Sunday, December 9, 2012

Why I do not own a cell phone

I do not own a cell phone, and do not plan on getting one.
Here are my reasons; I think they are good ones:

*I worked as a pediatrician for many years, essentially on-call at least 80% of the time. It's nice not to be tethered to the human bustle. It distracts me from the infinite hum of life around me.

*I cannot be two places at once. When I am walking, I am walking under a sky of infinite variation. I feel the twigs beneath my feet. I see the faces of those who walk by, though many cannot see me. If I cannot be two places at once, I have a choice to make--which place matters more to me? Surprises me how few folks realize they have a choice.

*I do not like being tracked by anything farther than my voice can carry. That a grackle eyes me before going back to rustling through leaves, looking for bugs, makes me feel more whole. That a cell phone system can do the same unnerves me. I do not like it, and have liked it less since the Patriot Act.

No, I am not a criminal, I am a school teacher who knows a little history. If I cannot use a cell phone without a perpetual electronic collar, I have a choice to make. Surprises me how few folks realize they have a choice.

*But what if someone needs to call you about this calamity or that? I do not spend my waking hours worrying about catastrophes. Bad things will happen even if I carry a cell phone, and knowing them a few minutes earlier than I otherwise would is not going to change a thing.

*They're expensive. I have to make about a grand before taxes in order to pay for a year's worth of service. If I used a cell phone, much of the money I earn teaching would go to support my phone use. I would rather spend my money on a few decent books, decent ale, another clam rake (I got a bad habit), or give it away.

*It's one more thing to worry about. I clam, I kayak, my wallet has salt stains on it. It's a rare week when at least some of me is not in the bay.

And maybe the bay is the biggest reason I do not plan to get a phone--so many evenings, as the sun settles on the bay's edge, I remember, at some deep level, that I am, and (perhaps) always will be, a part of this thing, whatever this thing is, and I  fear the phone leashes me to schedules independent of the stars, to ideas contrary to what we know is true.

The ancients may not have had the sophisticated grasp of what we call science, but they knew the natural world. They lived in it, of it--the abstract cannot truly represent the real. The cell phone separates me, incrementally, from what I think matters.

So I don't own one.
Thanks for asking!

This is NOT a diatribe against cell phones in general--I fond them incredibly useful for students in school.
Most of my students are walking around with phenomenal personal devices, and I encourage them to use them.
But school is already so artificial it hardly matters.

And yes, I am aware I am coming off as a sanctimonious ass here--it's just a blog.


Sue VanHattum said...

I might give mine up when my son is old enough to take care of himself.

But I will probably have graduated to a smart phone by then, and I know I'll like getting driving directions too much for it to be easy to give it up. (I called a friend across the country on Thursday to get local driving directions, since none of my local friends answered their phones. It was an unexpected drive.)

Sue VanHattum said...

Do you live within walking distance of all that beauty? Wow.

doyle said...

Dear Sue,

I'm not being fair--Leslie has a cell phone, and pointed out exactly what you said--except that they are never old enough. You will always keep the channels open.

And yeah, we're spoiled. In North Cape May, we can walk to the beach, though we usually bike. It's less than a mile away, and one of the few places on the East Coast you can watch the sun set on water.

Dear Susan,

Balance is indeed hard--but I doubt many kids are wandering into the "too much nature" side.

I suspect it's not just teenagers that need balance, and it's possible Ive gone over the edge the other way--I'll ponder that as rake up a mess of clams next Saturday.....

Unknown said...

I also don't own a cell phone. People think I'm crazy for that. But I have no cell phone and no alarm clock. I'm convinced that they both make life worse and not better.

doyle said...

Dear John,

Once again, you manage to reduce my verbosity to the crucial few words:

I'm convinced that they both make life worse and not better.

(BTW, your latest post with the photos of your kids was phenomenal!!!)

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael, just joining in as a member of the non-cell-phone-owning club.

I am interesting to note which items provoke the "but are you against other people having/doing x?" reaction. I don't own a wireless mouse, or a drip coffee maker; no one anxiously asks me if I'm against them. Yet when people find out I don't own or want a cell phone, I often encounter a demand to justify my choice and give my blessings to others' choices. I wonder why this reaction happens, why anyone cares about my blessing, and why it happens more often for some items than others.

I also really appreciated your point about the choices we don't realize we have. Despite the rhetoric on either side, we can choose carefully which technologies improve our lives... neither embracing nor rejecting "technology" as a category.

One way that I can make sense of this is to notice, as you have, that I benefit in some ways because *others* have cell phones. It could seem one-sided to appreciate those benefits without being willing to share in the downsides. The way I make sense of this is that my cell-phone owning friends contribute things to my life; I contribute other things to their lives. In a community, we all have the responsibility to contribute -- but we also have the responsibility to choose wisely what to contribute -- and I tend to prioritize the things that are underrepresented.

Have you come across the magazine called Geez? I wonder what you would think of it (maybe I've even recommended it here before -- if so, sorry to proselytize!). Their Super Cyber issue has some of the most thoughtful, nuanced writing about technology that I've seen. I especially liked editor Will Braun's article "7 Criteria for the Adoption of New Technology."

Anonymous said...

I too do not own, or use a cell phone. I am happy with my decision to finally be rid of something which I rarely used ... what's the point ... I have a landline; and if someone needs to get in touch with me, eventually I will respond :-) I have never bought into the thought that I need a cell phone because [insert marketing machine's excuses].

I find that my life is much more peaceful than my friends and family who own cell phones. Alas, I am happy with my decision to opt out!

Unknown said...

I have a cell phone...but the only person that phones me is my wife...oh...and calls for work!

Lee said...

I had one because I could. Then when my income was reduced by two-thirds a while ago, the first things to go were the satellite television (no cable here) and the cell phone. Only in the past year have I gotten "tv" back, but only as a way to view the internet programming on my tv set (since I'm paying for internet anyway). And this past summer I got a cell phone again. But for all the reasons you mentioned, plus a few more of my own, the phone will be discontinued after the end of this year. Yes, I'll end up paying the penalty fee for ending the contract early, but I'll still save a ton of money but not paying the monthly fee for another 18 months.
"Surprises me how few folks realize they have a choice." Well said. It surprises me, and it also frightens me to a degree.
Somehow we all managed to grow up without being in constant contact with our parents, either visually or by electronic means. I too resent being watched or monitored all the time and count myself blessed to live somewhere where a lot of that can be avoided. Tying myself to a GPS tracking device (i.e., a cell phone) on purpose doesn't sit well with me. Luckily there are still paper maps to be had or printed off the internet, although then someone knows where you're planning on going :p ). And really, I'm not so important that I need to be within a phone call's reach at any hour of the day or night.
And for those of us who live in rural areas where cell phone coverage is spotty at best, owning a cell phone here is one of the biggest rip-offs there is! My monthly fee never changes even if I can't use the phone half the time. I can't think of any other product or service where so many people are willing to pay so much for something that performs poorly at least some of the time, and in some cases, a majority of the time!

S. Jill said...

Nicely put. I grew up without cell phones. Never got into it. Am glad you spoke here about it in a positive way because to many people it is strange. But to me all that staring and listening to devices is just not the way I want to live. Even like to read maps. No kidding. And every single day nature, weather, loved ones bring the world into my senses. Can't drop that to serve the machine.

Am a live-and-let-live type of person. There is this problem with wireless, though. I feel it actually is unfair to irradiate everyone else in the name of technological "progress." I don't really want those I love to be exposed to a soup of microwave emissions. This includes children and elders. The second-hand wireless situation is worse than tobacco smoke, and never proven safe for the chronic, long-term. Please see historical book by Motorola researcher/phone developer called Cellular Telephone, Russian Roulette, free online. Plus, know that the FCC is not even enforcing the microwave heating levels of cell towers, which the EMR Policy Institute recently disclosed. The 2012 BioInitiative Reports also show lots of biological damage from low RF emissions. Not to preach or anything but they should have researched the effects of tons of cellphones, smart meters, wifi, antennas, etc. before setting it loose.

doyle said...

Dear Jill,

I often wonder what would happen if we had strong evidence that cell phones (and the many other RF emitting devices) caused real harm--would we, as a culture, change?

The sad answer is, I think, no--we still drive cars, we still blast poisons on our food, we still act in biologically insane ways each and every day.

Thanks for your warm words.

Anonymous said...

I guess I am a little late for this comment, but I do not own a cell phone. I am a retired Latin teacher -- not too many of us around anymore. Don't like being tracked and don't really care to be connected more than I am. I live on a farm and would rather hear the owls at night or the turkeys gobbling in the woods. Live will go on whether I am aware or not.

Anonymous said...

I do not own a cell phone and never have. Don't care to be that connected to people I cannot touch and see every day. I live life with my senses, not virtually.

doyle said...

Dear Anonymous,

Within the mix of the approaching storm coinciding with the arrival of family and friends for the holiday, this anonymous note warmed me up this morning. Life will go on, despite our electronic security blankets

Thanks for sharing your words