True Story: I Don’t Have A Cell Phone

don't-have-a-cell-phone
Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Lindsay and I’m an herbalist, wellness guide, yoga teacher, poet, and small business owner with a former life (I suppose I’m old enough to have a former life now) in non-profit management and social services.  I geek out on plants every day.  I have a permanent reversed manicure of rich, black soil under my nails.

I don’t wear make-up but sometimes like to paint my face.  I sing whenever I want to and like the fact that “work” takes me out into the wilds, weeds, and hollers…  I seek out hot springs and count my pennies like my great grandmother would.  I count my blessings, too.  I’m 38 years young and falling in love with the challenges, heartbreaks, joys, and beauties of this world with each waning day.

How do you feel about technology in general?
I think that Einstein can preface my answer to this question ~

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Technology is linked with the rational mind.  To me, it is supposed to be a faithful servant to magic, intuition, tradition, art, and creativity.  Technology has instead become the means in which we go about relating to the world.  This is truly a crisis of the spirit.

Because I feel this way, I have created ways to lessen my interaction with technology.  Of course, there is only so much I can do in this sea of microchips and screens.  However, I do what I can.
I do not have a TV and do not watch shows.  I watch movies rarely.  I have a rule that if 3 people tell me to watch the same film in a short amount of time, I will watch that movie.  For example, many people told me about ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘Avatar’ when they came out.  I watched those films.  The most recent movie that this happened with was ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’, but I still haven’t seen it yet!
I do have the internet.  This is a challenge for me.  I co-own a small, plant-based apothecary (Sweet Gum Springs Apothecary) here in Mississippi.  We use social media for our business and it makes a huge difference.  So, yes I have the internet.
Why have you chosen not to have a cell phone?
About five years ago I moved from my home in San Francisco to Appalachia.  I had been living in SF for 7 years.  Before that Eastern Europe for 2 years.  I’m originally from Mississippi and had decided to move back South by some internal prodding of unknown source.  I followed this instinctual tug and found myself in a holler in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I lived in a small community called Spring Creek about 1 hr and 15 min NW of Asheville, NC.  I found a job as a Retreat Manager at a silent, contemplative retreat center.  And, because of my remote location my cell phone didn’t work!!!  After awhile, I thought to myself, why do I need this thing anyway?
So, it was not so intentional.  I just was weened off of it by mountain livin’ (of which I am deeply grateful for).  When I moved off the mountain three years ago and emerged back into the lowlands of Mississippi, I decided to continue the trend and only use landlines.
How do the people in your life feel about your lack of a cell phone?
Nobody really complains about it.  If I have to meet someone, they learn that they have to be more intentional about setting a good location and time as they know they can’t reach me if something goes awry.
The only concern I get is when I travel distances in my car.  My friends want me to have a phone for emergency purposes.  However, I keep my time on the road during the daytime and alert my friends when I’ll be traveling.  It’s worked out really well and I’ve never had an issue.  So many other people have cell phones, that it would be easy to contact help if I needed some.
Another interesting thing is dating.  I’m still in the dating period of my life.  And, I really love that men I am spending time with can’t just text me random thoughts.  I much prefer that he call me anyway.
Has it affected your personal life at all? Your professional life?
It hasn’t affected my professional life at all.  I’ve trained customers of the apothecary to pay with cash or check and that’s been fine.  Of course, there are moments when I lose a sale to someone who could really use my products.  But, they just bring cash next time.
It really hasn’t affected my personal life.  I’ve noticed that I have deeper and richer conversations with my friends over the phone.  I actually have a phone with a chord!  It makes me sit down and really be present with them.  I like that and it’s hard to find this kind of long-distance bonding (smile).
When I prepare for a phone call, it’s almost ritualistic.  I go to the bathroom if I need to…maybe pour some tea…  I find a comfy seat and then dial their number…  I’m THERE and the conversations are so rich.  It’s one of those small gifts I can offer my friends.
Many people want to “text me their number” and I tell them they can’t.  I’ve also learned to tell people when I give them my number that they can’t text me.  It’s really liberating that no one can send me absent-minded blurbs about whatever they are feeling.  I feel that they have to approach me with a lot more intention.  That’s how I roll.
Those moments when so many people use their phone to ‘fill in gaps’ – taking public transport, waiting for a friend, etc – what do you do?
I like this question.  I look around.  I look at people.  I look at the place I am waiting.  I feel things.  I sense things.  I work on being present and taking it all in.  I talk to people.  Sometimes I go through my paper planner and scratch some things off and write some things in…
I had an interesting experience this past May.  I visited San Francisco, my old stomping grounds, after not being back for 4 years.  I was horrified by how many people were on their phones.  I’ve never seen anything like it ~ anywhere.  Any empty space or free moment was filled with phone gazing.
Two weeks after my trip to San Francisco, I was in New Orleans teaching a workshop.  I didn’t see much of that.  A friend actually told me that there were fewer TVs in New Orleans, per capita, than any other major US city.  I suppose the music, arts, and culture has maintained some connectivity in New Orleans.  It was refreshing to be there after the intense shift I witnessed in San Francisco culture.
There are so many tools on modern cell phones – gps, camera, flashlight, etc. Do you use maps and a digital camera instead?
I just bought a digital camera about 2 months ago.  I mainly use it to log plants and herbs that I’m growing or harvesting from the wild.  I LOVE the macro lens and how it allows me to zoom in so close to plant loveliness!
As far as GPS goes.  I simply write down directions to places I commonly go to and keep them in my car.  I have a little bundle of directions that I leaf through when I hit the road.
What’s your preferred mode of communication?
I love talking in person.  When I am able, that’s what I make time and space for.  I also love movement and dance.  It’s a lovely form of communication.I used to go to the Asheville Dance Collective’s dance ‘waves’ on Saturdays when I lived in Appalachia.  Everyone was to leave their cell phones outside the room.  When we entered the large, wooden floored room, we weren’t to talk ~ only dance.We were led by a DJ from mellow music to ecstatic music and then back to serene sounds.  A wave would easily have 100 people present on a Saturdaymorning.  And, we would all be laying on the ground all sweaty by the end of the wave.  It was amazing.  My kind of communication!
In other places this experience has been called ‘Sweat Your Prayers,’ ‘Dance Church,’ ‘Ecstatic Dance,’ and ‘Five Rhythms.’
What are the benefits of not having a cell phone?
While not having a cell phone, I happened upon the documentary film ‘Full Signal’ (you can watch it on YouTube for free).  I realized that I was playing my small part in creating a safer, saner world by not using a cell phone.
I feel that cell phone free bars and restaurants of the future will be the equivalent to smoke-free bars and restaurants of the present.  At first, people will be offended.  But, later they will see they were submerged in a virtual smoke cloud.
Can you think of a scenario in which you’d get one?
If I were transient and wasn’t rooted in my home that I am in now, I might consider getting one.  But, considering that I’ve got 4 years under my belt, I think I could figure it out.
What advice would you give to others who are looking to live a more unplugged life?
Start small and simple.  Chose one thing and ‘fast’ for a month and see what happens.  My first fast was from movies and I did it for one year.  During that time, I really noticed how much my friends talked about movies they had seen or wanted to see.  It was really crazy and seemed obsessive!  I realized now much I engaged in those conversations at one time, as well.  Slowly, and without effort, people just stopped talking about movies with me.  And, I’ve really liked things this way.
I also fasted from the internet in 2008.  I only achieved one month and I was at Zen Buddhist Retreat Center.  But, it was amazing.  It shifted my mind and my mental state to be way more present with myself and others around me.
Fasting periods of 21 days, one month or three months seem to work for most people.  Try a “technology fast” of your choice.  Try it with a friend or group of friends so that you can compare notes and experiences.
I’ve found that lessening the amount of technology I use has opened up a wellspring of intuition and creativity.  I have had to rely more on my senses and I’ve freed up space for my mind to wander and create.  The mind likes this kind of un-constructive and free-form space.Technology can be a tool for creativity and expression…but again, only when we’ve tapped into the wisdom and guidance of our own intuition and the present moment as it is.  This comes first…  Technology is just something to help it manifest more fully in the world.

Thanks so much for sharing, Lindsay! Are any of you guys cell phone-less? Or just smart phone-less? I went without a data plan till about a year and a half ago!

14 Comments

Andrea

I just got my first smart phone in March, but it doesn’t really have data, the “smart” part of it only works when it’s connected to wifi, which I kind of love. Despite this, I still feel like I use my phone too much. This was a great interview.

I really love this part, and hope it comes true: “I feel that cell phone free bars and restaurants of the future will be the equivalent to smoke-free bars and restaurants of the present. At first, people will be offended. But, later they will see they were submerged in a virtual smoke cloud.”

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Sarah Von Bargen

There’s a specific cafe I like to work in (Cafe Latte in St. Paul for any interested MSPers) that doesn’t have wifi. I just found out they were getting it and I’m gutted!

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Sarah M

I had a cell in highschool, and after that, didn’t have one for almost 7 years. My husband MADE me get one (i.e. he bought me one, but it’s still a ‘dumb phone’) just a few months ago because he was so tired me not being available if something came up. It’s basically a pay-as-you-go emergency phone, since I’m with my kids and we drive a lot to get to whatever errands we’re doing. Car trouble? Meh, I just always asked people for help. Even if you’re on the hwy, someone has *always* pulled over to help me. I can walk up to someone and ask directions. I just never saw a need for it for my lifestyle or a need for the drain on finances (dang, smart phones are EXPENSIVE). Because I saw it as a non-necessity, it was never a big deal to me that I didn’t own one. If people need to get ahold of me, I had a google phone # (free), and an email address. I don’t like to be at anyone’s beck and call, either. Now, the little phone I have is normally dead at the bottom of my purse, unless we’re going out for the day and I try so hard to remember to charge it and grab it before we go. I was clearly born in the wrong time period! 🙂
I will say, for those generations older who don’t have cell phones, I have to agree with them–answering your phone or texting repeatedly while having hang-out friend time, out to dinner with someone, etc. is extremely rude and unappealing.
Sarah M

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Sarah Von Bargen

Yes! There are definitely times that I fantasize about going back to my brick phone. My only hang up is the GPS – I’m lost without it! (Literally.)

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Tyler

Great article. Valid points, well said. I lived without a cell phone for a short while, and I know that I actually felt better without it. I never understood why so many people are so obsessed with their phones. When I’m on lunch break, sometimes i’ll just be sitting there, lost in my little head, and I may look around and notice that literally, everyone is on their cell phone. I’ll be the only one not submerged into their phone. It makes me feel alienated, but then again, if everyone was wearing yellow,and I was the only guy wearing black, then I can only assume that I’d feel alienated too. Truth is, I don’t want a cell phone. Truth is, I don’t even feel like I need it. I am aware of the alternatives. I’m 21, I have a smart phone, never had a data plan. I’ve been on prepaid for years and it’s worked just fine for me, but I can recall the short time when I did live without a cell phone, and I have to say, I did feel a lot more present – in the moment. Something about phones (or technology in general) seems to take you away from where you are. I don’t think unplugging is such a bad thing, honestly.

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Olympia

I have been living “cellphone free” for 5 months and I surprisingly don’t miss it at all. I have a landline home phone and since I am home most of the time I am still reachable most of the time. When I reenter the workforce, hopefully soon, people can call me at work. Since you can still dial 911 to contact the police on an inactivated cellphone and I keep my old cellphone in my purse, I always have that option if an emergency ever happens. I like that anyone who wants to talk to me has to call me at home and when I’m not there my voicemail and caller ID will let me know who I need to call back. For me, a cellphone is not a need and because I don’t want nor need it, I voluntarily go without.

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Casey

I couldn’t agree more! I work in retail and look around and it’s like we can’t interact? Babies are watching cartoons. Teens are writting sad tweets or snap chats. Husbands are lost in grocery. I get less and less texts or calls because everyone refers to Facebook. People would rather scope you out before giving you their cell number. We had a lady snap chatting while we were rushing to the back of a store during a tornado! Come on! I love phone conversations. I love lunch out with friends. I love answering machines. I’ll admit a flirt through text is fun but I’d still love to hang out with someone in a honest deliberate way. Good article! Casey,

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Jeff Garner

I haven’t had a mobile phone since 2012 and love the freedom that you get by being not “trapped by an app”.
I own a home based internet marketing/web design business and have 7 computer screens on in front of me for 6 hours a day. When I leave the “office”, I enjoy life, interacting with people, exercising while taking in the stillness of nature! People are astonished that a tech person like me doesn’t have a cell.
I feel I’m so much better off psychologically than the majority.

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Tom Garrett

I took a personal oath in the 1990s to never own one, and the technology does not even slightly interest me. I am amused daily at people’s obsessions with them. Have not had cable TV for 30 years, and when TV broadcasting went all digital I stopped watching the minimal amount that I was watching (mainly local news). What a strange world this is.

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