Monday, September 8, 2014

8 Perks To Not Having A Cell Phone

I don't have a cell phone.  Not because they are expensive or I can't afford one or anything like that.

I'm a conscientious objector.

Even though it drives my friends and family and co-workers bonkers because I can't always be easily reached or respond to messages in 2.8 seconds or instantly post pictures of what I ate for lunch (a chicken salad sandwich... in case you were wondering), I still refuse to have one.

I've had plenty of people try to convince me of the perks of getting a cell phone (usually my teen-aged children or my co-workers when they need someone to cover their shift).  I've heard the lists proclaiming the glories and conveniences that I'm missing out on (snap chat, for instance... How am I living my life under such Third World conditions?). And I've met with the shock and disbelief of others when they realize I'm not constantly connected to the entire world (It is a viable option, people).

So I've compiled a list.  A list of perks that you may not have considered in most of your cell phone captive lives. Here are the top benefits to NOT having a cell phone.

1. Actual verbal conversations.  If you need to contact me, I have a land line.  No texting options available. I know this sounds like absolute horror for anyone under the age of twenty-one, but actual verbal conversations are my preferred method of communication.  It means you get to hear my exasperation when you call me to volunteer for something I think is a waste of time.  It means you will hear my annoyance when you call to ask if I can work for you on the day I asked off over two months ago because I had something super important planned.  (I hope you feel guilty.  I really do.)  It also means you can hear excitement and gratitude and sincerity and sarcasm (Okay.  Maybe not sarcasm... at least not if I'm doing it right.)  Think of how many misunderstandings and hurt feelings could be avoided by simply hearing tone of voice and inflection.  Texting conveys none of the nuance of meaning and emotion and intent that spoken conversation possesses.  It's really wonderful.  You should try it sometime.

2. Face-to-face interactions.  My attention is not constantly focused on a tiny electronic screen.  This means my attention is freed up for connection with other people. I can share very real moments with my husband, my children, my friends, my co-workers... even the chick behind the counter who is about to totally screw up my order.  We can look each other in the eye when we speak to each other.  We can hear each other laugh or cry, or ask for extra ketchup.  We can share space and thought and consideration all at the same time... at least if I can get them to look up from their tiny electric screens.

3. More free time.  79% of smartphone users have their phones with them 22 hours each day.  Eighty percent of smartphone users check their phones within fifteen minutes of waking up. ( I got these stats here.)  The majority of cell phone users are tied to their devices like electronic leashes.  With that kind of constant connectivity, there's never a dull moment.  There's always a text to answer or a cat meme to laugh at or weather to check or candy to crush.  With constant passive entertainment or distraction, there is no time to be bored, or be alone with our thoughts.  With every moment of our lives filled, there is no time for daydreaming, mind-wandering, beautiful silences.  No time to contemplate the universe or our insignificance in it. But without an attachment to a phone and constant access to a never-ending stream of information and games and Youtube videos, I have more time for contemplating the universe or my insignificance in it.  More time to be truly free and creative.  Even more time to just simply contemplate what's for dinner (although there's an app for that, too)

4. The ability to be in the moment.  Without instant access to camera phones and video recorders and snap chat and Instagram, I'm never tempted to document every moment of my life.  I can see a vibrant sunset, and instead of trying to find the best angle from which to capture the image and then upload it for all of my internet buddies to tell me how beautiful it is, I can just see it.  I can sit in the moment and just soak it up for all it's worth.  And it's worth isn't determined by how many likes the photo gets on Facebook.  The same is true for delicious meals I've eaten and landmarks I've visited and wacky horribly dressed awkward people I've spotted at Wal-mart.  I'm free to enjoy them for the simple value of their being, rather than feeling the need to pimp my every waking moment out to the entire free world.

5. Not being physically tracked.  When you have your cell phone turned on, it registers it's location periodically with local cell towers... whether you're using it or not.  And government officials and local police have access to this information, without your permission, and without a warrant.  It might seem trivial, and I might be channeling my inner conspiracy theorist, but I don't really want the government, or anyone else for that matter, knowing my every move.  Even though my life is pretty boring by most standards,... I frequent the public library, and spend way too much time at Wal-mart, and go to the gym... oh, and I walk the dog around the neighborhood... it's still the principle of the matter.  There are rights to privacy (You know?  That pesky little Fourth Amendment?) that I and many other Americans hold dear that are being violated in ways that must have our forefathers spinning in their graves.  I'm sure I'm probably being tracked via satellite or drones or FBI spies, but I like to think I'm making it a little bit harder on them by not carrying a cell phone.

6. Sticking it to the NSA! The National Security Agency  has access to all of your cell phone conversations, even the one where your mother nagged you about actually doing something with your life, and the one where your cousin asked to borrow money even though he hasn't paid you back from last time.  Every single day, the American government hijacks and stores nearly two billion cell calls and text messages and emails. Call me crazy, but I'm not participating in this twisted dystopian excerpt from 1984 (although that was a good year).  No the NSA will have to get their jollies off of my landline conversations...where they can still hear my mother nag and my cousin beg for money.

7. Avoiding possible cancer risk.  While the experts can't seem to make up their minds about whether cell phone use actually increases cancer risk or not, (the argument has gone back and forth like an out-of-control see saw and dueling scientists think it may take decades to sort out), I'll err on the side of caution.  Besides I spend enough of my day exposed to other forms of cancer-causing nonsense that I can't as easily control.

8. Peace of Mind. You know that gut-wrenching panicky feeling you get when you've lost your phone, or dropped your phone, or spilled something on your phone?  Yeah... I don't have that.

So while you are over there reading this blog post on your smart phone... I'll just be over here enjoying my sunset and my chicken salad sandwich... both of which you'll never get to see.

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