity requires us to pay attention where it is not demanded of us. It requires a proactive engagement. 

I like to be creative.

I like to be private

I don’t want you to have access to me at all times. Google Glass scares the hell out of me. Or into me.

I want to decide when to give you access to me, and when to close it off. I have always hated this about a phone - even a corded landline. When the phone rings, its a crisis. You have to respond, NOW! Stop what you’re doing and respond, or ignore the call and make a negative statement. 

If I need connection, even when I am walking from my home to the coffee-shop–they both have wi-fi–something is wrong. 

I’m just not that important. Nobody should be. 

I like to save money

I'd choose iPhone. I’m a Mac guy. I’m bought into that ‘ecosystem’ and enjoy that technology. I haven't found any way to own an iPhone for less than $60-70 a month. That’s a lot of money, on contract, for 2 years. Even at $50 a month, over two years, that’s $1200. And that’s if the phone is free. 

Right now, my cell phone bill never comes. It’s non-existent. I put that $60 elsewhere. A gym membership. A nice dinner. A new pair of shoes. Gas.

I like to save money.

I Like to be 'That Guy Without a Cell Phone'

If I’m honest, this is part of my reasoning. I am that guy without a cell phone. I don’t do much that makes me a rebel. I like the raised eyebrows and the disbelief when people find out I have no cell phone. 

I like living upstream. 

I like to be an example that life without a digital tether is possible. I think it’s important for us to have examples like that. 

It’s important for us to remember there are other ways of being

I know it’s egotistical, but I like to be that guy without a cell phone.  

I am Weak

I am writing about a personal decision. I hope this post is inspiring, or jarring, but it is not prescriptive. Mine not the only answer to address many of the problems pointed out above. There is also, for example, self-control.

I encourage you to consider your relationship with technology. 

Interrogate your tools. Test every technology you use regularly. 

Ask yourself, ‘is this making me a better human, or is this making me less human?’ 

Even better, ‘is this improving, or deteriorating my relationships?'

I have a hard time turning off. I get distracted. I feel the need to reply immediately and check my email every fifteen minutes. 

I’m working on it. 

Having a cell phone would not help me. I fear I would become the worst of the 'face-in-the-screen' scene. 

I want to leave a large piece of myself for my friends. For my family. For my God. For my self. 

You ain’t gettin’ me, cell phone. I’m already taken.

Ask Yourself

Why do I have a cell phone?
Do I need a cell phone?
How might I live without a cell phone in my pocket?
How might I spend my phone bill money elsewhere?

I know you assume that you need a cell phone. That you couldn’t get by without one. But you probably could get by.

You have good reasons to want a cell phone, and having one is fine, but I doubt you need one. You should not feel like you have to have one. Like you have no choice.

You have a choice. If you are like me, that might be good thing.

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