No, really: Drop out

I don’t own a cell phone, and I work in the IT field. Odd, but true. There are several reasons I don’t own a cell phone, ranging from practical to personal. Here are a few:

They’re modern-era tracking devices. I’m big on conspiracy theories, and people really are not aware of how much their privacy is being violated when they use a cell phone. The Patriot Act has made it possible for everyone’s conversations to be recorded, but not only this: People’s movements are also recorded with the help of latent signals their phones put out. It’s ingenious, really. Never in modern history has the public been so willing to compromise their civil liberties and pay out of their own pockets to do it just for the ability to babble on a cell phone.

Last week, as I sat inside Chipotle eating a taco, I watched an old woman about my mother’s age drive up, park her car, come inside, order, wait for her order, leave, get back in her car, and drive away, all while having a bullshit conversation about nothing on her cell phone. She twiddled about, sharing her private phone conversation with everybody there. At various points in the conversation, she had her cell phone at her ear, then she had it on speaker, then she had Bluetooth on, then she put it back at her ear ... The amount of effort this woman was spending to talk on a phone was absurd, but she was tickled pink. She couldn’t have been happier. She was loving every second of her absurd existence, and she didn’t give a shit how ridiculous she looked.

It’s the same everywhere I look. Kids as young as 8 or 9 staring at their cell phones, texting away while the real world is happening all around them; 20-something college kids with iPhones and disdainful looks on their faces; tables of two or three people at restaurants where everyone is talking, just not to each other. (They’re interesting enough to each other to travel to the restaurant together, but not interesting enough to talk to each other when they’re there.)

We don’t need cell phones, but somehow we’ve been convinced that we do. I gave up my cell phone about two years ago because I was trimming expenses. Now that I’m in a better spot financially, I won’t get one on principle. People tell me, “Steve, you need a cell phone.”

“No. No, I don’t,” I tell them. “You need a cell phone.”

I can count on one hand the times over the past couple of years when I felt like a cell phone would have been nice, but I don’t remember a time when I felt as if I really needed one.

The modern era is producing an entire generation of incessant communicators. It’s communication for communication’s sake. And it’s not even quality communication. We’ve condensed communication into meaningless little chunks of information that have morphed lately into ghastly sound bites: “LMFAO,” “LOL,” “OMG.” People are actually beginning to say the acronyms in place of the phrases themselves and, even worse, it makes sense to others, and, even worse than that, it’s made its way into pop culture.

I have a Twitter account. My first reaction to Twitter was, “God, how useless,” but I use it faithfully. Twitter allows modern communicators to post their drivel, and they’ve made it even more convenient by imposing a 140-character limit on the bullshit. The neat thing is, you can post to your Twitter account FROM YOUR CELL PHONE. Isn’t it great? When you don’t have anyone to text directly, text EVERYONE. It makes good and efficient use of that $150 a month cell-phone plan.

The entire system is utterly Orwellian. Our civil liberties are for sale, literally and figuratively. We’ve been convinced that it’s OK to spend $50 or more a month to carry around a tracking and recording device with us everywhere we go. They don’t have to be planted in our house behind a picture or under our cars. We’ll just carry them around with us and we’ll pay YOU to let us carry YOUR spying device.

Also, Twitter, we don’t mind the 140-character limit. We acknowledge what you already believe: We have nothing to say of any substance anyway. Never mind that real dialogue can’t be confined to 140 characters. We’re modern communicators. We never engage in real dialogue anyway. LOL.

If you’ve read this far into this post, congratulations. Your attention span is greater than the average modern communicator’s attention span, which hovers currently around three or four seconds by some reports. I commend you.

Now all I need to do is figure out a way to condense this entire article to 140 characters or less. •

Steve Peralta is a web developer at a small data-management company and publisher of

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