Four Reasons to Ditch your Cellphone

No cellphone sign at Bet-Ariela library

This morning I read a Wall Street Journal article about Americans without cellphones. Being an American without a cellphone myself, I was heartened to find out that a mere 88% of adult Americans have cellphones. I had thought the number would be much higher.

Occasionally I try to convince people to give up the cell and reinstall the landline, but I realize that I’m tilting at the windmills. A few years ago, I offered a hefty amount of extra credit to one of my university classes. All the students had to do was hand me their phones for five days. Out of about fifty students, three took me up on the offer. As one girl handed me her phone, she announced that her dad would be so proud of her for putting academics first. The next day, the girl sheepishly returned, saying that her dad demanded that she get her phone back because she needed it “in case of emergency.”

And her dad was right, sometimes emergencies do happen. But emergencies by their very nature are rare, and I believe that cellphones take more than they give. Here are my four reasons why I’m glad that I don’t have a cellphone.

1. Cellphones rob us of our money. This was my original reason for giving up my phone. If my wife and I disconnected our landline and each got cellphones, we’d spend about $1000 more per year on the phone bill. To most people, that’s a lot of money. To my way of thinking, an extra $1000 will go further in helping with real emergencies than a cellphone will. In addition to the expense, now that I’ve ditched the phone, I realize that cellphones take a toll on less tangible aspects of life.

2. Cellphones rob us of our sense of place. Once upon a time, people invested time and energy in the idea of place. “Home” is the kind of place you have an emotional connection with. Americans have been bad at “place” for a long time. We wander too much, following jobs and dreams and rarely investing ourselves and laying roots in our communities. The cellphone has exacerbated this problem. I can’t even call “home” anymore. My parents have ditched their landline in favor of cellphones. Now I either call my mom or my dad. It’s just not quite the same.

3. Cellphones rob us of our ability to plan. Once upon a time, we had to know in advance where we were going and what time we’d be there. If you wanted to meet up with friends, you both had to be punctual. If you were heading to a new place, you needed directions before you left. How many times have you gotten the message, “I’ll just call you when I get close”? More convenient, yes. But I’ve noticed that this lack of planning spills over into other areas of life.

4. Cellphones rob us of our sense of adventure. Okay, so this one might seem to contradict my last point, but hear me out because I’ve noticed a certain lack of spontaneity in our cellphone culture. Once upon a time, when we found ourselves in an unfamiliar place, we could take some risks and see what happened. Now, however, when faced with the world outside, Americans retreat into the familiar space of their phones. No one risks conversation with a stranger. Why would we, when we carry all our friends and family in our pockets? The lure of the familiar keeps us from experiencing what the world has to offer.

I’m no Luddite, but I think this particular technology takes more than it gives. Chime in and tell me what you think. Have I left something off the list? Or have I underestimated the benefits? Try to persuade me that I need to buy a new cellphone.

15 responses

  1. I resigned from my position on Wednesday and left my cell phone with them. I should get bonus points considering it was my job to distribute the highest amount of cell phones possible to the public. At one point in time, we were cranking out a couple hundred per month.

  2. Oh where do I begin? First of all, people think the mobile phone will give them liberty but it does just the opposite! Little did I know when I tried to leave AT&T in the quest for a cheaper phone that I was enslaved to their company for what seems like the rest of my life! Yes I know I should have actually read the small print in the contract but WHO READS THE SMALL PRINT in their Godforsaken contracts! And another thing people–the govt. does NOT need a warrant, unlike they do with a landline, to access your cell phone records. Yes, I might sound like I’m part of the black helicopter crowd, but they are delving into these types of records at record pace–no pun intended. Secondly, on a cultural note, I had to laugh at the girl whose father insisted she have her phone for safety reasons. Cell phones have turned into a parenting tool, which we use to keep our kids safe and “help” them make good decisions. In other words, we are under the delusion we can know what our teens are doing and where they are at all times. As I said this is delusional folks! Lastly, although this is easier said than done, I want to stand up for the right of our kids to be on their own sometimes without parental intrusion. When I had those chances as a teen and young adult, I often made mistakes, but I also made some good and right decisions too. I say give the kids a chance…

      • Those are the times that try men’s–and women’s– souls, collin. I bet you will do fine, though. But be prepared. It is amazing how many perfectly good phones suddenly “die” or spontaneously combust only on Friday and Saturday nights when you are trying to reach your teenager:)

  3. Agreed that cell phones are a drag on finances and have destroyed our ability to plan. I would say that the internet has robbed us of our sense of adventure more than cell phones though. At least once a week someone stops and asks me for directions, but I don’t think many people just take a trip now without going online. I saw a tv show from the 90s a few months back and they were planning a road trip using a map and it looked so antiquated. Now you would just use Google maps or better yet, program your gps. You also can’t see a movie, eat at a new restaurant, or read a book without reading about it online-where’s the adventure in that?
    Big advantage to cell phone- NO SOLICITATIONS.

    • Your comment about 90s TV is funny because I recently experienced a similar moment. The other day, we were watching the Cosby Show, and Heathcliff and Claire were looking for a place to eat in a restaurant directory.

  4. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately! I’m really disgusted by how attached I am to my phone. Ever since getting an iPhone, I’ve spent a lot less time in deep thought. If I have a free minute, I use it to check Twitter.
    If I weren’t an RA that needed to be constantly available to 36 freshmen, I would love to get rid of my cell phone or, at the very least, keep it in my room.

  5. I still write down directions on a piece of paper before I leave, because I don’t have a smart phone or GPS. Jodey says I should at least print them out. There was another interesting article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend about how there has been a recent rise in injuries in children that may be related to parents who are distracted by their mobile devices.

    Maybe we should stop being apologetic and just embrace being Luddites? (types the girl from her iPad)

  6. I will share that I wholeheartedly agree that technology, namely cell phones, robs us off our ability to properly interact with one another. To be friendly! To listen…actually listen! The connection we have as family, friends, acquaintances, etc, is so easily broken whenever we choose to idolize the latest model of an electronic instead of the former.

  7. I loathe cellphones. I only got one and carry it because my husband insisted. But, I have to admit (I am a freelance writer mid-recession.) it is a useful tool for email. I have a new book I am promoting and need to be able to respond quickly to inquiries for work and PR opp’s, so having the ability to check email when away from home is helpful. But I generally keep it turned off. And I still use, and love, paper maps…

  8. Oh my goodness! I totally agree that we have become too dependent on wireless communication. I am including myself in this. But; my two youngest daughters, being 15 & 21 have cellphones. The 21-year-old just graduated from college, located about five hours from home. The 15-year-old travels with the high school band; and at times we are not with her, so it is great for her to have a way to communicate with us, letting us know she is on her way back from an away game, rather than her having to wait until they get to the school and call. They don’t always know exactly when they will be back. You know how football games go. But you are right, too dependent. Too dependent. : )

  9. I won’t try to convince you that you need a cell.
    I have a cell phone – I much prefer it to using a pay phone when I’m out – but I insist on it being a detachable item, especially when I’m around people -real, face to face people.
    It saddens me to see everyone with a phone in hand ignoring the person beside them – whether it’s at a restaurant, hanging out with friends, or in the living room with family. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.
    If I am truly honest, I resent cell phones. Or more pointedly, I resent how people use them.

    Great post! You’ve got me thinking about ditching mine. 🙂 Thanks for writing.

  10. I’ve revisited this topic too many times to recall. I still use a work cellphone, but only because i’m required to be contactable (i work in IT). Most of the time however, it stays in my bag. I’ll admit i was one of the first few amongst my peers all those eons ago to embrace mobile communications. But your last point has been my saving grace all these15 years (of using a cellphone)… the ability to be real to the people around you. I still miss phone calls and messages on the thing cause i just can’t seem to find it that important enough to stop me from whatever i am doing…

    i think in the end, having one with you is fine… its just how you deal with it…

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