I know, I know, it's crazy, right? What kind of nutty ascetic gives up a cell phone? I mean, what kind of martyr am I trying to make out of myself here? Well, I’m not martyring myself, thankfully (or maybe, unfortunately). My decision to give up my cell phone is not based in self-denial or even exclusively in cell-phone-related environmental or health concerns. No, sadly enough, my decision to give up that devoted devil (or angel, depending on your point of view) on my shoulder has more to do with quality of life than anything else. Selfishly, despite the overwhelming evidence that cell phones are toxic to brain cells as well as to the environment, it took the realization of how much money and time I lose every month, sacrificed to the gods of trendy technology, to quit my habit.
How am I going to make it after living for so many years leaning on the crutch of technological convenience? Well, I have a few ideas…
1. “What You Don’t Have, You Don’t Need it Now” ~U2
So, let’s think about childhood—for most of us, it was replete with landlines—that is, a phone that had a handset as well as a base (some even with rotary dial), no call waiting, and an answering machine that dutifully recorded messages for you while you were out (and was polite enough not to remind you with a beep from your pocket that you could be ignoring possibly the most important phone call of your life). We didn’t have cell phones and, because we didn’t have them, we didn’t miss them (i.e. need them). Surely, life can return to that idyllic idea. Right?
Well. Maybe not. But, when I think back to my time BCP (Before Cell Phones), there was a sense of freedom there (and not only because I was a kid at home with no responsibilities but, yes, there is that). I could escape from everyone and no one expected me, always, to be immediately reachable. Now, sure, I can leave my cell phone at home, but there’s still that expectation of making a connection, a constant state of “reachability,” if you like, in which we are all expected to live.
That’s a lot of stress to live under. It almost feels as if we’re being watched—how long before you answer that email? If you go three hours without updating your Facebook or Twitter status will you be forgotten? If you miss that phone call inviting you to a party on Friday night, will you end up abandoned, cold and alone? Now, this might be influenced by the view through the rose-colored glasses of childhood, but it never used to be this hard. Right?
2. “An intelligent person can rationalize anything, a wise person doesn't try.” ~Jen Knox
So, here’s the second reason: addiction. Am I addicted to my cell phone? Or, more specifically, am I addicted to that constant stream of information and that always-available ability to contact anyone from anywhere I choose? And, if so, is this a bad thing, an unhealthy habit? Well, good or bad, I’m not exactly ready to judge, but I will say that since I bought a smartphone earlier this year, I’ve had a harder time meditating and, in general, being at peace, alone. This could be for any number of reasons, but recently I’ve noticed myself waiting for that little clicking sound my phone makes when I’ve received an email. Even when my phone is silenced, my brain is still waiting for that distraction, that signal which means it’s off the hook and now has permission to be sidetracked—all this electromagnetic excitement, I suspect, has also been affecting my ability to fall and stay asleep.
But it’s not just sleep and meditation which suffer; I find that I’m not as attentive to the person in front of me or to the class I’m teaching. Because I have that ability to connect to the larger world, I find myself less and less satisfied with the smaller world I actually inhabit. Now, I’m not saying that the internet and technology haven’t been wonderful resources for finding and forging community and communication—they are completely invaluable for that kind of bond. However, do I need a constant connection to these communities? I could rationalize an affirmative answer, but I think, this time, I won’t try.
3. “All life pulsates in time to the Earth and our artificial fields cause abnormal reactions in all organisms… Increasing electropollution could set in motion irreversible changes leading to our extinction.” ~Dr. Robert Becker , two-time Nobel nominee, author and EMRadiation research founder on ABC (Australia) Radio
My last reason encompasses all the environmental and health questions that orbit around cell phone use. Admittedly, there exists conflicting information regarding the dangers of cell phones on the brain and on the environment. You can make an argument that cell phones are the next global disaster or that they’re completely harmless, depending on where you do your research. Certainly, however, we cannot argue that it takes fossil fuels to create and charge cell phones (something we can mitigate by buying refurbished phones and/or not replacing our phones as often).
But, you know what? Whether or not these studies are valid, on top of the lessening quality of life that I perceive to be caused by my personal cell phone use, questions about my health and my impact on the environment are enough motivation for me to put this particular technology away for a while.
I get kind of excited when I think about leaving the house and being unreachable and in the realization that, sooner or later, people will come to expect me to be unreachable. What this means is that my free time becomes exactly that—free. Once I shake off the technology withdrawal, I’ll be able to focus more on the moment, on the book I’m reading, on the person with whom I’m speaking without that nagging feeling that there’s something else going on, something else I need to check/say/tweet/weigh-in on. And, yeah, I have no illusions about the difficulty of giving up such a neat-o means of connection and communication, but eventually I’ll come to realize what I’ve been trying to teach my yoga students for years: what you don’t have, you don’t need it now.
image via zero discipline