Thursday, May 03, 2007My case against cell phones
As a disclaimer, I believe cell phones can serve a good purpose when used in moderation. I had a cell phone when my husband was deployed and I was in and out of town a lot; it was the only way he could get a hold of me. I also think the pay-as-you-go phones are a nice idea for use in case of an emergency on the roadside or other such incidence. Cell phones also are useful for people who's jobs demand it especially if you have your own business and need to separate your home line from your work line. I also want to make it clear that I don't think that everyone who has a cell phone is selfish, ignorant, or wrong. They may be just going the flow with society and some may simply use theirs as something of a convenience, rather than a social lifeline. The majority of my family members have one as well as almost every single one of my friends.
All I know is that there is a certain kind of day to day living that I personally want to experience... and for me, that doesn't involve cell phones. And I think it worth the time to explain why. Now just why on earth WOULDN'T I want a 2 inch, zebra-striped, camera phone strapped to hip wherever I go?! Many reasons:
- First and foremost, it's simply one extra bill we DON'T need.
- Talking on the cell phone while driving is unsafe to yourself and other drivers, even if you do have one of those ear-pieces. People who are on cell phones while driving rarely realize how badly they're driving by the way... so don't try to sneak out of this accusation! I'd say at least 50% of bad driving we see on the road involves people on their phones. I'm a bad enough driver WITHOUT a phone so I don't need that temptation.
- Cell phones can inhibit natural conversations and interactions that would happen in "real life" moments. Standing in the grocery store line, waiting for an airplane, walking around in crowds, etc. You never know what kinds of friendships or moments of grace you're missing out on by talking on the phone.
- I LIKE to be unreachable sometimes. When we go on a daytrip or on a hike, we are free from worrying about prosaic concerns until we get home. (Some reasonable people simply turn those phones off and that's fine too.)
- I love the shocked looks we get when people find out we don't have a cell phone. That alone makes it worth it.
- We never have to worry about embarrasing moments like a Sir-Mix-A-Lot ring-tone sounding loudly during Mass because we forgot to turn it off.
The number one reason I dislike cell phones is that they take people out of the NOW. If I'm chatting with a friend and her phone rings and she answers it and yik-yaks for a couple minutes... this message is that she can't fully commit to me at that time, even if her heart is in the right place. We have so many things in society begging for our attention. We're taught the skill and efficiancy of multi-tasking. It's so rare to just BE where you are and present with the planned and chance encounters that are happening in the 3-D world here. Even if we are physically present with our family and friends, we are called away mentally by various phone calls that eat up our time. Same goes for "texting." I have a friend who has a cell phone, but I didn't discover this until a year after knowing her. (Speaks volumes, doesn't it?) She's never given me that number and I've had sense enough not to ask. They use it for emergency situations and pay as they go. Bravo.
I don't think the average person NEEDS a cell phone. But 49% of people say they couldn't live without it. Sure it's a great convenience. I know because I've had one, and when you are a regular cell phone user you almost always think it's necessary and you probably think you use it prudently (which may or may not be true). And I thought life would be incredibly difficult and inconvenient without one. But it's not! It's so liberating! It would be nice, sometimes to call my husband when I need him to get one more thing I forgot to tell him at the grocery store. And it would be nice when we're in crowds trying to meet up somewhere (we actually have old fashioned walkie-talkies for just such occasions!). But the freedom knowing that I'm not tempted to take away from the people and situations that I want to fully devote myself to is worth all the inconveniences. I imagine it's like quitting tobacco; there will be some withdrawals at first. But my husband and I are well into our second year without a cell phone and we are more and more thankful that we DON'T have one.
What about all those people who tell me they have one for emergencies? Well, I think there's still something to be said about good old trust in mankind. We've stopped a couple times to help out broken-down motorists on the side of the road, only for them to tell us that they've already made a call and help is on the way. If I broke down without my husband, I suppose the thought of flagging down a passing car is abhorrent to some people. "It's unsafe. You never know what kind of people will stop!" Well, I say that I'm providing opportunities for boy-scout values that cell phones prevent nowadays. There are good people in the world who would love to feel "needed" and helpful to you. There's something to be said for prudence, but I don't think it's in any way irresponsible to NOT have a cell phone. I think it opens the doors for something that seems to be a lost art: brotherly love. Sometimes we have to step outside of worldly values (caution, self-reliance, independence) in order to have faith in mankind and trust in the providence of God.
And that is why I don't have a cell phone.