The Luddites are not actually the power brokers

I just read this article that gives many examples of people who have given up carrying a cellular phone. It claims that by doing so, these people end up in a position of power because others are forced to work on their time.

Everyone has a cell phone now. There are more than 280 million mobile subscribers in America, according to the Federal Communications Commission. According to a 2005 international study by Advertising Age, 15 percent of Americans have interrupted sex to answer their phones. Even people who are videotaping themselves having sex, like Paris Hilton, stop to answer a call. The call of the wildGoogle, Verizon would exclude mobile Web from rulesT-Mobile looks to lag in offering 4G.

Not having a cell phone is a way of getting the world to run on your time. A lot of powerful people are already on to this. Warren Buffett doesn’t use one. Nor does Mikhail Prokhorov, the 45-year-old Russian billionaire who owns the New Jersey Nets. Tavis Smiley doesn’t own one, either.
The Luddites may actually be power brokers

First of all, almost every example in this article is someone who is already a power broker. People need them more than they need other people. If they carry a phone, of course people are going to be calling them constantly. Even the small town dentist has a position of power over his patients. They aren’t going to switch dentists because he doesn’t have a cellular phone. The premise of the article gets the causation wrong. It’s not luddites that are power brokers, it’s power brokers that are luddites.

Even if you are a power broker, should you really get rid of your cellphone? It’s quite a stupid idea if you ask me. Sure, as head of a business you will be able to control when your customers may call you. But what about your family? If there’s an emergency, and you’re unable to be contacts because you are a luddite? That sure will make you think twice. The simple answer is that you should have a phone on you at all times, at least for emergency purposes. If you don’t want to get calls off the hook from customers and such, simply don’t give out the number. It’s that easy.

For those of us who are not already power brokers, refusing to carry a phone will only get people to work on your time as far as their politeness will stretch. It also only works so far as your friends and family are not very spontaneous. If there are things happening, and you are, or could be involved, you will get left out if you can not be contacted. You’ll be relying on the politeness of others to go out of their way to accommodate your phone refusal.

Personally, I have completely stopped accommodating this. My friends all have phones, but they often don’t answer promptly. Other times, they let the battery run out. If I’m about to go out to eat dinner, and I call someone with an invite, a non-answer is a no answer. If they complain later, it’s their fault for not dealing with their phone properly. If I’m waiting for someone, they’re late, and they don’t respond to calls or SMS, I’ll just leave. When they complain later, I can tell them I waited and called, and they didn’t pick up their phone.

There really is no excuse to not carrying a cellular phone if you can afford it. It should be charged, and within close proximity at all times. You don’t have to always pick it up, but at least look at the caller ID. You might say you would never pick it up during sex, but what if it’s your mom calling at 3AM? That’s almost certainly going to be an emergency situation. You will regret not answering. There’s always something more important.

There’s also the situation where people are depending on you. Take for example the superintendent of my building. Yes, I’m paying him indirectly, but he definitely has a position of power over me. If he didn’t carry a cellphone, and I needed him, I would have to work on his time. However, one time the lady who lives across from me locked herself out of her apartment, and it was almost time for her to take her pills, which were inside. My super does carry and answer his phone, but imagine if he didn’t. By being a luddite you become a great burden to the people around you. You need to already be in a powerful social position in order for people to be willing to accept your burden. The boss of the company can get away with it, but only because his assistant does not.

Carry a phone. Keep it on whenever possible (not theaters and such). Keep it charged. Only give the number to people who you want to be able to contact you at any time. You don’t need to answer every call, but check the ID to make sure you want to hang up before you actually hang up. If you follow these rules you can get the best of both worlds. You won’t have a beeping phone ruining your life with interruptions. You won’t be a burden to those people who really need you. And most of all, you won’t risk being out of touch at those critical moments you will regret missing.

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