Career Center Blog

October 23, 2009

Are you a cellphone refusenik?


I was a cellular holdout for a long time. Like years. And while I maintain a landline and have been known to leave the house without my mobile phone on occasion, I can't imagine returning to the days of worrying about missing a client's urgent message should I step outside, or worse, trying to find a payphone if late or lost en route to an important business meeting.

Apparently, however, there are still people unenchanted with the idea of being accessible anytime and anywhere. They're in the minority, but they're out there.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 85 percent of U.S. adults now have cell phones. And as the New York Times reported this week, those who don't "tend to be older or less educated Americans or those unable to afford phones."

But as the New York Times learned, about 5 percent of the country's cellphone-free adults are simply holdouts who prefer to live off the mobile grid. They may have a computer and an email account and even a blog. They'd just rather not be reachable round the clock.

I respect a person's right to avoid the whole slippery slope of mobile messaging and cellphone contracts. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels a twinge of envy about the choice these cellular refuseniks have made (though I'd hate to be in their shoes and run out of gas on a deserted road in the middle of the night).

Of course owning a cellphone doesn't mean you have to become one of those people who can't let the digital bugger out of their sight, from dinner table to bathtub to nightstand. There is such a thing as leaving your phone in your bag or coat pocket. Or better yet, turning it off.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide." E-mail Michelle at

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I love the term "Reuseniks". Both my wife and I do not have a cell phone. Nor do we want them. We have both previously carried one for our jobs, but as soon as we no longer were required to, we both gave them up. It is so nice to be FREE on our days off. We still have e-mail and a land-line, but we can go a few weeks without a message on the answering machine and we only check our e-mail every week or two. It's not to be leashed.


It's NICE not to be leashed.

Sorry, didn't proof-read.

I am also a Refusenik , it's my way of savoring my time .
Enjoying the quiet of my Home and garden without the thought of someone invading my space ....
It's sad that it has come to name calling of those who chooses not to be like everyone else .
With that said I am comfortable being in the Unique %5 Club.

"Of course owning a cellphone doesn't mean you have to become one of those people who can't let the digital bugger out of their site, from dinner table to bathtub to nightstand."


Blake, sorry about that typo. Fixed.

I'm holding out not because I don't want to be reachable, but because I refuse to sign a 2 year contract. Cell phone plans in America are awful compared with the rest of the world. True, we have a lot more square mileage per person, but it goes to show how foolish the American consumer is. Finally there are some pay-as-you-go plans that aren't a joke so I may end my holdout.

I have a cell phone but only turn it on when I'm in the car or on an errand. I use a long distance calling card when I'm at home, and I keep my minutes on my cell phone at a minimum by purchasing pre-paid minutes.

Well, there is no law of nature that says you need to have the ringer turned on, or even the phone turned on. The people who don't want to have a cell make it seem like there is a gun being pointed at the head of a cell phone user, forcing him/her to pick up calls whenever they come their way.

For me, the conveniences of cell phones hardly make long for the day of land lines only.

some jobs - recruiters, doctors, travelling salespeople - by their nature are made easier by having cell-phones. most desk bound jobs do not neeed a cell phone.

socially, perhaps a cell phone or panic button is useful for the very elderly / infirm. for anyone else, it's an addiction masquerading as a necessity. ditch your comforter and get a life.

For me, it's not mainly about controlling my reachability. The things can be turned off, after all. It's more importantly:

*One more thing I'd have to carry around in my pockets, and remember to grab when I leave the house.

*The sound quality: It's often bad enough when I'm talking to a cell user on my crystal clear land line. When it's cell-to-cell, I seem to spend half my time asking people what they just said, or accidentally cutting them off (or vice-versa) because of a time lag or something.

*The distraction factor. Often both parties are doing something else while talking to each other, such as driving, or ordering a latte. I think this can dimisish the quality of communication, escpecially when you factor in sound quality issues as well. Me, I'm more of a singletasker, and perhaps, an audiophile.

I've used cell phones for work, and I had my own for a little while, but I returned it for a refund. I just didn't care for it.

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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