The Great Cellphone Debate

The one that worked–with bail bond ad!

Kelly and I share a cellphone, and I’m always trying to think of ways to ditch it, if just to have one less bill every month. I often deliberately leave it at home when out of the house. I hate being interrupted by it and I dislike the social awkwardness of public phone conversations. Not that many people call our cellphone anyways as we don’t give out the phone number much. When I need to text someone (them young folks!) I use my laptop and Google Voice.

Yesterday, on a bike errand sans cellphone, I found myself in a situation where I needed to call home to get some information. Five payphones later, I finally found one that worked. Payphones have been in decline for years, of course, with the advent of cellphone service. Kind of a shame since I wonder if cellphone networks will work in an emergency. And what about people too poor to afford a cellphone?

Now, I don’t want this to turn into a anti-technology rant. I recognize that many people have to carry cellphones because of job and/or family obligations. And they certainly are convenient when it comes to things like finding someone at an airport, not to mention all the features of those smart phones (our phone ain’t “smart,” so others must think of me as crazy when I’m surprised at what you can do with one of those iPhone thingies).

But I wonder if we need a time out to consider the unintended consequences of cellphones. Are cellphones creating a generation of less independent children, always tethered to parents and civilization? Is all that RF radiation good for us? Then there’s the Miss Manners questions: all that texting at the dinner table, at parties, at school, in houses of worship.

At the same time I’m intrigued with developing some of the how-to content of this blog into a phone-friendly format. It’s not like cellphones are going to go away. Maybe it’s better to work with the technology.

Leave some comments! How do you all negotiate cellphone usage with a non-consumerist lifestyle? What positive things come from cellphones? If you’re cellphone free, why and how do you manage?

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40 Comments

  1. I have been putting off getting a cell phone for quite a while now. I like that I have to organize myself before leaving the house so that I’m not on an endless search for a working pay phone (oh the places you’ll go!). I also like not having the extra bill. On the other hand, a smart phone would keep me more organized….

  2. I have so many minutes on my plan I would surely lend my phone out if someone needed to make a quick call. It should be easy to ask and surely you can find someone who will let you use their phone for a moment. Could help build community and introduce you to more new people.

    ark

  3. This has been a big issue for me as well. My wife has a cell and I didnt and I was OK with that for several years. It started when my cell number had gone out of its two year agreement. I wanted a new cell but ATT would not give me something for free (I think they do now. the low end ones). So I switched it to a pay as you go. I paid and I went :) In fact, I bought my calling cards online dirt cheap and rarely used my phone, just for emergencies. And thats how I liked it. But then, I didnt make a call for 3+ months and my phone number disappeared. Isnt it just easier for me to make a call when I get home? Or for people to wait for me to get home? So I was then without a phone. I ended up on the freeway with no gas in my car. I walked long to an emergency phone. “Out of Order”. I walked to the NEXT one. Again, “Out of Order. Use your cellphone.” it said. Clearly in this day and age, I needed a cellphone sooner than later.

    Long story short, I caved in last month and got one. its an iPhone and yes im very worried about the electromagnetic radiation it spews out. All new cellphone manuals say to hold them about an inch away from your skull when talking. Well, I cant hear if I do that, so what the heck are they talking about? I use the speaker phone instead.

    So why did I end up getting one anyways? For the “apps”! Which is the 2010 word of the year by the way. I want to be more efficient and more productive and thats the bottom line why I got a cell. I cant always be at my desk (frankly I dont want to always be at my desk) but I can always have my phone nearby.

    Here are some of my top pluses for having a phone:

    + Ive got all my contacts in my pocket. Their email, their addresses, phone #’s, everything at my fingertips.

    + I can monitor my caloric intake very easy (Calorie Count app) so I can drop that 5 pounds I keep talking about.

    + free driving instructions with Google Map or Skobbler. (TomTom app is best but its $50)

    + weather data at my fingertips

    + make, edit, rearrange my TO DO list on the fly

    + write down notes for my blog or for anything really

    + 5mp camera (great again for blogging)

    + email at my fingertips (what more can i say!)

    + calculator

    + handyman tools like level, protractor and ruler.

    + a compass for hiking (biking, whatever)

    + maps (as well as traffic)

    + kama sutra positions (sshhhh!!!)

    + shopping apps like amazon and redlaser to scan products and find the cheapest price

    + and a couple games to tide me over if Im stuck someplace.

    All in all, Im glad I got the phone. Its like a little Star Trek communicator. I can do so much with it and I know Im already a lot more productive with it. Maybe when im old and grey and I dont want people to bug me will I go back to the trusty rotary phone.

    In the mean time I am careful with how I use and hold the cellphone and try not to carry it near my private parts. Check out this youtube video…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4bp7Zi_8pk&feature=player_embedded#

    Good luck with whatever you decide. -1916homedotnet

  4. I know there’s a balance. I’m friends with someone who has no screens. No tv, no internet, no computer. Extreme. I think there’s a balance with not being consumerists but being able to take advantage of the technology that’s out there. There’s no way you can write a blog but rail against technology. You have to make it work for you in moderation, or efficiently.

  5. When I started substituting, I got the cell phone I said I did not need, EVER. It had become clear that I was missing work. The first week-long job paid for about six months of the cell cost. I only talk on my phone, nothing else. I don’t pay for anything else. My home phone is bare bones except for the call forwarding. It seems no one can remember to look at my second contact number, hence the forwarded calls.

    My first cell phone lasted 3.5 years. Different functions died and I found a way to bypass that problem. Just because I can get an upgrade means I will discard a perfectly good phone for the latest item on the market.

    The older I get, the more I feel like I need a cellphone, especially in the light of the fact that I have trouble with a knee, fell and hurt myself, and just feel I need a way to communicate these days.

    I do love new technology but am usually the last person to embrace it by buying it.

  6. The cell phone network is highly likely to work in an emergency, moreso than the land-line network, depending on the nature of the emergency. When an earthquake, flood, or hurricane knocks out land-based communications, wireless links are always the first to come up. All the cell company has to do is get connectivity to a single tower to light up many square miles of area. The phone company has to repair a lot more broken lines to get homes back online. Cell technology seems more fragile than good, solid wires, but in reality, it has a lot more robustness to most kinds of disruption.

    Massad Ayoob says that a cell phone is one of the most powerful protective devices available to the average citizen–the equivalent of a police officer’s radio. No matter what reasons one might have for not having a cell, the ability to instantly contact emergency services from nearly anywhere is a powerful incentive. If all you care about is calling 911, you don’t even need a service plan, since all carriers are required to put 911 calls through from any working handset. Realistically, a small pay-as-you-go plan might be worth it for many people, since you might want to call for help to a friend or relative in something less than a total, 911-worthy, emergency.

  7. 3 separate cell phones for the same cost as the one land line $106. Have never run over the 700 shared minutes. That said there is no web, no emailing pics, no texting.
    I was able to keep our orginal phone number which was a huge deal for me. I had become sentimental, first phone as a new home owner.
    Teen children share a phone. That in of itself is a life lesson on sharing that rarely goes easily. The deciding factor on who rules the cell on what day is who won’t be able to make a call on a friends phone (they will be alone)or who has to walk home. Husband has the third cell.He constantly forgets to turn it on.
    Benefits of a cell phone – call out for foraging and gleaning opps. Or for that matter a call out for a great curb shopping find. Safe & Secure method of contact when buying & selling via craig’s list. Since I carry the home phone/cell I am always reachable for elderly family & friends.
    Lastly sometimes with my children’s busy schedule that phone call they make while they are walking to work or practice is our time to talk.

  8. I first started carrying a cell phone back when I was driving an unreliable car. It was a pay-as-you-go deal, Virgin, I think, and it cost twenty bucks a quarter. Super cheap. Then we got rid of the car, and donated the phone to some shelter for battered women that needed them for their clients. I could never get my husband to carry a cell phone, even using the what-if-we-have-to-say-goodbye September 11th argument. My husband was afraid I’d call him at the grocery store to ask him to get something else, and he didn’t want to be that guy.

    At some point, we decided it was dumb to pay for a land line and a cell phone, so now we have just a cell phone. He still has a separate land line for work, since he works from home, but work is paying for it, not us, so we’re covered if something bad happened.

    But we’re cheap. The only problem I have is getting people to not text me because it costs extra on our plan, and I don’t want to pay extra.

    Re: the texting at the table or during church etc., thing; it’s just plain rude- it’s like turning your attention away to talk to somebody else when someone is talking to you. Just because someone calls you or texts you doesn’t mean you have to drop everything and answer them (emergencies excluded, of course). There is such a thing as being too connected.

  9. I’m looking forward to the advent of peer-to-peer cellphones with ad-hoc networking. Not only would this mean no monthly bill, it would be much, much likelier to work in any sort of emergency than centralized systems.

    I’m strongly ambivalent about cell phones in general. Mine helps me keep commitments, with alarms plus the ability to coordinate a change of plans mid-activity. A lot of the social side-effects, especially on attention, worry me deeply.

    There doesn’t seem to be a strong correlation, even, between cell phone use and cancer, but I bet what correlation there is can be explained by the correlation both have to high levels of stress.

    Radio waves are lower-energy than the infrared radiation our bodies emit due to being warm. That means whatever sort of energy your phone might add to the mix, is already abundantly available just by thermal excitations. Also, radio photons aren’t capable of cleaving bonds the way UV light, x-rays, cosmic rays, gamma rays, etc. are.

    I have yet to hear a discussion of possible mechanisms for radio-induced cancer that isn’t based on lumping all invisible electromagnetic waves together. That’s like worrying you’ll be crushed by an object because it isn’t good to juggle. Sure, a car, the Parthenon, and Jupiter are all sized wrong for juggling, but so are snowflakes, dust mites, and electrons: the latter three won’t crush you, no matter how hard you throw them.

  10. Ahh, the great debate!

    For me, the bottom line is that I managed to survive for more than forty years without a cellphone, and the very limited time I had one, I was no safer and no more prepared than I am without it. I decided that, for me, the additional expense of the cellphone was not financially prudent, as I work from home, and my landline gives me everything (and then some, because my landline also has fax capabilities and the Internet) a cellphone would – for less than $100 per month, and I’ve had the same phone equipment for more than a decade, because new techology has not made the old phone obsolete every six months.

    The one reason to have a cellphone that I might agree with is the safety issue, but after some thought, I’m not convinced that playing the safety card isn’t a marketing ploy by the cellphone companies and manufacturers to get us to buy their “questionably safe” product. I have never seen any statistics, but based on reading the news every day, it doesn’t appear to me that people actually are safer for having the cellphones than they were before the cellphones. Cellphones don’t appear to be a crime deterrent, and while the perpetrator is often caught more quickly, having the cellphone did not save the victim. So, for me, that argument is a fallacy. I’m no safer with a cellphone than without one.

    In the end, all things weighed, having a cellphone did not significantly improve the quality of my life, and so I decided not to have one, and to stick with my less-than-$100-per-month landline with Internet, fax, and voice mail ;) .

  11. You are completely out of touch. Society has been so transformed by the cellphone that it is impossible (or at least impractical) to think you can do without one.

    If you really want to avoid a monthly bill, then buy a pay-as-you-go cellphone. You pre-pay for a certain amount of minutes and when you run out you buy more minutes. If you hardly even use it you can make that last a long time for very little money.

  12. And there I was, thinking we were the last family who thought this way! My husband is a doctor and for years we got by perfectly well with payphones if we happened to be out while he was on call. The problem was that if we were driving somewhere and his pager rang, I was the one who couldn’t bear the palpable tension during the couple of minutes it would take to find the nearest payphone.

    Eventually (about 5 years ago) I bought a simple cellphone which we run on a pay as you go plan. I’m constantly amazed at how little we use it. Every 60 days when I top it up (I wouldn’t do this if the time didn’t expire), the balance seems to be larger than the previous time.

    And yet what also surprises me is that we are an otherwise connected family. We’re perfectly computer literate. We just don’t see our cellphone as an absolute necessity in our lives. I would certainly much rather use a regular keyboard for typing a message rather than a teeny tiny texting one.

  13. I’m going to blatantly ignore everything else in the post because I don’t have much to say on it (I feel that cell phones are a fact of life, good or bad, and I’ve succumbed to the smart phone trend), and simply address your issue with paying for the cell phone. You might want to look into getting a pre-paid phone if you’re only using the phone for out-going calls. I know there’s a certain life span for the pre-paid phones, and I don’t know how it compares to the cheapest plan you can find with a major carrier, but it might be worth investigating.

  14. After years with regular old cell phones (no cool apps, we’re cheap) we’ve decided to get pay as you go phones. We start this weekend!
    My husband hardly uses his and I’ve started noticing headaches after using mine. We also recently got rid of the tv. We’re not “anti-technology”, but we do think it’s hurting society as a whole. We have a cheap land line and I’m usually home, but I do like having something for emergencies. Now to make sure people don’t text me!

  15. Thanks to Dave for posting the CBC link.

    I’ve used Virgin Mobile ($80 a year) for over five years. It meets my needs: a way to call for help in an emergency, to call a manufacturer when I’m at the store trying to determine whether a food or medicine contains gluten, and, occasionally, to communicate with family and friends when I’m away from home. I use it so rarely that I have nearly $400 on my account.

    In general, cell phones annoy me. Every day, I see lots of people walking and driving with cell phones plastered to their heads. Not only does this lack of attention to their surroundings endanger them and everyone around them, the link Dave posted suggests that they also may be setting themselves up for serious health problems in the future. And I won’t even start in about the rudeness associated with cell phone use.

    All that said, I’ll admit to a bit of smartphone envy. Apps can be very useful, and a lot of fun. But I do just fine with paper and pencil lists, so I’m planning to stick with that inexpensive, green, no-fail technology.

    As someone who designs online courses at a university, I also think about mobile content delivery. So far, we don’t do it. We want students to concentrate fully on what they’re reading, and to avoid trying to multitask. (Research shows that people are a lot worse at multitasking than they think they are.) We enable students to do certain things via cellphone (e.g., look up instructions, assignments, and due dates), but not to read online lessons via cellphone.

    It seems like developing some of the how-to content of the Homegrown Evolution blog into phone-compatible content would be a good use of the technology. The question is whether it would be worth the time involved. You could try developing just one entry, to see how that goes.

  16. Biggest reason I keep a land line? Emergency services use them for evacuation notices here in the wildfire-prone foothills because the numbers are still location-relevant.

    I’m a stay at home mom, so if you can’t reach me on my land line, it’s because I’m doing something else with someone else and I wouldn’t answer a cell phone anyway. As for emergencies and outgoing calls, enough of my friends carry cell phones that I can usually borrow one if I *really* need to call. One of my credit cards is also a calling card, so that covers me on using pay phones (I rarely carry cash) on those extremely rare occasions when I need one. Frankly, I don’t enjoy talking on the phone in general and cell phones routinely have worse reception/sound quality in my experience than land lines, making me want to use them even less, so the idea of “we get to chat” holds very little appeal for me.

    My housemate can’t live without his smart phone – he’s constantly pulling it out of his pocket to answer those random “if only we had access to an international database of information…” kinds of questions. While it’s undoubtedly handy when searching for the next closest retail establishment of choice when outside your normal neighborhood (what payphones remain almost NEVER have a phone book attached), life certainly wouldn’t end without access to such info. As for mapping, I still keep a Thomas Guide in my car (thank God we live in a Thomas Guide area) and just got an updated one for Christmas, as the previous one was a decade old and we were starting to notice gaps in the data.

  17. Smart phones can be very non-consumerist because they do the work of so many things. I don’t need to buy a map. I don’t need a pad of paper for my grocery list. I don’t need a calculator. I don’t need an address book. I don’t need paper books. I don’t need newspapers. I don’t need a home phone or answering machine. I don’t need a DVD player or DVDs. I don’t need a CD player or CDs. I don’t need a tape recorder. I don’t need a board game to play games with friends, and I can even play games with friends who are far away. I hardly even need a computer anymore. I see good use of a smart phone as very non-consumerist.

  18. Great comments here which means GREAT blog post to begin with!

    By the way, if that CBC link talking about radiation from the cellphones concerns you, then you should also be concerned about those new electronic smart meters SCE and other electric companies are installing around the country. I did a blog post about it last month here:

    http://1916home.blogspot.com/2010/12/smart-meters-are-dangerous.html

    New data keeps coming out on these “smart meters”. The lastest data says the new meters even violate FCC radiation exposure limits!

    http://stopsmartmeters.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/smart-meters-violate-fcc-radiation-exposure-limits-says-new-study/

    Hope to see you investigate this for yourselves and blog about it as well. Do you have a new smart meter? Then complain to the electric company if you are getting increased headaches (its a start). If you dont yet have one installed, do some research and try to block them installing one on your house. Unfortunately, I wasnt yet aware of the dangers when mine was installed last March. The more I complain to SCE the more they will have a liability on their hands (me) and give me back my old style meter.

    -1916home.net

  19. While I’ve had a cell since college, and don’t have a landline, I find that I just don’t need most of the “features” of most current models. My current phone is a barebones flip from Motorola. I had my provider block texts, videos, photos, etc…so all it does is make actual phone calls – you know, when you talk to the other person.

    I commute by bus and it’s started to irk me how many people walk around with their headphones on, playing games on their phones, when they could be having a conversation…meeting new people…actually seeing the city pass by – I saw a falcon the other day, sitting really really low in a roadside tree…nothing beats that in my book!

    I found my replacement phone, it’s made in Europe and they can’t currently ship to the US…it’s just a block with keys on the front, a couple of sliders for volume, etc and a small readout on one edge showing incoming numbers. That’s it. I can’t wait to find someone in Canada willing to forward one to me!

  20. I’m in the process of researching and getting a smart phone. I’ve had to have a cell phone due to work and now that I am building my own business, I like the idea of having one device I can use to organize, navigate, check email, etc. rather than having – and paying for- ten. I even keep small notes for work on my phone so I no longer need paper for the little things! My husband and I have a lot of out of town family and friends and it was cheaper for us to have cell phones than a land line so that got canceled. That said, I don’t answer the phone in a place or situation where my talking on the phone might bother someone (it has an “off” button and/or can be left in a glove box or at home!). If it rings and I’m busy, I don’t feel obligated to answer it. I don’t text in those situations either. And I won’t even talk and drive. People need to have manners and common sense when it comes to any technology, and teach their children to be responsible as well.

  21. I don’t have one, just couldn’t see paying for one for how little I used it(I did have one for a while). Yes, they are convienant but you don’t REALLY need them or all the things that they can do. Not to say I won’t have one eventually but I’ll wait until I can afford it and it isn’t on the priority list.

  22. My own conflicted feelings about cell phones aside (which vacillate between resentful dependence and happy indifference), they’ve had quite an impact on trade, communication, and livelihoods in developing countries around the world.

    That larger “Great Cellphone Debate” is rather polarized as well. A few years back mobile phones were being hailed as a silver bullet for trade and development. Now the view is somewhat more nuanced. A comprehensive working paper at the Center for Global Development (http://www.cgdev.org/content/publications/detail/1424175/) sums up the current thinking quite well.

  23. We get around the added bill by no longer having a land line — we have gone completely mobile so our one phone bill is the cell phone bill. We do not have smart phones, just regular old cell phones but I feel better because both my teenagers are now driving and it feels safer knowing they can call if they need to (not that I am under any illusions about knowing where they are at all times!).

  24. I’ve enjoyed long stretches of my life with my phone disconnected. The trick is to stop imagining anything you could do (based on any information you receive sooner than later) is going to make any difference. Having said that, I think we’re on the verge of getting a cell, due largely to the above noted rapid and extreme disappearance of functioning payphones from the LA landscape, and the increasing unreliability of everything else.

    So if anyone has more specific advice about what’s cheaper and gives less money to AT&T, please post it. I mean, is it better to ditch the landline and get a CREDO calling plan, or just get a burner for the glove compartment?

  25. That’s interesting that some people insist that cell phones are a necessity – not everyone has to keep up with technology. I have one I rarely use, but it does give me comfort when I am riding my horse alone thru the woods, to know that I have the ability to contact someone for help in the event of an injury (this happened once). I am baffled by the people who take chatty calls while they are with other people, and the people who chat (just chat, no necessary conversation) while driving. And I find it disheartening to be talking to a teenager who is constantly checking her texts. My 13 yr old niece got a Blackberry for Christmas. Thank goodness she can now keep track of important business meetings and contacts. And where does she go from there? constant upgrades? A luxury once sampled becomes a necessity.

  26. I agree with the post that said to get a pay-as-you-go phone and then just don’t use it unless you need to. I have a Boost phone from WalMart and every three months I put $10 on it. It is a safty feature for me as I travel back and forth across the desert from Ca to Az and I would not be without it. Also, please note that during the Tucson shootings it was the people who had cell phones who were able to quickly summons 911. I hate to think what would have happened if they had to go looking for a land line. Some things you just cannot plan for.

  27. I have a cell phone, land line, and high speed internet from ATT for $84 per month, not expensive at all. I don’t have anything on the cell except the ability to talk, dial, and receive calls.

  28. I use a pay-as-you-go Tracefone. I don’t talk on the phone much and have no interest in texting so for quick and cheap cell phone use it has been a great choice. Those who insist on texting me simply never get a reply as it costs more to use that function. I pay far less in cell phone bills (over a thousand a year in some cases) than my friends and family. I certainly see the benefits of Smartphones and the like but I simply cannot afford such convenience or at least the benefits do not outweigh the costs at this time.

    Among my friends and family I was the last to get a cell phone (bought my first one about four years ago). It’s been very handy especially when lost or meeting up with people. I do worry about the dangers though. As noted in the Youtube link my manual also recommends a holster and using the phone about 1″ from your body when in use…which is obviously only possible in the most ideal of settings. I’m glad my chats are brief (pay-as-you-go is a great excuse for short conversations). Those with pacemakers have even more to worry about..”ALWAYS keep the mobile device more than 20 cm (8″) from your pacemaker when the mobile device is turned on. DO NOT carry the mobile device in the breast pocket.”

    As for the constant texting and chatting that goes on around me I am at once amused and bothered. Rarely do I go to the store and not overhear someone’s personal drama as they talk loudly on the phone down the aisles. A good friend has turned into an iphone junky. He’s constantly looking at it and making quick texts and showing videos and such. We’re thinking of having a bit of intervention as it’s just getting increasingly awkward for his friends…even those that enjoy the same technology.

    I have also noted that a lot of younger people seem completely lost without these devices. I’m reminded of former smokers going batty without performing the rituals of smoking…not to mention it’s physical addictive properties.

    - Damian

  29. I agree that although cell phone overuse is a serious annoyance, it’s really hard not to have one at all. I couldn’t even tell you where the nearest functioning pay phone in my neighborhood is, and if you have kids, places like schools and sports activities expect to be able to get in touch with parents almost immediately. For example at our daughter’s school, their policy is to start calling your emergency contacts if you don’t respond to the school’s call (for example telling you that your child is sick) within half an hour. However I do think that it’s possible to have a very cheap cell phone (we spend under $100 per year on a TracFone that does everything we need) and mostly use it as your personal pay phone.

  30. My wife and I share a cell phone as well (also our 4-year old now that she knows she can call grandparents with it- which I think is one of the blessings of cell phones). What we did is we have a shared account with someone (one of those add a line deals) and we split the cost evenly. It works really well and ends up being a lot cheaper than having our own personal account. We have all the minutes, texts and internet use we could want for about $40/month. It is not a smart phone but it does have GPS, internet, and several other things I find useful when I am traveling or out and about. Of course, I also leave it at home all the time. Hmmm?

  31. I’ve been contemplating canceling my cel phone for almost a year now. It’s been broken for two weeks and i haven’t used it. I have a google voice number and that helps a lot in terms of weening myself off of a phone.

    I hate that when i don’t answer a call ore call people back soon enough they voice a certain amount of annoyance. my cell phone is not my leash to everyone i know. I also work outside a lot exerting myself and i don’t hear my phone ring or feel it vibrate quite often. when i’m inside I’m almost always near a phone, either my house phone or my work phone, so my google voice number can forward my calls to those numbers whenever i want it to.

    Also i tend to use my phone a lot for it’s GPS capabilities, as I said I’m out of the office a lot and need to get from point a to point b to point c quite often in places i’m not familiar with and may need to find the nearest place to get a replacement ball valve or something. so the GPS helps a lot.

    now with tablets like the ipad or notion ink out, i think I’ve found something that can replace what i need in a phone into an alternate device. I can just pay for a data plan which is about the same cost and have my data plan use google voice online if i need to make an emergency call, and i can use the GPS that most of them come with. and without an actual cell phone i can get rid of all the unwanted connections that come with it. it’s not like i can keep a tablet in my pocket, just in my trunk, backpack, or saddlebags

  32. Thanks for the tip about Google Voice. Our AT&T landline has been out since Christmas Day (because of the rain in LA, as if it didn’t always rain in the winter here!), and we were spending a lot on our pay as you go cellphones, which we normally don’t use much. So Google Voice is a great help. We had always thought landlines were supposed to be important for the time after an earthquake, but the landline network appears to be so poorly maintained that I don’t put much hope in it surviving a major earthquake.

  33. I’m one of the weirdos without a tv :) But I do have a computer and (free) hand-me-down iphone. I gave up landlines almost 15 years ago and have been cell phone only. The service for the iphone including data is $10 more than a regular cell phone was. It is very handy and well worth it if you are stranded or lost.

    I like the apps as well and keep a shopping list on it that I use ALL the time. I enter the last price I paid for each item and have a different list for each store so I’m in and out when it’s finally time to go and know exactly what it’ll cost.

  34. Another compelling argument is the history of the technology. Lawmakers and scientists were determined to give the entire country access to landline phones. It was publicly owned infrastructure until the 60s. The openness of the technology led us to the Internet and various other amazing inventions.
    Mobile technology does not share this brilliant progression that was people-, communication-, and progressively-minded. Cellphone companies are totally opaque, arbitrary, and not controlled well by the government.
    With more of our communication relying on mobile companies, we are setting ourselves up for loss of privacy, rights, and ultimately the pure essence of communication.
    On the other hand, or side of the globe, countries that could not afford such a vast copper wire infrastructure are now benefiting from communication via mobile phones like never before.
    Which leads us to the conclusion that rather than abandoning mobile technology, we should be working to improve it so that we can both retain an open communications system for ourselves and stay connected with the rest of the world, too.

  35. My cell phone is just a tool to me, the children live far away and it is a way to connect to them without costly land line bills. We all use the same carrier so we can call as much as we want. I also just use a minimal use plan and get an employer discount.

    I will download skype with the next computer I buy,(don’t want to purchase a web camera) and use magicjack at home for a land line. I essentially have a landline that doesn’t really cost much (20year) and a low dollar plan cell phone plan, (33/month). It adds up but I am comfortable with this amount of telephone/communication dollars. used2bcool13

  36. Having just made a decently long trip, and as an owner of a cell phone, am commenting: one, basic phone, no apps, no internet access, no texting, no phone messaging. I’ll either answer or call you back. I’d refused one until, like many of the above, got stuck a couple of times and couldn’t find a public telephone PLUS, when I did, DH didn’t have his phone with him and I had to find neighbor’s #’s so someone could go over and find him. Each public phone has different (and costly) number searches and couldn’t find any mention of my neighbors in their listings!

    On the way home from my trip found myself in several places that had ABSOLUTELY NO CELL SERVICE. Yes, there are still places that have no phone service, no WiFi, no direct TV. If it doesn’t come in by wire or pipe (like gas), it doesn’t come in,

    Have seen totally brilliant human beings turn into horrendous communicators due to texting. The day will come when corporate reports will be full of FYI, R U . . .? Of course, the people they are communicating with will understand every word. On the other hand, they will never be able to read Shakespeare, or even Ferlinghetti, because they won’t know what all these letters mean.

    Although I just spent several days in LAS Vegas NV, watched less TV that usual (read NONE), walked more than usual, read more than usual, and used the computer less than usual. On the way home, went through above mentioned places where there was no nothing but miles of uninhabited land. Absolutely Delightful!

  37. I have a shared cell phone plan with my parents who are elderly. My Dad just turned 87 and my mom is almost 79. We give the number to no one. The whole purpose of it is to stay in touch with each other, particularly if they have a problem – they can always reach me. I see no point to a “smart” phone or something with lots of apps or texting. None of it interests me. We have the most basic phone and plan available, and the split bill costs us each $36/mo. I guess my philosophy is to use the technology but on my terms, not theirs.

  38. I don’t have a cell phone. My husband does, but he works full time, so for the most part I’m without one and don’t really miss it (haven’t had one for 2 years now and we got rid of it because it was an added expense). We have two children who are home with me (we homeschool), and we’re urban homesteaders.

    That being said I would say that I think it’s best to work with technology. I’ve always been a bit fearful too about cell phones being linked with cancer, but a recent issue of ‘Scientific American’ put that fear to rest, proving that the radiation that comes out of cell phones is far too weak to break chemical bonds and cause cancer. If it were strong enough there wouldn’t be life on earth.

  39. My husband keeps talking about getting rid of our home phone (the landline) and just keeping our cell phones, but I’m concerned about the same things you are. What happens in an emergency? I know the phone will work, but will cell phones? It feels like we’re leaving perhaps clunkier but more reliable technology for things that can fail a lot quicker but are ubiquitous.

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