Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why I will NEVER own a Cell Phone, or be on Facebook, or....

While lecturing at Penn State University this week I happened to mention to the audience that I do not own a cell phone and that I am not on Facebook or Twitter. 
Given the looks on the student's faces, I might as well have told them that I am an escaped Martian that has been hiding under the Earth living off of tree roots and cigarette butts for the past 3,022 years. 
So be it.
On the day of, and day after my lecture, I took some time to go hiking in the mountains of beautiful Pennsylania.  It was about 55 degrees outside, the leaves were at near peak in color and on both occasions I was the only living soul on the trail. 
My wife (back home in Florida) knew that I was going to be hiking those days but she also knew that if I fell off the side of a mountain or was attacked by an angry groundhog there would be no last "Goodbye, honey, tell the kids I love them....." over the phone or Facebook update showing the groundhog chewing through by leg.  There would be nothing until some other hiker stumbled across my body and then posted his or her findings on Facebook while cell-phoning the authorities about a dead dude in the woods.
So be it.  That is what life insurance is for.  And that is what life is for....
By the latter remark I mean without a cellphone I am able to - wait for it....... - ENJOY MY LIFE.
Unlike the rest of the 99.99999438% of the world I get to explore the woods, drive down the road, go to the store, watch football games, vacation with my family and a million other things without the constant societal pressure to be "connected" to everyone out there who I am "supposed" to update on what type of granola bar I am eating on top of some mountain.   I get to sit on a rock looking out at a beautiful valley of fall colors, talk to God, think about life and relax (remember that word?).
No one gets to know exactly where I am, what I am doing, what I am thinking, or anything.  I get to enjoy that last vestige of sanity-creating PEACE and QUIET any time I want.
For those of you who are cellphone junkies, you can probably not even remember the last time you got to enjoy a meal, or engage in a meaningful conversation with someone, can you?
Consider this...
Last weekend I went out to dinner with my wife and great friends of ours to celebrate my friends' birthday.
At a table nearby was another couple who NEVER put down their cell phones the entire meal.  I did not see them talk eye to eye once.  All they did was peck away on their phones like mindless chickens in a barnyard.
During our meal we were constantly talking, laughing and carrying on.  At one point, I saw the female at the barnyard chicken table shoot us a hateful glance after one particular loud round of laughing.  I guess our enjoyment of one another as human beings was disturbing her Facebook updates about her date with the guy she was not talking to.
I see stuff like this all the time.  At the airport on my way home I saw many parents, face down in their phones, while their kids went along with no interaction whatsoever.
Of course, I could go on and on but you get the idea.
In case you are saying, "Hey hypocrite, you are blogging right now while you could be hanging out with your family!"
It is 7:58am, they are still asleep, and at no point during their waking hours today will they have to compete with a stupid cell phone. 
You should try my life.  You might find that you will end up having a life.


  1. Well, I do have a cell phone but I use it only as a phone--no apps, no internet. And I am on Facebook, though I wouldn't know a tweet if it bit me. But I agree all the way with what you say here. As I'm walking to class I see at least 50% of people--students and faculty--with their heads bowed, stepping off of curbs, stepping in front of other people, on. the. phone.

  2. I swear if there's a real life Ron Swanson somewhere out there, it's Professor Jack Chambless.

  3. I own a smart phone and love it...but I appreciate the point you're making.

    Time spent documenting life (via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. etc.) takes away time to experience life. It's opportunity cost through and through.

    Comedian Louis C.K. talked about this recently as well. He chalks it up to our inability to be alone.

    “That’s why we text and drive. I look around, pretty much 100% of the people driving are texting. And they’re killing, everybody’s murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don’t want to be alone for a second, because it’s so hard.” - Louis C.K.

  4. When I went on vacation back home to the US Virgin Islands earlier this year I intentionally went 5 days with no internet or watching national news (ok, a little news over the radio). For lack of a better term it was awesome to disconnect for those days until I had to look something up on google - I forgot my passport and had to see what I needed to do since I didn't have it; turns out nothing as passports in the USVI are recommended but not required. Luckily the local Kmart has free wifi. The entrance to this Kmart has a seating area outside of it - bit like a small park. There were a few ships in that day and it was kind of sad and hilarious at the same time to see all the tourists and ships crew with their heads bowed down to their laptops, tablets and smartphones praying to the gods of the internetz. Wish I took a picture but didn't.