It's probably not too surprising that somebody who ditched his PDA for a dead tree would have unusual opinions about technology... but I get quite a few odd looks when I tell people I do not own a cell phone. People react with shock, anger, and sometimes envy.
I can understand why some people find them useful, but for me a cell phone has absolutely no value. Staying connected? Hardly... Email, instant messaging, and the internet are connected. Cell phones are leashes... and they are on proprietary networks that work hard to reduce your connectivity.
Only recently have new bluetooth phones made it easier to transfer phone numbers, ring tones, and photos to your computer. What took them so long? Oh yeah... if you have to use your cellphone's network to transfer data they get to charge you more money. Silly me.
I did use a cell phone back in the early 90s. Remember those monstrous analog bricks? You don't?! Man, I'm old.
Anyway, it was useful because my girlfriend at the time lived in Wisconsin, and three members of her family were constantly commuting the 40 miles from their home to the University of Minnesota campus. The cell phone was really useful to catch somebody in transit so they could bring something that was forgotten. Without a cell phone, that 80 mile round-trip could sometimes mean the difference between passing and failing a class.
But then I started noticing something... they stopped planning their day as much. They would constantly forget things, and not care because somebody else had a cell phone: there was always another chance. This may have been a coincidence, or maybe the radiation in the phones was making their brains wonky, but I think it was a genuine behavioral shift.
This led me to the conclusion that cell phones are crutches that enable people to be disorganized. What's the point in planning anything? If something goes wrong, you can just call everybody on their cell phones and relay the new "plan"... assuming that the muscles you need to formulate a plan haven't atrophied...
I'm not the only person who has a deep dislike of cell phones. Steve Jobs is notorious for it... although he is mainly annoyed with their generally crappy user interface. I'm not altogether certain that he owns one. UPDATE: this blog post was written in the pre-iPhone days, so I'm pretty certain Steve Jobs now uses one currently...
Well, what about my job? Don't I have to own one so people can easily find me? No... I don't have one for the explicit reason that I don't want people to easily find me. I'm a software developer; that sometimes takes a lot of focus, and you never want to be interrupted when you're on a roll. Still, people do have legitimate questions that I need to answer. I am more than happy to answer them over email, or preferably on a public forum (such as the Stellent Yahoo Users Group), but phone calls really irk me.
I cannot do my job efficiently over the phone: I need text messages to send people command-line scripts. I need email so they can send me error logs, and I can send them links. I need the internet so I can test their systems over the web.
The phone gives me nothing. It doesn't help; it hurts. It slows everything down. I cannot speed-read a phone call, and phone calls are rarely as well-thought-out as an email. People addicted to the cell phone crutch do not comprehend this. It is inconceivable to them that I greatly prefer an impersonal email over a friendly call.
Well, what about an emergency? Easy... living in a connected world means that somebody or something nearby probably is connected. Whether its a phone booth, a good Samaritan with a cell phone, or an email kiosk at a coffee shop, I'm set.
And besides, what's wrong with good old-fashioned planning for an emergency? Can't you do basic first aid? Can't you fix a flat tire? Can't you build a fire with a Coke can and a bar of chocolate? Better not lose that cell phone then.
In all, I'm not completely anti-cell phone. I just see absolutely no value in them for me, and in fact they make my life harder. I feel that they are making people less organized, less capable of short-term planning, and less able to find things on their own. Why bother Googling, when you can just annoy somebody?
You can always tell a cell phone junkie by how they write emails... they expect an email to be the beginning of a dialog, as opposed to a request/response. They are the ones who send messages about as informative as this:
"Something's broken. Please fix it."
hmmmmm... let me think about it... *delete* Oops! Your blackberry must have been roaming, because I never got your message. Maybe you should try UPS.
Update: after stating my new company Bezzotech, I needed a dedicated, reliable business line. Since SkypeIn is still sketchy, the cheapest route to this was a cell phone... so I broke down and got one. Although in protest, I leave it at home most of the time.