I thought that a good follow-up article to my last one, Being Mindful with Technology, would be a thought-provoking treatise on why I live in a cellphone-free household. Interestingly, when I did a Google search for “stats on cellphone free households Canada”, all that came up were articles on how the majority of Canadian households have cellphones and not landlines…not exactly what I was after. If I was to throw out a rough guesstimate of how many Canadian households are cellphone-free, I would say 10-15% and that would probably be higher than the actual number.
To give you a sense of how bizarre it seems to most people when my husband and I tell them neither of us owns a cellphone, most people are left speechless and cannot even begin to comprehend how on earth, in this cellphone-based culture, we can survive without at least ONE between the two of us. After three people in one day incredulously asked me how on earth I get by without a cellphone, I became inspired to write an article on the topic. I figured that some of you, my devoted dear readers, may find my reasoning somewhat interesting and worth pondering.
I want to start off by saying that even though I choose to not have a cellphone, I don’t go around preaching to others piously about being cellphone free. Most of the time (to be completely honest which I do my best to be as much of the time as I can), I am not judging people on cellphones. In my own case, just because I don’t have a cellphone, that doesn’t preclude me from being addicted to technology; constantly scouring parts of the city I live in for free Wi-Fi so I can check my e-mail…I admit to doing this constantly- except on Saturday when I force myself to take one day off from checking email and I have to say, those days are very difficult to get through because I am so addicted to email!
And while I get really pissed when someone’s cellphone rings during a yoga class, or I overhear an entire conversation because someone has decided to put their conversation on speakerphone at the grocery store, I still understand the arguments people make to justify cellphone use such as:
- They are useful for staying connected with teenaged children and to provide some level of safety to these young adults
- They need to be available because they have a loved one who is very ill
- Any type of doctor who needs to be contacted to perform emergency surgery
- Midwives- for being able to spring into action when a baby is about to say hello to the world
- Someone undergoing a serious job search who wants to pick up the phone the instant it could be a potential employer calling to inform them that they got a job
- Someone in recovery from an addiction who needs to get a hold of their sponsor the minute they find themselves looking for booze, drugs, or cupcakes.
At the same time, for those of you who grew up in the age without cellphones, I feel a reminder is in order:
WE ALL MANAGED TO SURVIVE WITHOUT CELLPHONES UNTIL THEY WERE INVENTED AND BECAME A THING WE ALL HAD TO HAVE…
Teenagers somehow survived by having to use a payphone to call parents for an update on their whereabouts
We dealt with very ill loved ones despite not having a cellphone and did our best to be there when needed
I believe doctors required to perform emergency surgery had this odd device called a “pager” which alerted them to get their butt to the hospital ASAP when they were needed
Women throughout the centuries somehow managed to give birth whether they could get a hold of their midwife in time…and not to insult midwives, but if we’re totally honest, many women didn’t/don’t have the option of entertaining a midwife in the first place
For the serious job searcher- we used to have these clunky odd machines with things called cassette tapes in them called ‘answering machines’- yes young ones, listen up- we used to have a machine at home which would record the voices of people who were trying to reach us when we weren’t home and it kindly shared those messages with us upon our return when we pushed a button that said “calls” on it- prehistoric and weird I know!
And lastly, for the addict who had the strong impulse to “use” whatever substance of choice they felt they needed, they usually had the option of going to a free 12-step meeting to get the support they needed or could borrow a phone or use a payphone in an emergency. I remember a time when I was a young gal in the big city- we had these mini glass-encased rooms all over the place with big telephones in them! They were easily accessible, kept you out of the freezing cold, and with a coin or two, you could phone anyone you wanted within seconds. Anyone seen a good old-fashioned phone booth lately in your neighbourhood? I bet the stock in phone booth production is at an all-time low these days.
Digitally-Savvy and Cellphone Free
Before I list off what I believe are very sound reasons to remain cellphone free, I feel the need to confess once again that just because I don’t have a cellphone, that doesn’t mean I’m not obsessed with technology and being wirelessly connected much of the time. In fact, I own and use FOUR separate technological devices to work on, communicate, and stay connected on a daily basis. I am a huge Apple fan so all of my devices are Apple-based and include: an IMac computer (for office), a MacBook Pro laptop (when I’m travelling and working), an IPad Air (for playing with in the evenings- mostly watching silly videos and doing online shopping), and my “trick cellphone”- an IPod- which looks almost identical to an iPhone but is everything but a telephone! However, if I want to call anyone, I can easily use Skype or FaceTime on ANY of these devices within seconds.
So, as you can see, I’m pretty digitally wired. I just choose to NOT have a fifth device which would be a cellphone. My hubby is in the same boat and happens to be a website designer. He’s incredibly tech-savvy without having a cellphone glued to his hip at all times. I also confess that due to age, we are a bit ‘old school’ when it comes to telephones- we both prefer landlines and consider them true phones. Between the two of us, we have three separate landlines- one for each of our businesses, and a home line.
Esther’s Reasons for Not Owning a Cellphone
Reason #1: They are incredibly expensive and I can’t justify paying that much money for something I believe I don’t need or want
Most people I know who use cellphones are paying roughly $100 a month for the privilege. You know where I put that $100? Towards a delicious one-hour organic facial every month. To me, that’s money well-spent!
Reason #2: People could get a hold of me at any time; all of the time
Most people that know me well roll their eyes when I point this out at a dinner party because they know what I’m referring to- I, unlike the majority of people I have ever met, don’t like to be constantly accessible. I’m sure you’ll now agree that I made a good choice by not becoming a mother. I am acutely aware that parenting necessitates one being highly accessible almost all of the time and to my sisters out there with kids- I take my hat off to you for doing that! Yes, I admit it- I am a big defender of my right to be a private person- in fact, it is one of the markers of being a Highly Sensitive Person and I believe I’m not the only one out there who feels this way.
Don’t get me wrong- I love and enjoy the company of others- just not 24/7. Like all HSP’s, I need a lot of alone-time to recharge my batteries and that means having the capacity to be a hermit in bite-sized pieces throughout the day. Same goes for my beloved hubby- we both habitually retreat several times a day- even from being with each other- to rest, reflect, and regain our energy.
Even without a cellphone, I am very easy to reach and I respond to phone messages and emails in a timely manner. And I’ve dealt with several family emergencies very well without owning a cellphone.
Reason #3: I am trying to be a Buddhist
Yes, I am becoming somewhat of the cliché you may have heard of called a “Jew Bu”:
Definition: A Jewish Buddhist (Jew–Bu, Jewboo, Jubu, Buju, etc.) is a person with a Jewish background who practices forms of Buddhist meditation and spirituality. The term Jew-Bu was first brought into wide circulation with the publication of The Jew in the Lotus (1994) by Rodger Kamenetz.
A quick aside: I had the honour of hosting Mr. Kamenetz as a speaker when I did my internship at Jewish Family Services of Vancouver in 1997 when he was touring with his fabulous book- it’s also a movie so check it out. Turns out that a lot of us Jews are obsessed with Buddhism. Read the book to find out why!
As a Jew Bu, I do my very best to practice mindful living according to the teachings of Buddhism which require us to focus mainly on this one thing:
BEING AND LIVING IN THE PRESENT MOMENT WITH WHAT IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF US AND ALL AROUND US.
My biggest beef with cellphone use is that people are constantly being distracted from what they are trying to focus on in the present moment every time it rings with a call or dings with a text. How many of you have had the experience of making the time to meet up with a friend, colleague, or family member for a brief time and were consistently interrupted by their or your cellphone? I personally find this offensive because in my eyes, if I’ve gone to the trouble of making time to be with you, I feel it is reasonable to expect you to actually BE with me during that time, and not talking or texting on your cellphone.
In fact, I sometimes wonder if people have their cellphones out all the time so they can avoid intimacy and being fully present with another. Just because I don’t have a cellphone, believe me, I can easily find other methods to avoid being close to people or being fully present. Let’s face it- showing up and totally being there in the moment freaks most of us right out.
But when we are able to set aside outside distractions and let go of multitasking all the time, we allow ourselves to enjoy something absolutely incredible- living in the here and now- just doing what we’re doing in that moment and enjoying it completely.
Do you have anything you want to share with my readers about the use of cellphones/technology in daily life? What have you learned on your own journey with this issue? Please share your thoughts and tips by emailing me at: estherATestherkane.com