Do you ever feel like technology owns you?
A little over a month ago I reminisced fondly of days gone by - and of telephone cords. Remember those incredible things? They were curly, springy, tangled and could only reach so far.
When telephone cords existed we actually did things while disconnected. Like go to the store. Or go to work. Or go to the park. We used paper maps and drove for miles on road trips without any way to make an emergency phone call. How did we ever live to see the dawn of the smartphone?
When did we become uncomfortable with being inaccessible?
Over my years of cell phone ownership, I began to live my life completely surrendered to the rings, beeps and buzzes of other people's needs. I felt that being accessible was my duty. It was polite. It was caring.
Being unavailable is not a crime.
Smartphones are now woven into culture and life - how do you remain connected without being consumed?
Here's what I did:
I discovered a cell phone provider called Ting Wireless. They have a unique payment system that only bills you for for the data and cellular resources you actually use. Novel, right? Another nice thing that Ting offers is the opportunity to BYOD (bring your own device). I didn't own a phone to activate, so I scored a great deal on a refurbished iPhone instead.
(Ting uses the Sprint network, which happens to have the strongest signals where I live. If Sprint doesn't have great coverage where you are, Ting may not be your best option.)
In the spirit of minimalism, I wanted my cell phone to become a tool, not a burden.
- After beginning my service with Ting, I created a Google Voice account and received a Google Voice phone number.
- I installed the Google Hangouts app on my iPhone, and adjusted my Google Voice settings to ring calls to Hangouts only and allow SMS messaging via the app.
- I created a voicemail greeting for my Google Voice account that shared my Ting cell phone number in case I was needed in an emergency.
- I turned off my cellular data access in my apps, and also in the main settings of my iPhone.
I exclusively give friends and business acquaintances my Google Voice number. Family members have access to my Ting cell number so they can reach me for emergencies right away.
This means most people only have access to me when I am connected to WiFi - which happens when I am at home or at a few local businesses. If I am away from home or WiFi, only important calls or texts are made and received (because they use my Ting cellular access). Likewise I only use apps and surf the web while on WiFi, cutting down on my cellular data costs. (Most of the data I've used this month has been for an emergency business lookup or use of maps.)
This setup causes me to prioritize my phone use. Is a call really important? Is a text really necessary? The benefits go far beyond an incredibly cheap phone bill.
I am a better driver.
My phone never rings in the car anymore. Even with the best intentions my cell phone was a nearby temptation and distraction while driving. Now it is a silent passenger available in emergency but not causing an emergency.
I am a better mom.
There's no WiFi at the playground. I am connected to my kids and not the rest of the planet.
I am a better wife.
I over-texted. It's embarrassing to admit, but I annoyed my husband over every minor negative detail of my life. I even continued arguments via text. Isn't that lovely? If I argue via text now - it's probably happening while I'm in the same house as him on WiFi - and that, friends, is just stupid.
I am a better me.
I'm released from the burnout of constant connection. Setting healthy boundaries is sometimes a challenge for me. Adding a cell phone in the mix was a recipe for emotional exhaustion. I'm empowered now to decide what is important and what can wait - especially since my Google Voice voicemail messages are transcribed and sent via text. It's like being able to press 'snooze' on calls and texts and stay present with what feeds my soul and my family's well-being.
I have a better budget.
$15 a month? Seriously?
Through this lifestyle change I found once again that less is more.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments below - navigating the Google Voice set up took a little bit of trial and error for me in the beginning. I'm happy to help with the wisdom of my own errors. Google Voice has a minor hiccup now and then, but overall I've been very happy with the connections and sound quality.
The Ting link is an affiliate link. I have kept my blog affiliate and sponsor free, but chose to share this link because it offers you the only discount available on new service. (The current offer is $25 off a new device or $25 bill credit when you BYOD.)