Friday, November 14, 2014

I Don't Want A Cell Phone or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Loved Being Unreachable

There are a few reactions folks have when I tell them that I don't have a cell phone. People that do not know me well think that I'm some anti-technology weirdo that is making a strange stance against the future. Some of my friends think I am just being stubborn. Other friends know that I just don't need one.

I think a lot of the fear that people have of not owning a cell phone comes from an inability to take responsibility for their actions. People show up late but think it is fine since they can call, as they are running late, to explain that they will not be on time.

How courteous of them.

People ask me “What if you need directions?” I tell them that I check that information before I leave the house. Then the next question is “What if you get lost?” Look. This isn't the Old Frontier. If I get lost there is no chance of me dying of starvation or being attacked by bandits. Plus, I'm a grown ass man. If I leave the house and get lost I accept that responsibility.

I fucked up. Sucks to be me.

Two times I have been in a theater with someone that whipped out their phone. Not to check it for messages or to answer a call (though that has happened and I don't see movies with those people anymore) but to Shazam a song that was playing. I asked them to put it away.

“I just want to know what song that was.”

Are we at a point where waiting for the credits to end and seeing the name of the artist, the composer, the name of the song, and the music company that distributed it is that hard to do?

Yes. Yes it is.

We like to complain about the attention span of most of humanity. We give it names like the MTV Generation and such but its not an issue that they deal with alone. Short attention spans range from age 65 on down and is just getting worse. No one thinks they have the time anymore. Most people will see this link on my Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ and think “That Dante posts a lot of shit. Oh, who's texting me?!” and not even bother to read even half of this.

Too many words.

You will never hear me say that I do not have the time. Even when I was working 50 hours a week and taking bus rides that totaled five to six hours to get home a day I didn't say “Oh, I don't have the time.” We all have the same amount of time. We just use it differently.

Yes. I edited all these bad pictures. 

I know people who don't have a steady job, no children, no relationship, and no massive social life that are harder to get a hold of than friends that have spouses, jobs, children, and actively leave the house for whatever it is you people that leave the house do. We all get 24 hours to do whatever it is that needs doing. But when someone says they have no time for anything yet spend hours texting or staring at their phone they are living in a special circle in hell that I wish to never occupy.

And it isn't as if you were forced to get a cell phone. There was no government mandate that stated that every American must have a cell phone. And don't get me started on the city trying to get laptops and tablets into the hands of every child in school. Most of them can't even read in the first place and we want them having their own computers?

People work for their cell phones when it should be the other way around. My favorite is the parent that worries when their phone dies, breaks, or just decides to not work because that is something cell phones do. “What if something happens?!”

What are the chances that out of the other 364 days of the year you had your phone and nothing happened that something will happen that one time you forget it? And how many parents are happy to see their kids call them? I'm not talking about Nana in the nursing home you forgot about for two months until they called to tell you she broke her hip for the third time even though she only has two of the damned things. If there is an emergency chances are your kid will post about it online before contacting you anyway.

I think people feel bad for me when they find out I don't have a cell phone. Especially new people. “What? Why?” Its like I told them that I decided to get my tongue split. This isn't like the few times in my life where I tried to get a car only to have it blow up in my face. Not getting a cell phone isn't even an active...thing. I just don't have one the same way I don't have kids. Just never happened and I'm glad it didn't.

If I could describe what it is like to not own a cell phone to the world I would describe it like this.

Remember when you used to hang out with someone and talk? Not only did you talk but you listened and could repeat what the other person said to you. Amazingly you could recall it later on! You could hear the sound of their voice, the laughter, the sadness. It was just you and them and if someone butted into the conversation they were rude. An asshole.

Now everyone is the asshole. Well, not me. I'm a dick 90% of the time and asshole the other ten.

Since I don't own a cell phone when I am talking to you I am also listening to you. I am hanging out with you. I am experiencing you as a fellow human being. I do not have a device that brings other people into the conversation. I have been told by a few people that it made them uncomfortable that they had my full attention. That is some sick, sad world shit. Imagine if you will...another world.

You and I are having lunch. Its good. Fuck a diet. Bacon everywhere. We're laughing and talking. You're telling me an interesting story when suddenly a friend of mine walks up. Not even a friend. A friend of a friends associate. They come to the table and we start talking.

Not me, you, and them.

Just me and them.

We'll get back to your story eventually and hopefully you can muster that same amount of passion and energy that you had before you were interrupted. But I really need to know what this person is telling me. Wait, hold on. We're still talking. I'll get back to you in a minute. We're almost done. Wait. Someone else just arrived. I don't like this person. I'm gonna ignore them and continue talking to the first one. This story though! Oh, its so funny, too! You want me to tell you what we're talking about that is so funny?!


You don't.

Things are fucked up now.

The conversation is ruined. You don't want to finish your story? I don't know why you are so upset now. All I did was share a funny story with someone that wasn't you in the middle of you talking. Its fine. Its fine. Look around you. Everyone is doing it! That table over there has three people talking to three other people that just showed up. Sure, none of the three people that came together are talking but its fine.

Its normal.

This is what it feels like to not have a cell phone and have people texting while I talk to them. I don't get upset in the sense that I think I should get back at them by texting someone. I just want to go home or away from them. I'd rather be alone for real than sitting with someone and feeling that way. When you tell me to hold on so you can text or call someone that isn't with us and doesn't plan on being with us it sucks.

I've gotten good at pretending it doesn't bother me though. Sorta. I hang out with people and they will whip their phone out and make a call or start texting (I can hear you pressing the buttons, you're not as slick as you like to believe you are) while I am talking and I'll just sit there and wonder what they would do if I just got up and left. Because that is what you are doing when you do that.

You're not there.

You think you are because you've been living this way for so long, but you're not.

You're a piece of what you used to be.

You used to be someone that left the house to see someone without the need to check directions because you knew where you were going.

You tried new food based on friends opinions or because you had a sense of adventure and not because of what an app suggested.

You left your kids with people because you trusted them with whom you left them with.

You used to show your vacation pictures when you got home, not while you were still there.

The time you spent with someone was yours alone not the time for followers on Instagram.

Your engagement was known by family and friends before hundreds of strangers you have no intention of inviting to your wedding.

You used to be you.

Now you're everyone.

I know that this all sounds preachy and its hard to make it not sound as such. I have read others peoples articles about not using cell phones. It is hard not to sound like an asshole when talking about doing something almost no one else is. Most without cell phones do it as an experiment or lost their phones for some reason or other and realized how different their life was after doing so. I'm not gonna tell anyone to try either of those. Telling people why I don't have, want, or need this thing is like convincing them to pull their hands out of fire.

“But my hands are cold.”

Wear gloves!

“That takes too long.”

You're gonna hurt yourself!

“Too late. I'm already burned. Might as well keep on doing what I'm doing. You should try it! Such warmth!”

I've even read some funny articles where people talk about how many people may have missed their next relationship or soul mate while walking down the street because they were busy talking or texting. That is kind of extreme and fear based. “I don't wanna miss the person of my dreams!” (smashes phone to ground) Someone probably just thought of how they met the person they are dating because of cell phone technology or an online site. I'm sure your kids will love hearing how you met dad through the screen.

I hope our baby has your touchscreen...

That's for a whole 'nother blog.

I wonder what would happen if people who spend most of their time texting decided to use maybe half that time to do something they have been putting off. Making art, cleaning, seeing a friend, or that thing you keep saying you don't have time to do.

One day we'll find out what the long term effects of cell phone use is. Hell, you're already participating in the experiment. Your grandparents didn't have to live this way. They didn't spend hours staring at a tiny screen killing their thumbs and shortening words until they forgot how to actually spell them. Its not always auto-corrects fault. How does your neck and shoulders feel? How about your eyes? People in their 30's now have pains only 60 year old folks used to complain about.

I don't feel magical or special because I don't have a cell phone. I don't know what it is like to have one from experience so I can only look at it from my side of the fence. And from my side of the fence it doesn't look all that fun.  

I have been alive for 35 years and have never owned a cell phone. Looking at the world and how it turns being dominated by them I think I made the right decision. I don't want to be a part of that world. I don't like being talked to differently because I don't want to be a part of that world. I don't want to have another conversation about this again with strangers. Its sad enough that I know friends more from the tops of their heads than their faces...and not in a sexy way. 

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