The Little Luxuries of Life Without a Cell Phone

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Though at least a few people are giving up their cell phones as a cost-cutting measure, it can be quite a luxurious state of being. These people might not be throwing away their tether to society because they are so rich they don't have to worry about technology—in fact, they are doing just the opposite—but the very lack of that device gives them a certain power that other people don't have. To those of us who are addicted to our connections to the world (and Facebook), the idea that not having a phone at all could provide something glamorous sounds insane. And, at times, it sounds like a pain: We need our phones, and without them we are hopeless. But, when reading through the accounts of such people's lives, at times they have something we don't: freedom. 

People expect less of you when you don't have a cell phone. Melissa Hildebrand, for example, just leaves if her friends don't show up on time for something. "She gives them 15 to 30 minutes to show up. If they don't, Ms. Hildebrand finds something else to do," writes The Wall Street Journal's Anton Troianovski. Can you, punctual smartphone owner, imagine doing that to your tardy friends? "You didn't show up at 12:30 on the dot, so I decided to stop wasting my time with you late losers and do something better than wait around." That would not fly for people with phones. However, without a phone that responsibility seems to diminish.

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The ability to see things. During his day without a cell phone comedian Dean Obeidallah writing for CNN talks about what its like to look up from his phone. He writes:

Instead of texting or checking my email, I began to actually look at the people I was sharing the streets with. It truly resembled a movie set filled with extras from all walks of life. A beautiful woman walked quickly past me while fixing her make up. Asian tourists were busy snapping photos. A businessman looked busy talking on his phone. A group of Hasidic men were kibitzing while an Arab man sold falafel from a cart.

That matches the sentiments of  who talked up her phoneless life in The Awl a bout a year and a half ago. "I am a free being, kids. Seriously. Unbridled and happily disconnected in a way that most cell owners simply can’t imagine," she wrote. "Glorious solitary cab rides, oblivious rambles though Chinatown, lazy summer afternoons at the Carmine Street pool: No device can interrupt my life." 

An excuse not to check email. Once you have a phone, people expect you to be available. But, then when you're not their behaviors change, too. When Obeidallah went to check his messages, there were none. Not having the device cut his clutter.

Along with these small benefits of not having a phone, come all the inconveniences, however. Nancy Kadlick told WSJ she missed her airport pick-up because of her phonelessness. Obeidallah said he felt lonely and also introduced us to the state of the modern payphone: "he pay phones I saw looked and smelled like homeless people had confused them for bathrooms or had used them to clean certain parts of their anatomy," he wrote. For me, the inconveniences of not having a phone outweigh these small luxuries. But, not having one every once in awhile sounds like a nice respite. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.