'There’s more time to look and listen to what’s around you': readers on life without a mobile

As the world welcomes the latest iPhone, we speak to people who are bucking the trend and doing without

Many will be eagerly awaiting the release of the new iPhone X, the latest model of Apple’s smartphone. It’s expected to be the biggest change in design yet.

For some, however, the event will go by without them so much as batting an eyelid. The Guardian has heard from people who have shunned phones altogether or keep the use of their mobiles to a bare minimum.

James Hall, 54, from London: I’m happy to use my house phone. People survived for millennia without mobiles

I have an ancient Nokia (older than the one they reissued) which is almost never switched on. It must be well over 20 years old. I’ve never sent a text. I don’t usually give people the number. I don’t even remember what it is. My message inbox got filled up years ago and I never knew how to delete texts, so I haven’t had a new one for years. I’ll give my mobile to a museum one day.

I hate the idea of having to speak on the phone in transit or in public. It’s irritating all round. I’m happy to use the house phone. My work is mostly sedentary so I can immediately respond to emails.

People survived and thrived without mobile phones for millennia. My life’s fine, though it does irritate and dismay some people. There’s more time to think and look and listen to what’s around you. No one’s ever resented me for having a loud conversation on a train or blocking the street.

Valentin Loeffler, 24, London: I have the exciting feeling of being alone, not knowing when friends or trains will arrive

I don’t have any social media accounts or a mobile phone for similar reasons. I am very conscious of the personal impacts of these technologies. They affect concentration, creativity, anxiety, insecurities and self-confidence etc. They also have a frustrating and sad effect on a larger, more societal level. People feel the need to “share” everything, but are becoming increasingly lonely in our digital worlds.

The no phone thing started as an experiment to regain the joy of discovering a city without Google Maps, to learn how to wait for friends, the nervous excitement of not being able to know what will happen or where, to learn how to make plans and stick to them.

Not having a mobile has its pros and cons. It is a struggle to communicate and organise. I am muddying my email account with more communication etc. I am also frustrating my friends who struggle to get in touch and sometimes have to go out of their way to communicate.

However, it is rewarding because I have become more organised and learned to plan properly. I have the exciting feeling of being on my own a lot, with no safety net allowing me to check if friends will arrive or trains will be on time.

I probably will get a phone again, but I will never have social media accounts. My aim is to fully understand the values we are losing by having phones and the benefits we gain, and then to consciously make a decision of how I will communicate, via phone and other means, going forward.

Penelope, 54: I do not want to be in the constantly reactive state that owning a smartphone seems to demand

I own an ancient slider phone that is used solely to call or text people when I’m out. I am not averse to technology and own an iPad. However, the way in which people’s attention is consumed by smartphones is alarming at times. Last year, while standing in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam looking at the most extraordinary self-portrait by Rembrandt, a man walked past and took a photo of the painting on his phone. He then quickly moved on. For me, this exemplifies the way in which smartphones interfere with our real-life interactions.

I have a “dumb” phone so am contactable via text or by call. I still have a landline at home, and at work there are telephones in the office that ring all day. I can be contacted via email too. I check emails on various work or home computers periodically through the day. I do not want to be in the constantly reactive state that owning a smartphone seems to demand. I don’t think that not having a smartphone adversely affects my life, although others may find my lack of instant accessibility annoying.

My phone is so old now that a decision will need to be made in the near future about what replaces it. I will probably replace it with a similar “non-smart” phone. There are enough accessible alternative modes of communicating with people for me not to need a single device that does everything.

Stacey Keith, 45, living in Italy: Without a mobile unwanted distractions were no longer forced upon me

Three years ago, after moving to Italy, I gave up my cellphone. The television went 10 years ago and I never looked back. I hate TV. Giving up my phone meant I lost my ability to navigate unfamiliar terrain (or to call for help when I got lost) which I often did. But guess what? I survived without it. The upside was I was fully alive and present with what was happening right in front of me. Unwanted distractions were no longer forced upon me. I had managed to shake off the electronic leash and was now free to observe the natural world, not the virtual one.

I’m not smug about this. I’m actually at a disadvantage by refusing to “stay connected”. I don’t care. It helps that I’m a born introvert. Socialising drains me instead of rejuvenating me.

At some point, out of consideration to my family, I will probably be forced to get a basic cellphone. I dread the thought, but I will never get a smartphone. I have my nice wifi-dependent iPad, but the thing doesn’t follow me around interrupting my every thought. And that’s worth an awful lot.

Chris Thody, 53, North Yorkshire: My friends say: ‘How do you survive?’ I don’t want to be contactable all the time

I had a mobile but forgot to charge it up. I had it for years but never carried it around or gave out my number. It still has the same £10 credit on it I put on when I bought it.

I don’t want or need to be contactable at all times. I don’t want the phone ringing when I am working or out walking the dog. Everyone who knows me knows I’ve got an answerphone at home so they can leave a message on my landline.

My friends say: “How do you survive without a phone?” I am the richer for it. People give me their old ones, and tell me I “need” to have Snapchat and WhatsApp and then never send me messages anyway. I enjoy looking out of train windows.


Sarah Marsh and Guardian readers

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