As CTIA-The Wireless Association opens its annual show today, looking at the latest trends in mobile technology, there are still some folks who don’t want to have anything to do with cell phones.
Angela from Skiatook, Okla., just doesn’t want to feel that connected.
“I don’t own a cell phone and I love it,” the 34-year-old said. “I don't like the idea of anyone bothering me at any moment.”
Don’t know anybody without a cell phone? That’s because they’re a relatively small — and shrinking — group of less than 20 percent of Americans, according to CTIA, an industry trade group.
Surprisingly, my recent article on a likely larger, growing group of people who feel lost without one sparked about 30 e-mails from readers who are bucking the cell-phone trend.
Connection feels forced
Many of these unwired readers don’t see the allure of being connected 24/7.
Kathleen from Helena, Mont., already has a landline at home and one at work. “I don't want people calling me at the grocery store, etc.,” she said in an e-mail.
Cell phones had appeal at first because they could provide security. Even more so today: The two-way communication between cell phones and cellular towers can help authorities trace a missing person. Isn’t the safety-net argument enough to sway cell-phone latecomers?
It worked for the loved ones of some readers.
Keith from Norwood, Ma., said in an e-mail that he only uses his mobile for about 10 minutes a month.
“I keep my cell phone shut off and in my truck,” he wrote. “I only own one because my wife insists I have one for emergencies.”
Readers care for other tech
Cell phones have caught fire like no other technology. Between 2000 and now, the U.S. wired population shot from 30 percent to more than 80 percent, according to CTIA. What’s more, cell phones now reign as the technology Americans can least go without, according to a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Some readers who could care less about cell phones do like and use other tech.
Winston, from Lebanon, N.H., offered proof that he’s a “techie” although he’s never owned a cell phone.
“I have Wi-Fi in [my] house with two PCs and a Mac, PS3 and 46-inch LCD, three MP3 players, including two iPods,” he said in an e-mail.
Kelly from Annapolis, Md., singled out the latter as her most important gadget.
“The only electronic device I'd be lost without is my iPod,” she said in an e-mail. “Now, that I am a slave to.”
But more people are slaves to their cell phones, and because the multipurpose gadgets are so handy for storing information, users often don't bother backing up. So losing a mobile can mean losing all your phone numbers — cutting you off from your social network (at least temporarily). But why are we so dependent on one device?
Making do with old technology
Some readers said that they stay decently connected using multiple technologies in place of cell phones.
Art Howland from Washington D.C, who describes himself as “young, and have a decent-paying job,” wrote in that he is reachable in the office for nine hours a day and gets his messages through e-mail at home, thanks to Internet phone-service provider Vonage. To store his phone numbers, he makes do with a very old technology.
“My ‘PDA’ is a folded piece of paper with an Excel printout of everyone's number,” Howland said in an e-mail.
Some readers who don’t have cell phones griped about people who do.
"One cannot go anywhere without being completely annoyed by people yacking unnecessarily and uselessly on their cell phones," Jane Armstrong from Washington D.C. wrote.
Brandon Nash from San Francisco agrees. “Let’s not even start on the inane dialogues that constitute most cell yackity-yack sessions I overhear — ‘I’m on the bus’ — ‘I just told you I’m on the bus’ — ‘the bus, stupid’ — ‘the No. 2 bus,’” he said in an e-mail.
But they're not the first to raise issues with cell-phone etiquette. Theaters often ask us to silence our phones, some fancy restaurants discourage them — and the Federal Communications Commission has grounded the concept of cell phones on planes. The reason was technical, but many air travelers breathed a sigh of relief. (Imagine the noise pollution.)
Living in the here and now
Some readers maintain that some cell phone users are too obsessed with being connected.
“Not acting like Pavlov’s dog when a buzzer goes off is a good thing,” wrote a reader from Harrisburg, Pa., who doesn’t own a cell phone.
Reader M. Kohler from State College, Pa., who got one to appease mom, argues that cell phones can keep people from living in the here and now.
“I feel cell phones are actually disconnecting us from the immediate world,” wrote Kohler, 40. “Try interacting with the world in front of you and the person next to you, instead [of] subjecting your personal phone calls on us in public, and worse, while you drive.”
Cell phones might disconnect us from the real world. But aren’t there upsides to being constantly connected to friends and loved ones?
‘My friends all think I’m crazy’
Some readers with cell phones offered these thoughts:
“Being deaf, I desperately NEED one! (Text phone),” wrote Joanna Roos from New York City.
Understandable. Here’s another: A mother from Jacksonville, Ore., said in an e-mail that her cell phone keeps her family together while they’re apart.
“My children live in different states. I have a brother who lives in another state and drives [a] truck interstate, so I don't get to see him or my mother, who also lives in another state very often,” she wrote. “I would be lost without my cell phone, because to me hearing my loved ones' voices fills a void that their physical absence creates.”
But some readers said they just don’t want to be too available.
Renee from Augusta, Ga., said in an e-mail that Sprint provided her with a cell phone when she worked for the mobile-service provider as a saleswoman. When she left the job, she kissed her phone good-bye.
“My friends all think I am crazy, but I love the freedom of not feeling like I have to answer the phone all the time,” she wrote.
“I’ll probably eventually go back to having a cell phone, but for now I am enjoying not being on call.”