May 2011

My friend looked at me with wide eyes and exclaimed, “You’re getting rid of your cell phone?! How are you going to survive?”

I giggled and said, “Don’t worry! It’s not like I’m never going to talk on the phone again. We’re going to use Skype for our phone service. And I think we’ll be just fine. I survived the first two decades of my life without a cell phone. Besides, if we discover that we can’t live without one, we can always sign-up with a new cell phone provider.”

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Since our contract with Sprint ended a few months ago, we’ve been thinking about living without a cell phone. Last week we finally took the plunge and canceled our cell phone service.

The main reason we canceled our cell phone service has to do with mindfulness. It’s not about saving money. Although, it will be nice to save an extra $60 a month.

Cell phones aren’t evil and I’m not saying you shouldn’t have one. Like anything, they are tool that can be used for a lot of cool projects. For example, Freakonomics ran a story last year and noted how “mobile phones in developing countries are now used to provide farmers with agricultural information, remind patients to take their meds, gather health information in the field, and transfer money.”

Cell phones can do a lot of good in the world. However, I don’t need one. At least not right now. I need more time to listen and to pay attention. Unless I’m talking on the phone in a quiet place, I have trouble doing both.

Plus, I don’t want a devise glued to my ear all the time. I want to be in the moment. And I don’t want to be scrolling through my phone, sending text messages, or fielding phone calls when I’m hanging out with friends and family members.

The authors of Buddha’s Brain aptly noted, “Attention is like a spot light, and what it illuminates streams into your mind and shapes your brain. Consequently, developing greater control over your attention is perhaps the single most powerful way to reshape your brain and thus your mind.”

The number of incoming messages we receive in the digital age is never ending; there are cell phone messages, text messages, emails, tweets, Facebook status updates, and more. With no cell phone in my pocket, I have even more control over my attention.

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Q & A:

Since we ditched our cell phone, friends and family members have been asking us a lot of questions. Below is a brief Q & A:

Question: How much does Skype cost? And how does it work?

Answer: My Skype number is $66 a year; that includes the phone number and unlimited calls. You can view the full price list here.

Skype works on my computer or iPod Touch. Basically, I need an Internet connection to talk on the phone.

Question: What happens if you need to call 911?

Answer: Skype doesn’t allow you to make emergency calls with their service. For now, we’re thinking about using Vonage or we might go with Cricket. Cricket offers a pre-paid cell phone plan and 911 calls are free. The phone would be for emergency calls only. It’s not something we would use on a daily basis.

Question: What if you’re lost in a big crowd and can’t find the person you’re with?

Answer: Going without a cell phone means we have to make plans in advance. If Logan and I are out and about in a big crowd, we set up a meeting spot in advance. That way if we lose each other, it’s not big deal.

Question: Have you noticed any drawbacks of not having a cell phone?

Answer: So far, no. But we’ve only been without a cell phone for a week.

Question: How will you get Internet in your tiny house? Will you still be able to use Skype?

Answer: Yes, we will be able to get Internet in the tiny house. For example, we’re looking into the Peel and a few other wireless broadband services.

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