Surviving Without a Cell Phone: Why Yes!

March 28, 2014 | Posted in: Psychology

Surviving Without A Cell Phone

“Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation.” Jean Arp


The screenshot above displays the most searched phrases on Google that begin with “surviving without a…” Right after losing one’s job, it appears that people go to Google to learn how to survive losing their cell phones. This dependency, I think, could use a little illuminating.

From my senior year of high school up until completing my BA I had a dinky little phone. It was nothing fancy: no camera, no internet, just texts and calls. But it served its purpose of allowing me to text fight with my boyfriend and avoid answering calls from my friends and family. Despite how little I used my phone (and how little it was capable of doing), I was still panicky when I cancelled my $50 (!) a month service. I felt oddly like my lifeline to the world was about to be cut, and this irrational fear was proof that I’d became dependent on a device I’d happily lived without for the majority of my cave-woman life.

It’s been four years now that I’ve been without a cell phone. Since graduating, I’ve been perpetually low on cash (due to avoiding the world of full-time employment like it’s a death sentence), so my money has to go far. And a cell phone I’ve learned isn’t the necessity many of us think it is. My computer is my phone now, using the entirely free service of googlevoice, which allows me to make calls and send texts right through gmail. Despite the clear awesomeness of this situation (I spend no money and still keep in touch with all my people) my friends love to point out to me the indignity of having what they dub a “computer phone”. They complain that I never answer (even though I never did when I had a cellphone either) and that the quality of the connection isn’t as good (but since I hear their griping loud and clear, the connection can’t be that bad).

Mona Lisa duckface selfie meme highlights the dangers of cell phone use to one's lips, original creator unknown.

Mona Lisa duckface selfie meme highlights the dangers of cell phone use to one’s lips, original creator unknown.

Generally, when I tell someone I don’t have a cellphone, they quickly ask a series of questions to discover if my lack of phone results from some mental defect or extremist ideology. Some people, once I’ve explained that yep, I don’t have a phone and I really don’t miss one, give a sigh and say something like, “Yeah, sometimes I think it’d be nice not to have one, or at least only use it for emergencies.” But I can see the addict-twinge in their eyes, their hand slipping subconsciously into their bag to ensure their precious phone hasn’t vanished.

“Relentless digital ‘checking behavior’ has joined the closet of neurotic compulsions, and we’ve added these phobias to our quiver: nomophobia/mobophobia (the fear of leaving your cell phone at home), phantom vibrations (thinking your cell phone is vibrating even though no one is calling), and FOMO (fear of missing out…). Continuous partial attention (focusing halfheartedly) has become pervasive as we’re tugged by ringtones, text-tunes, incoming-mail pings, calendar flags, update alerts, new-post beeps, pop-ups, and the nagging possibility that something more engrossing may appear.” Diane Ackerman, The Human Age

I’ll admit that occasionally there are times when a cellphone would be handy (like meeting up with cellphone-toting friends who don’t know how to just pick a time and place to meet), but honestly in the four years I’ve been without one, I’ve rarely bemoaned the absence. And this transition, from thinking I’d miss having my phone to forgetting that I ever had one, happened within two months of canceling my service.

And there are perks to not having a phone which are little appreciated:

  1. You’re not always at the whim of anyone needing you at anytime, anywhere. When I don’t have my computer or internet, people just have to wait. And since they know that my lack of response is due to a lack of a phone, they have to forgive me.
  2. Cellphone detox: You quickly begin to heal from the super addictive and neurotic need to check your cell constantly, in case someone’s called or texted, or something has happened on twitter, facebook, email, instagram, pinterest, or the millions of other endless digital distractions. This allows you to return your attention to what’s actually occurring in the moment around you, even if what’s occurring is simply you sitting by yourself (it’s ok, I promise).
  3. You escape the endless cycle of replacing a perfectly good technological device with a newer version or product, thus saving precious natural resources and money, and reducing e-waste.
  4. No phone means one less thing to carry around and worry about. Simplicity is highly underrated in our society today, but truly, less is more, especially when so much of technology (example: iphone, ipod, ipad, even an iwatch) is being built to perform the same basic functions (internet, email, phone calls, music) with only a few minor differences setting them apart.

If you have a cellphone I’m not telling you to grab a rock and smash it. While this whole post has been about how cell phones are ruining your life, I’ll admit that they’re useful and in some situations life-saving. All I’m saying is that if you ever need or decide to cancel your service, not only is surviving without a cell phone possible, but you really won’t miss it as much as you think you will…

To end, allow comedian Louie C.K. to explain why he hates cell phones:

Just one person out of 7 billion + on a journey to live a life that is vibrant, soul-fulfilling, useful to others, and consciously engaged with the ecological community that sustains all life, including mine and yours.