Five Years Without a Cell Phone Brings Freedom

I haven’t missed a single text or call in nearly five years. That’s because I haven’t carried or owned a cell phone since April 2018. The liberation from that digital leash is indescribable but brings predictable problems.

For example, very few people communicate with me. Ever. Most everyone relies on texting and social media sites to communicate these days, and I use none. Not because I don’t want to hear from folks. I’d be happy to chat or write frequently with others, especially old friends, but people rarely use email these days, which is the only digital communication format I rely on frequently. And everyone seems to hate speaking on the phone directly with other humans. As a result, I am socially isolated but generally satisfied with my choice to ditch the cell phone.

I’m not a dedicated Luddite. In fact, I owned and used a cell phone for 16 years. I bought my first T-Mobile “peanut phone” in December 2002 and later used a smart phone for 8 years. I was one of the first people I knew who abandoned a home landline in favor of cell phone convenience, a trend that later swept the country.

I surrendered the cell phone mostly becuase there is no cell phone signal at my home. My wife and I moved to Buffalo City in 2017, and we live near the river in a deep valley surrounded by tall hills and rock-faced bluffs. The cell signal that reaches our home is fleeting, less-than-one-bar unreliable and vanishes entirely at dusk. After a year of missed calls and texts, I abandoned the phone entirely out of frustration. Instead, I use my Dell laptop and a Samsung tablet for email communication and the internet and have a reliable landline phone for calls.

That means folks who want to reach me must either email or call me and hear my voice, instead of the impersonal and inhuman distance that texting brings to our lives. To book a guided fly-fishing trip, anglers should always use those two reliable communication techniques to contact me.

Many anglers ask why I don’t use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or any number of social media platforms to reach a larger audience for guide trips and potential readers for my blog stories. I avoid all social media outlets for two important reasons.

First, I don’t want to support the companies who own and operate social media platforms. Those companies have become stupid-rich by exploiting the personal data of social media users and monetizing their lives without compensation. I don’t want to make those rich businesses and their owners even richer by surrendering my photos and thoughts for them to use without paying me for the information. Facebook and other outlets owe the entire world a big check for their personal data.

Also, the world has too many rocket-building billionaires, and I don’t want to contribute a single penny to their follies. Likewise, I haven’t shopped at Wal-Mart since 1996. There are plenty of places on earth to buy clothing and food, and I don’t want to support a company responsible for helping destroy small-town American business. Not to mention helping fuel the rise of the modern Chinese economy by flooding the country with cheap, imported foreign goods for decades.

Those companies don’t need my money, and conversely don’t miss my money much, I realize that I am a tiny fish. But like the song says, “Don’t lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools.” That’s been my credo for years, and I try to live that philosophy whether I’m buying clothes (shop Patagonia!) or food (shop organic or grow your own!) or choosing to avoid social media platforms entirely.

And as many benefits as social media’s connectivity brings, it’s also brought terrible new terms such as “unfriended” and “unfollow.” Did humanity need new ways to be negative and judgmental about the world? More effective teenage bullying? What about live-streamed murder, suicide and rape? Clearly, the answer is “no” on all counts.

Second, social media seems to be mostly filled with life-bragging and competitive child rearing, both tasks to which I am ill suited. I call Facebook, “Look At Me.” And I call TikTok, “Dance Monkey Dance.”

Yes, social media is a great way to stay in touch with family and friends, find jobs and artistic collaborators, like-minded thinkers and information about the world. My wife uses social media daily for work and fun. Everyone I know uses Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, and I don’t blame anyone for their choices.

I just don’t have the desire to be seen by other humans on a daily basis. True, I operate this website for communicating with other anglers, which provides a platform to drive customers to my guide business. And I share stories and a few photos about my life as a fly fisher, but I don’t want the entire world to know what meal I ate today or my relationship status.

Those details are only important to the individual posting and meant mostly for ego-driven attention gathering. Maybe if I had children, I would feel compelled to brag more and post their photos and accomplishments. Apparently, the internet doesn’t need more photos of cats, but don’t tell our five cats I said that…

Are there more photos of cats or kids on the internet? Inquiring minds want to know!

2 Replies to “Five Years Without a Cell Phone Brings Freedom”

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