In Defense of Inconvenience (and Why I Ditched My Smartphone)

Three days before I left to start my book tour last fall, I begrudgingly traded in my old phone (the one with the huge extended-life battery that always falls out, and that I usually hold together with a rubber band) for a smart one.

I had resisted for years, fearing that with 24/7 access to email, Twitter, and the like, I would become a miserable drone of a dad. Of a husband. Of a person.

But I needed the iPhone for the book tour. To use that nifty Square card swiper to sell books and shirts, to navigate from one state to the next, to book hotels on the go, and (crucially) to stay in touch with my wife and kids via Skype. In this case, the phone would help us to feel closer, not more distant.

I asked the sales rep at the Verizon store what my options were for when the book tour was over and I wanted to go back to my old phone.

“Once you get used to a smartphone,” he laughed, “you’ll never want to go back.”

The Inconvenience of a Plant-Based Diet

Something I often say about a vegan diet (that many other vegans seem not to like) is that it’s inconvenient — but that its inconvenience is its strength, when it comes to health.

I’ve come to believe that the best diet for any person is the diet that will cause him or her to make the best food choices. And that, far more than the replacement of animal products with plants, is why this diet has made me the healthiest I’ve ever been.

Fast food on a road trip is simply not an option anymore. Pizza at a poker game is a no-go. Wings at the bar during Monday Night Football are out of the question, unless they’re n’wings or chik’n wings or some other made up word with an apostrophe between two consonants … and those just aren’t the same (nor much healthier, probably).

This is inconvenient, sure. But it makes me plan ahead, so I cook and eat at home before I go out. Or if we’re driving nine hours to visit family back in Baltimore, we make almond butter or hummus sandwiches, load up a cooler with fresh fruit and vegetables, bring some raw trail mix to snack on, and probably eat healthier that day than even on a typical one at home.

Not quite as satisfying in the moment as greasy, salty french fries might be. But it’s worth it.

(And by the way, none of this is unique to plant-based diets. A strict Paleo-dieter who is doing it “right” isn’t eating fast food, pizza, fried wings, or most anything you can get at a gas station, either. This is more about a whole-foods diet, plant-based or not.)

The Inconvenience of Exercise

As hunter-gatherers, we used to have to walk (or even run, if you buy the persistence hunting theory) every day. About 5 to 9 miles, on average.

Then we started farming and became stationary, but still had to do lots of physical work. Then we built factories and started going to work there, but then we made cars so we didn’t have to walk. Then instead of standing in factories all day, we started sitting at desks. With heat and air conditioning. And elevators. And a billion other creature comforts that prevent us from having to do anything mildly uncomfortable or inconvenient, physically.

When you make a choice to go for a run, on road or on trails, you’re choosing inconvenience — it would be much easier to drive, you know. Or easier still, not to go anywhere. But you choose inconvenience because you know that it not only is good for you in the long-term, it can actually begin to feel good in the moment — an oasis of living in a desert of screens and chimes and straight lines. Inconvenient, messy, hard. But worth it.

When you wear minimalist shoes instead of the high-tech, super-cushioned running shoes we used to wear, you’re choosing inconvenience. Now you can’t run with the long, lazy stride that brings you crashing down on your heel. You have to actually turn your legs over faster, take more and shorter steps, and build up those small muscles in you’re feet you’ve never really had to use before. And you’ll probably have to slow down to do it well.

Inconvenient. But worth it.

Embracing Inconvenience

When it comes to our physical health, inconvenient is often better. And little things add up, according to Dan Lieberman, author of The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease (you may remember his name from Born to Run):

Recall that over the last few million years the average hunter-gatherer walked 9 to 15 kilometers every day (roughly 5 to 9 miles), but today a typical American walks less than half a kilometer per day (a third of a mile) while commuting an average of 51 kilometers (32 miles) by car. Less than 3 percent of shoppers take the stairs when an escalator is available to make their journey easier (the percentage doubles with signs that encourage stair use). Food processors, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, and clothes-washing machines have substantially lessened the physical activity required to cook and clean. Air conditioners and central heating have decreased how much energy our bodies spend to maintain a stable body temperature. Countless other devices, such as electric can openers, remote controls, electric razors, and suitcases on wheels, have reduced, calorie by calorie, the amount of energy we expend to exist.

What does all this convenience do to our minds, though?

Tim Ferriss wrote, back in 2007, about a study that demonstrated how multitasking (in the form of ringing phones and incoming emails during an IQ test) lowers IQ more than does smoking marijuana.

Many artists and entrepreneurs strive to become “comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Jesse Jacobs of San Francisco’s Samovar Tea Lounge takes cold showers for this reason. (My friend Ray Cronise doesn’t run the heat in his car and wears short sleeves in the winter, but for physical more than psychological reasons.) I’ve even heard of one artist, who shall remain nameless, that sticks a feather where feathers don’t belong because the discomfort helps him do his best work. The term “inconvenience” doesn’t quite do that one justice.

My point is that too much convenience, beyond contributing to the obesity epidemic by keeping us sedentary, probably makes us dumber. Possibly less productive. Likely less creative. And, maybe, less fulfilled.

Our dishwasher recently stopped working, and while we’ve waited for a new one to be installed, I’ve found that washing dishes by hand is actually quite a good use of time. It creates a space in my evening where my hands are busy but my mind free, to wander, to listen to something valuable (on my undeniably convenient iPod), or simply to practice focusing on every sensation in a simple but rich experience, like Thich Nhat Hanh suggests.

Cooking is similar. Another benefit of going microwave-free, the space during which you have little to do but wait. And think, if the mood strikes you.

Yes, if you didn’t have to spend any time cooking or cleaning, you’d have more free time. But would you do anything with that free time? Or fill it with more Facebook updates and email alerts and work fidgets, without actually accomplishing anything. If my own track record is an indicator, I’m not sure I like my answer.

Look, I’m not going to give up the electric dishwasher anytime soon. But living without has helped me notice something remarkable — that without mundane activities that force me to relax, think, or meditate, I often don’t create those moments on my own. Probably a big part of the reason you run, by the way, if you do.

About that iPhone …

A few weeks ago, I ditched the iPhone and went back to the old clunker. One of these days I’ll get a newer one, but I’ll make sure it’s not smart.

After the book tour, I controlled myself pretty well with the iPhone. I downloaded a few guitar apps, but never much more than that. The problem came when I started “checking” things, little by little. At dinner with family, while playing with my son, or when I was supposed to be reading (Hey, the phone is in my pocket … why not see what Twitter is up to after I finish this page?).

The nail in the coffin for my iPhone (and the Verizon guy’s prophesy) was an article that my son’s preschool sent around, called “Your Smartphone or Your Life” from Montessori Parent magazine. The opening paragraphs got me:

On a crisp Saturday morning at a Denver farmers’ market, the smell of roasted chilies hangs in the air. A wiggly 10-year-old girl waits in line at the burrito vendor’s cart, arm linked with her dad’s. All skinny jeans, sweatshirt, and braces, she sways to the nearby music of a guitar and mandolin duo.

Food in hand, daughter and dad sit across from each other at a small café table. She looks adoringly at him as she’s about to take her first bite. In that golden moment, dad slips his phone out of his pocket. Her eyes pivot instantly to that thing, that mortal enemy that will once again rob her of her dad. Engrossed in his phone, he does not notice as his daughter draws back from the table, her eyes glaze over, and she looks distractedly at the moving crowd, accepting her not-unfamiliar plight: At any moment, her dad may abandon her for his phone, exiting this intimate father-daughter space and going elsewhere.

(by P. Donohue Shortridge, MA)

As aware and as self-controlled as I tried to be, I had most definitely been that dad. And that — even a little bit — was unacceptable.

Last night my wife and I went out on a date, dinner and drinks at a new gastropub in Asheville. It was our first night out since I got rid of the phone, and when I got up to go to the bathroom, the urge to reach for my phone and quickly check in on email flashed through my mind. Then I realized I couldn’t do that anymore.

I was actually out. On a date. With my wife. Without a way to do work or check Twitter. And it was wonderful.

There are plenty of holes in my argument for inconvenience. I haven’t seen any research linking inconvenience and discomfort to better thinking or more happiness (though I wouldn’t be surprised).

The biggest objection will likely be, “But where do you draw the line?” You can ask why my standing-desk experiment has so far been a failure (I’m back to sitting when I write). Why I haven’t started doing laundry by hand, why I still use a computer or the internet or for that matter electricity. Why I have a cell phone at all. Why I still cook my food, when it takes more energy to digest raw food and we probably eat more naturally when we eat without cooking.

I don’t have good answers. I like most technology as much as the next person. But what I know is that — within an admittedly small band around the norm — the more I embrace inconvenience, the more alive I feel.

Got a favorite quirky, inconvenient habit? How about a criterion for how much is too much when it comes to technology, or a logical answer for where to draw the line? Let me know — I’d love to hear about it.



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  1. Margaret says:

    Wonderful piece. It’s kind of why I wasn’t eager to sign up for your new web group. I check my email a few times a day, and more than that . . . .I’m just not interested and don’t want to become the kind of person who is more interested. I do my own thing when I run and feel no need to know what everyone else is doing. But I do love the occasional words of wisdom and recipes!

  2. Hi,
    Great post! I’ve been enjoying following you. Just wondering if you and your wife still live in Asheville? My husband and I are thinking about moving there in the future. My husband is a professional runner and recently qualified for the US Olympic marathon trials. We’d love to meet up with you and your wife. We are planning a visit over the July 4th weekend. Here is my email:

  3. Matt,

    Loved this post. Ironically it arrived to my inbox mere minutes after I posted something in a very similar vein on my own blog: “I quit Facebook, cancelled my subscription to Runner’s World, and erased my training log. Here’s why.”

    Dovetails nicely with the satisfyingly effortful existence as a vegan endurance athlete, no?

    Here’s to the extra efforts, which pay back in dividends.


  4. Vickie Frazier Craven says:

    Love that post! 🙂

  5. Vic Nicholls says:

    I have never had an iPhone. My parents, in their 70’s, said even WE have iPhones. However, there is something about a bit of free life left.

    Btw, speaking of the microwave: I need to it to heat my pet rabbits’ Snugglesafe’s. LOL. That’s where the most use is. 🙂

    Been bragging about NMA and being a “founding member”,


  6. I LOVED this post! Thank you. I still like to long hand write. I know that I type a heck-of-a-lot faster, but the feel of pen to paper and the flow of my hand is just too wonderful to give up. It makes me stop and engross myself in just one thing for a little while. I will say that sometimes if I don’t do the writing in the morning or evening at a quiet home that I find my thoughts wandering and will get distracted…the writing then takes fooorever to get done and completely defeats the purpose.

    Also, thank you for the last couple paragraphs. I often have these arguments in my own head…which I think are really my justifications and excuses for taking the convenient route.

  7. Alejandra says:

    I absolutely agree with you on the inconvenience issue. Certain decisions are just not made because they are comfortable, easy, fast and so on. It takes real deliberation and sense of purpose, but that’s why the effort becomes so fullfilling and worth it all along. In my case – apart from advocating to a healthy, no meat, conscience plant diet – another perfect example of inconvenience is living thru environmentally friendly actions and beliefs.
    Nice reading you Matt from Argentina.

  8. Matt Peck says:

    Boy, did that hit home. Funny how these ideas cross my mind but it takes reading it from someone else to get inspired. Time to embrace inconvenience.

  9. Truly great article – can relate truly – now it seems life revolves around reading texts and emails rather than actually talking to each other any more – how dire and sad is that!!
    My 12 year old nephew is more interested in playing on his Kindle, watching tv etc, than taking part in exercise and chatting – so so worrying!!!!!!

  10. LOVE this post! Love the topic and love how well written it is, especially the bit at the end about “where to draw the line” … great food for thought!

  11. Great Post! Hope the phone works out for you.

  12. I so enjoyed reading this post Matt – you are above all a consciencious father and husband. In my opinion “smartphones”, computers, “media” per se have been hugely responsible for the enormous downward spiral of social skills amongst our children (and peers!) and for the lack of responsible adults causing havoc in “developed” (always one that makes me laugh) countries. By responsible adults I mean to pinpoint the lack of responsibility taken by so many adults for their own actions, which in turn leads to our children doing the same. There is always consequence….always. If we take the elevator we do not use our bodies for their natural purpose (to move!); if we eat toxic food we become ill; if we spend all day in front of a screen we do not talk with our families and friends anymore; if we show these examples to our children, they learn this is okay and even good and the right way to live. How many of us can see the deadness behind the eyes of our peers and the youth as a result of their only social interactions being with screens. So far as inconveniences go, for me they do not seem inconvenient but just a way of life. I always, always, always make my own bread – what a joy and a pleasure not only to spend the time doing so but to feed my family and friends. Also, no TV, microwave or dishwasher (although I am waiting a repair as ecologically they are much better than hand washing)! Actually not inconveniences at all – just normal, preferable and positive choices!

  13. Great (plant-based) food for thought, Matt. One of my main concerns with technology/convenience is how it’s affecting attention span… undoubtedly many readers saw the length of this post and thought, “Man, that’s LONG,” because we’ve become such easy prey for link-baiters who offer “Top 5” (because 10 is too many) listicles and other articles that promise easy solutions and a better life if you just implement this ONE change. It’s scary how many people now, in casual conversation, can’t even finish a full sentence before they’re on to their next thought.

    Good too that you acknowledge how difficult (and arbitrary) it is to draw that line between an acceptable and an unacceptable convenience. Chimps spend 48% of their day chewing and eating (10x more time than we do), so cooking is definitely a modern convenience we can all rally behind. To each his own conveniences, I’d say.

    And I still prefer my handy flip phone simply because it fits into the inner cell phone pocket of my running shorts… which is my only must-have criteria for a mobile device.

  14. I just feed my dogs and spent about 20 minutes training my hound by waiting for her to completely calm down before eating. I didn’t get annoyed, I didn’t check my phone. I sat there on the ground with her barking and crying until, for about 10 seconds, she forgot about the food. She then got to eat.

    I could have fed her and let her keep stressing about food every meal (convenient) but instead I took the (inconvenient) time to train her. I feel very much alive just because of those minutes. I was present with my dog.

    We’ll see how we do tomorrow at 5:15 am for breakfast. 🙂

  15. This is a greatly motivational post. Thank you!

  16. Rita Bouchard says:

    I really appreicated this writing.

    I want to share this video with the community because it speaks to your thoughts about the smartphone. Thanks!

  17. Thanks, Matt. This is a good one. I have never had a smart phone, and I like it that way! I choose to not have cable (and where I live, that means I have no TV channels at all). The internet we have at home is too slow to watch any videos much longer than a 5-minute clip (by choice). All these are technological “inconveniences” that I choose. However, my favorite inconvenience is my choice to be vegetarian!
    I am a teacher at a Montessori charter school and shared that same piece by P. Donahue Shortridge with my students’ parents. I am glad to see it affected you; I hope others may have reflected upon their actions after reading it, too.

  18. Vic Nicholls says:

    Same here on the no TV. I make my own bread also – there are some great recipes out there! I’m on several of the recipe sites. The best thing about the internet is that you can do some great education if you know where to look.

    NMA is one of the best! Thanks Matt!

    PS Regarding our conversation today, let me tell one and all, he’s got better suggestions that about 95% of the medical establishment does. I’ve had RD’s stumped … and most wouldn’t know a veggie from a fat.

  19. OMG, there are others out there such as myself who don’t own Smartphones. I have NO desire to switch to a Smartphone, I love my old-fashioned flip cell. I barely even use it except for taking it on runs, and I work as a journalist/editor. A Smartphone would make my life so, so much easier. And also so, so much more complex. I don’t want people calling or emailing me on my off hours. I don’t want to be constantly connected to the Internet. I can’t think of anything worse.
    What I’ve noticed, however, is that people become quite irate if I don’t answer their emails/tweets immediately, even when they send them at midnight or early morning. They’re so used to immediate response that it’s almost as if they can’t handle a short wait. Scary. I don’t ever, ever want to become that way.
    We don’t have cable TV and we never use the dishwasher. I drive an old car (1997 Escort) and we cook mostly from scratch. It’s soothing to chop vegetables, soothing to sink my hands down in warm, soapy water at the end of each day. Mostly, though, I love how my mind also sinks and I daydream and write inside my head.
    Living without a Smartphone is much like running: Long minutes and hours inside of my head with no distraction. It scares the hell out of me that the majority of the population no longer values that.

  20. Everyone will draw the line in a different place, but I’m afraid I’m not on the same side as far as no smartphone goes. I admit I’m a technology geek. An early adapter. I had a Palm Pilot long before the general public knew what they were (and ran discussion groups/support for them), I was a KickStarter funder for the Pebble watch, I wore out my first FitBit and am on the next model. So, you know where I’m coming from.

    But we have to remember that technology does not control us. We control technology. Yeah, if you can’t resist the temptation to ruin your date by pulling out your phone to check your e-mail or post to Facebook, then either don’t get a smartphone, or don’t enter your account information into those apps. Just like if you can’t tear yourself away from Bejeweled, Angry Birds, or Farmville, you may have to delete them. But just because the phone rings, that doesn’t mean that you have to answer it. Just because you can pick up e-mail during your date, that doesn’t mean you should. You are the one who decides, not the phone.

    Having a smartphone doesn’t spell failure for your relationship with your family. Whenever we’re in the car for long (with hubby driving), my son wants me to read to him. So out comes the smartphone with the Kindle app, and I read to him. If I finish the book, I download the next one in the series and keep going. If a question comes up in conversation or a definition is needed during schoolwork, I simply look it up. Both my mother and my in-laws are convinced that the phone is a magic answer machine. And while it’s a slightly different device, we also play family games like Scrabble/Words with Friends. Or the little ones take turns playing Angry Birds and trying to teach it to Grandma.

    Not long ago, while hubby and I were waiting in the car for kiddo to get out of class, we were chatting, reading books on our devices, listening to music on the radio, and passing the iPad back and forth to play Scrabble. One of the grandpas who was there to pick up his grandchild came up to talk and bewailed the fact that before these infernal devices, people used to talk, read, listen to the radio, and play board games.

    So you may need to institute rules. That’s okay. Families revolve around rules. When I was a child, I wasn’t allowed to bring a book to the table, unless I was eating by myself. It would be rude to have my nose in a book during family dinner. So as a grown up, I don’t pull out my phone and read books on my Kindle app if there are others at the table. Nor do I check e-mail. I do pull it out if someone asks for the weather forecast so they know what coat to wear that morning, or to add something to the grocery list, or to check something on the schedule. Your family may already have rules about things that are not allowed at the dinner table. Books, toys, handheld games, cats, feet, showtunes. It may not be convenient to enforce rules either, to teach manners, but the end result is worth it.

    • I absolutely have to reply to your intelligent comment. You very clearly live with the inconvenience of thinking for yourself and being a fully responsible adult which is exactly the point I was trying to make in my earlier comment. It is of course convenient not to take responsibility for ourselves as it takes more “work” which is why so many of the populous fall into the category of being led by technology rather than using it as a tool. So good to see so many “No Meat Athlete” readers are also able to live with the inconvenience of using their own brains rather than blindly following the masses – what else would one expect?!

  21. Love it! I am also without smart phone. I hope to avoid it forever!

  22. Really enjoyed your thoughts on the use and overuse of smartphones. I can’t count the number of times I have seen a situation where both parents are glued to their smartphones while their offspring misbehave as they try to regain their parents’ attention. Another scenario is when both parents are using their phones while out on a walk with a baby or toddler in beautiful natural surroundings, in lovely weather, but are making no effort to engage the child’s attention or offer any stimulation.

  23. Thanks for posting this! I agree with everything you wrote. I love having access to data and information at a moment’s notice, but it’s so nice and calming to not be bothered by my phone during my daily 2 hour phone break (while making dinner with my wife).

  24. Great post! I think it’s all about balance. I run a lot, eat a vegetarian diet, don’t use the microwave, but still love my iphone:)

  25. Back in the old days of 1998 I use to hang out at the diner with a bunch of my friends drinking coffee, eating disco fries and smoking cigarettes. Aside from how horribly unhealthy the whole situation was there was one thing that was healthy. We had conversations. We talked about everything from music to movies to history to politics. Everyone was involved, and I’m sure there was a plethora of false-truths but that was okay, we didn’t care. In fact, if you thought someone was wrong, you debated and stated your own facts. The conversation was organic, it flowed beautifully and it all came from our heads, our own personal knowledge. There was no fact checking, or IMDBing, we knew what we knew.
    Today, I can’t have a conversation with friends without all of them whipping out their phones, racing to correct me about what year the album Siamese Dream came out, or what Jimmy Fallon just tweeted out. I’m trying to set a good example for people around me, but it’s hard for them to notice anything as they thumb through their facebook feed. Where it has really hurt me, is to see my 16 year old son, in less than a year become so reliant on being connected that he is disconnected from the now.

  26. Wendy LaPointe says:

    Great post, Matt.

    The excerpt from the magazine about the little girl and her father actually had me choked up. I know this is the effect that smartphones have on most relationships I have witnessed (obviously, this does not apply to those who do not access smartphones at all, ever, when interacting with others), and I, too, am guilty.

    Until I can arrange to trade in my smartphone for a regular, no frills phone, I RESOLVE EFFECTIVE TODAY that my phone will not be used any differently than an old fashioned landline (you know when we could either pick up or not!) when in the presence of others.

  27. Bridget Bienkowski says:

    I have to say I love my iphone and here is why-it has allowed me to get rid of SO MUCH other junk in my life. My phone has replaced my sound machine (I’m a terrible sleeper and it helps drown out apartment neighbor noise), my ipod, my GPS car unit, my alarm clock, my camera, right now it’s replacing my GPS running watch and I’m debating if I really need to buy a new watch, random books I had (agenda, running logs, food diaries, to do lists, etc), probably other things I can’t think of and most importantly, my laptop. I am on a computer for work all day, yet when I came home from work, I’d get on my home laptop just out of habit! So I got rid of that and know if I absolutely need the internet I can use my phone. Granted if my job situation should change, that could too, but for right now, it’s working. It has allowed me to listen to podcasts in my car to make my commute productive without having to burn them on a cd.
    So one purchase has allowed me to downsize that much….I am all for it.

  28. …and people wonder why I love hanging my laundry out to dry. This is exactly why! Not sure I’m ready to give up my iPhone yet, but I’ll gladly give up my dryer and spend a few minutes hanging clothes and watching my kiddos play in the sandbox.

    Thanks for the excellent post!

  29. Your points are all agreeable with me. Is it inconvenient to wash up or walk or cook from scratch just because there are quicker/easier options? If you think yes well you are being a slob. All these invention are there to aid your time, but only when you need too not all the time. If you abuse them your abusing yourself more.

  30. I really like this post! I can relate a lot. I used to be much more plugged in than I am now. I would watch tv while working on my laptop while checking my smartphone. Haha! Part of my resistance to letting go of any of it was that my husband was deployed. Technology was our lifeline to each other and a way for me to keep from being so lonely.

    When he came home, the Army moved us to Germany. Our TV had 10 channels. 10. Our internet was slow, smart phones cost so much there and I only knew 1 person any way (my husband) so there was no need. Our German dishwasher didn’t work, so we started hand washing dishes. Now we are back in the States, but we don’t have cable (me of a few years ago would be shocked to hear that), I don’t use data on my phone (so it isn’t smart when I’m not somewhere with free wifi), and I still hand wash all my dishes (even though my dishwasher is just fine). I wouldn’t say my life is any better, but it is definitely a little simpler. The things I thought I’d miss, I don’t. Maybe all our modern conveniences aren’t as necessary as we’ve convinced ourselves.

  31. I loved the post Matt. It really does make one think about what it was like before technology. From reading your past posts I have myself started to change some things . I now heat up leftovers on the stove and rarely use the microwave. I never have been a smart phone addict as my family will tell you I am not too good at figuring out some of the features. I do like it to txt or get directions, but not much else. I always choose whatever free phone is being offered when Joe upgrades. As for other inconveniences, we wash pots and pans by hand, but the dishes go into the dishwasher.

  32. I live in a state where emergency preparedness is of incredible importance. People stockpile gallons of horrible-tasting, freeze-dried food in their basements and endlessly run through disaster scenarios with their bewildered children. I have always felt that they were missing one of the biggest pieces: to create a culture that has the expectation of occasional discomfort and inconvenience.

    We do not use our car on the weekends. Last Saturday my husband and I walked 14 miles just to go to the farmers market and then see a movie that evening. It was horribly inconvenient, but also a lot of fun! I also force myself to be truly hungry (sometimes for several hours) before eating. It made me conscious of how easily I can get moody on an empty stomach, but also how quickly I can control that behavior as well. It has made food taste better, and often makes me eat more slowly because I am enjoying every bite.

    I am not sure I could give up my iPhone, but this post has made me aware of how often I use it when I am with my family.

    Thank you for making me think!

  33. My pets love it when i put down my tablet and touch them!

  34. Wonderful and timely post! My husband and I don’t own a TV and have so far avoided smartphones (if it were up to my husband we would still have dial-up internet!) but I’ve been wavering lately. I get lost easily and thought it would be nice to have the GPS feature, or to be able to look up addresses and phone numbers on the web. But, as a mom of 3, I do have to say that I get very sad when I’m at a playground or a children’s museum and I see kids trying to get their adults’ attention, while those adults are staring down at their phones. (Sometimes those kids are playing too rough near mine and I feel like I have to step in because the other parents simply aren’t paying attention.) It also feels harder to connect with other parents because normally we’d have to actually talk to each other if we wanted to have some adult interaction.

  35. Bravo! Very well written. Alas, I admit I’m reading and typing this on my iPhone. When I first got it, I was very addicted to it. I now set time restraints, just like I do my kids on video games. Amazing how much more gets done in a day. Like cooking amazing plant based foods.
    PS. We don’t have a dishwasher. I love doing dishes by hand.

  36. Great post! I don’t have a smartphone (nor a microwave), but we went a step further this weekend. With 2 teenager sons, everyone internets a lot (computer, Ipad). Last Sunday my 15-year old suggested an internet-free Sunday. It wasn’t easy, I admit, we’ve gotten so used of checking emails, or just browsing, or researching, or playing games (the youngest). But we had such a wonderful, peaceful and fulfilling day. Which we will certainly repeat most of the Sundays.
    Oh, and do you know that feeling when you are talking to someone and they are quickly checking their mail or SMS after they hear the bleep? Or they simply answer the phone instead of staying with you, or the shopkeeper? A few days ago I was in a shop an my phone rang. The shopkeeper said, don’t you want to answer your phone? I said: no I am talking with you now, I will check later. The surprised but grateful look on the shopkeepers face !

    This is exactly how I feel and think every day.
    I had a smart phone for 2 years and then I just thought PHUCK IT and went back to my nokia 2310. I HATE being available and accessible all the time (I never had any apps tho, cept a ‘endomondo’ one, due to lack of ‘gps wristwatch’ – which I now have!), and smart phones steals your time and the time of everyone AROUND you (like the little girl in the story).
    ..why would I want a phone meant to replace my smartness anyway.

    My friends say that I’m disconnected and miss out on things and whatnot, but I feel its completely the opposite – they are missing out on the moment, on whats going on around them, Mother Nature, real experiences – whats more disconnected than NOT being in touch with Mother Earth?

  38. Awesome post! I use lots of social media outlets for Running information and inspiration, but it’s starting to border on addiction. This is a great reminder that inconvenience is not always a bad thing 🙂

  39. I completely agree. I have resisted falling into the smartphone trap for years now, and being as young as I am (21), the horrified reactions of my friends when I tell them I don’t want one is often quite funny. My ‘technophobia’ is an almost constant joke among us. Of course, something always happens to lure us, this weekend my basic but trusty phone broke (I accidentally dropped it down the toilet, I kid you not), and I seriously considered just giving in to the smartphone culture. Until I was at my boyfriend’s house yesterday, during a pause in conversation I looked down to get something from my bag and when I looked up EVERYBODY was staring at their phones. The inconvenience of not having a smartphone is nothing compared to living in one. Rest assured, although I’ll be purchasing a new phone this week, I intend to stay fully connected to the real world around us, not the virtual one.

  40. Yes, this is one of my favorite all-time posts of NMA.

    When I go to the gym or outside for a long run often the best part is knowing my phone is not with me. I can explore the world and think to myself. How did we survive for all those years driving cross country without a cell phone? We did.

    I also am an advocate for vinyl records, having 3 turntables now – 2 home, 1 office. The act of playing an lp, sitting on a sofa and listening by the fireplace is my new (old) favorite thing. Slow down and enjoy life. Great post.

  41. I recently stepped into the smartphone thing only because the last one was hanging by a thread literally and died. The problem is I don’t know how to use it and it is so sensitive with the touchpad. The app thing is so new to me but I find I keep playing the same free game over and over. I would rather have the old thing back to call and text, plus I know they are environmentally not good for us .

  42. Great post! It sums up my experience changing from a vegetarian to a vegan diet. Sometimes it is hard to be stuck in the middle of the city and not knowing how to stop that sudden craving for something sweet, but at the same time it kept me from mindlessly stuffing pastries into my mouth with my morning coffee. If there is no place to go except a chain coffee shop, one should actually be glad that the only food you can have is a fruit salad 😉

  43. So what all of you are saying is that YOU CAN READ the frkn teeny tiny font on your phone?? I have a smartphone…a regular sized one, not the new ones that resemble tablets…and I used it primarily to…call or text when needed. It’s come in handy a few times when I wanted to check my account balance….that’s about it.

  44. Hi Matt! I just found your site through Courtney’s. While I don’t do much blog reading these days, I am a sucker for the Simplicity in Action stories – plus, Courtney really does it right.

    I was drawn to your story because my husband and I recently – as in, this week! – started a vegan diet. I thought I was doing well with just an egg here, milk in my coffee. Well, that all came to an end, and my husband has had the most immediate results. His stomach, which has given him problems for several years despite eating meat only once per week, is now discomfort free! It’s amazing what you find when you look for it, and now we have found several places that serve vegeterian/vegan menus. We are currently reading The China Study, and I’m quite sure we’ll never go back.

    Oh, and as far as inconveniences go, we don’t have smartphones either, and we run our own businesses. I think it’s far better to pay attention to those you’re with. It would be highly inconvenient to go through a divorce or grow apart from someone you love! Living in Houston, I think we’re considered “a little off, but we couldn’t be happier!

    Thank you for sharing your story!

  45. Hi Matt! My inconvenience is not really a habit, but I’ll tell you about it anyway: I make custom sock monkeys for kids and sell them through Etsy ( The thing is, I don’t even own a sewing machine, so every single stitch I do by hand. It’s quite time-consuming, but the resulting toys are amazing, and I love hearing from my customers about how much they (and their kids) love my monkeys. So an inconvenience has allowed me to create something awesome that also puts smiles on children’s faces all over the world 🙂

  46. Matt. I agree that as we introduce more “convenience” into our lives we tend to rob ourselves of the sweeter things in life like simply being with family. I recently went to a friends lake house and went out on the water in a kayak at around midnight and just sat on the open water with the moon shining down on me. It was a fantastic experience and I realized then that it is time to start freeing my life of “convenience”

  47. Great article, thanks. I still have my dumb phone but recently picked up an iPod as a super tiny computer to use while traveling (perfect for checking e-mail, making hotel reservations, etc.) and learned quickly that I should uninstall Candy Crush and all the other mind-numbing time wasters. While I’m glad I got it, I’m finding the need intentionally put it away. Darn technology is so tempting.

    Check out the video from Prince Ea on autocorrecting humanity / anti social network on YouTube. It speaks to this point very well.

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