Off Call: Why I am not a Cellphone User

A cellphone is the definitive fashion-accessory of our time. Everyone who is anyone has one and access to businesses, firms, and institutions even of education and government, is increasingly difficult without one. In their present form, cellphones are less phones, than pocket-computers, with a built-in camera, clocks, gyroscopes, location beacons, and innumerable other sensors. In this evolution, they are far more useful than a true telephone, which does not, as mobiles do, enable the user to take pictures, calculate sums, play music, take notes, send instant messages, speak face-to-face over transcontinental distances, or identify stars in the sky.

With such advantages, my decision not to carry a mobile, may appear absurd; but my reasons are very simple.

I have no use for one. Nothing I do, requires me to be ‘on call’ at all times. Nor am I related or befriended to anyone so given to irrational anxiety, as to require incessant assurance of my safety and whereabouts.

Mobiles, moreover, are expensive, and their costs are not limited to those paid by the individual user. The manufacture of mobiles exhausts gigantic amounts of silicates, petroleum, and gold (to name but a few), and every mobile purchased, requires one more to be manufactured. The extraction and refinement of these minerals, is often destructive to land and water quality on site, and the social fabric of local people; has provided economic justifications for the re-instatement of indenture, child labor, and other forms of slavery; and releases intolerable amounts of pollutants. In spite of the industry’s efforts, there is still no satisfactory method of recycling used electronics, and no infrastructure to support such a method. Thus, the human cost, or total cost of a cellphone, is enormous, and the present manner of their manufacture, and indeed of distribution, positively spendthrift. Everyone wants a new cellphone every two years.

Although mobiles enable us to communicate more easily, and keep in touch, in practice, most users spend their days buried in their screens, without any attention to the world around them. Should mobiles fulfill their promise in the future, I may have to find a used phone, eat my words, and start paying for a cellphone plan.