(This was originally posted on 6/26/09)
You win. I’ve held out for a long, long time but you win. As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I’m one of those of a very small minority who actually thought having cell phones was a bad idea. For the record I still think it’s not a great one, but even I must bow in the face of a world where literally everyone you meet expects you to have a cell phone and be available to them every minute of every day.
According to the excellent book “The Tipping Point”, the year in which everyone and their brother started buying cell phones was 1998, which means that by 1999 people were on my back to get one. “Why should I?” was my response. Why would I want to give up what little free time I have and be chained down by a cell phone? Why should I give up the freedom of being unreachable? I just read an editorial on cnn’s website about how we’ve gone from a 5-day work week to essentially a 24-hour-a-day work week because of phone calls, texts, etc from our boss and co-workers asking us to do things…and we actually do them! “Just turn off your phone” is the response I get, but that actually is not good enough. The understanding is that if you call or text someone, they will check their phone soon enough and get back to you. If they don’t, well, that’s frankly an insult. They’d better account for why they didn’t get back to you, and they certainly better not say they didn’t get it in the first place! After all, don’t most of us keep our cell phones on, most of the time? Ever wonder why some jobs even give you a cell phone–they’re not doing you a favor. And it’s not just work, it’s your friends too, not to mention a girlfriend. Anyone had a fight with their significant other and gotten a text? You’d better read it or its beaucoups trouble for you. So even with your cell phone off, you are still tethered, chained down by social expectations that you have to be on guard against for about 16 hours a day if you expect to get any sleep. You had better be immediately available or shortly available for feedback on any number of topics every single day of the week for the rest of your life. Then there’s the cost. I can have a landline in my home for not more than $30 a month, the connection is always perfect, I have an answering machine for messages, unlimited minutes, NO contracts, and distance from the social web if I want it.
So why, if I feel this way did I get a cell phone? There are some good arguments for owning one. A friend of mine was driving home from Spokane a few weeks ago, at night with his family, and his car broke down in the middle of nowhere. If he hadn’t had a cell phone to call a tow truck, it wouldn’t have been an easy night. Sometimes there are emergencies that you do need to be notified of. If you’re meeting friends at a new place, it’s nice to be able to coordinate where you are with where you need to be. If you have several friends internationally it’s probably cheaper to keep in touch with them via cell phone. These reasons I’ve known about for the past ten years. When I finally bought a cell, I found out how roped in you are with contracts, and the raquet you get sucked in to if you want to get ringtones. But overall I don’t mind owning one, and it is actually pretty cool to text people, to keep in touch with ppl in other states without a calling card or long distance charges. But basically, I gave up.