Life Without Cell Phones and Social Media

Yahoo has the following story:  Jake Reilly’s ‘Amish Project:’ 90 Days Without a Cell Phone, Email and Social Media

Could you live without daily electronic conveniences — Twitter, Facebook, email, texting and more — for 90 days? Jake P. Reilly, a 24-year-old copywriting student at the Chicago Portfolio School, did just that.

My immediate reaction to the story was:  yes, I have done that project as well, although instead of (mis-) labeling it the “Amish Project” I called it “being in the 1980s and early 1990s.”  At that time I had no cell phone, no e-mail, and no social media.  May I say that, even with the downsides that all of those things can bring, that my life is a lot easier with those things than it was without them?  It is certainly easier to communicate with my family (both my wife and kids and my extended family) and, in general, I like my gadgets.

I take the point that one can get too immersed in these things (like checking texts or Facebook instead of talking to people in the room) but it seems that learning appropriate behavior is the best solution.

Plus, if one is going to engage in and “Amish” Project, there better be beards, buggies, and barn-raising, not just having to use a land line and paper notes.

One last thought:  while it is clearly rude to text at dinner or whatnot there is also a certain rudeness to quitting the basic communication methods of the present day.  Quitting Twitter and Facebook are one thing, but being unreachable by e-mail or phone (he didn’t, initially, even have a landline) is another.  There is part of this that strikes as being beyond interesting social experiment and verging into egotistical stunt.  I don’t, for example, know how one manages being in school these days without access to e-mail and the like.  His e-mail rules were a bit fuzzy, however, as there is a part of the story wherein he is checking it for banking purposes.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. if one is going to engage in and “Amish” Project, there better be beards, buggies, and barn-raising, not just having to use a land line and paper notes.

    Weird Al Yankovic would agree.

  2. @Doug Mataconis: Precisely.

  3. Brett says:

    My life is vastly easier with cell phones as well. I remember when having your car break down on the freeway meant that you either needed to get help from someone driving by, or walk to the nearest exit/gas station with a pay phone to call a tow truck. I had both happen to me, and it wasn’t pleasant.

  4. James Joyner says:

    I had a similar thought this morning. I forgot my cell phone at the office yesterday and was momentarily concerned about the hazards of making the 45 minute drive without emergency communications. Until I realized that I did that all the time the first 20-odd years of my driving career.

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    If I announced I was running an experiment by not using email for 90 days, my boss would announce I will be finding a new job.

  6. Besides, cellphones are actually becoming quite popular among the Amish:

  7. ernieyeball says:

    Plus, if one is going to engage in and “Amish” Project, there better be beards, buggies, and barn-raising, not just having to use a land line and paper notes.

    Thirty years ago when I was working for the local land line telephone company near Shipshewana, Indiana the state Public Service Commission mandated all residences be provided facilities for telephone service…all except the Amish homes. The phone company was spared that expense since there would never be a return on the investment.
    Seemed reasonable to me.
    However I was confused about the Amish fellow whose horse drawn buggy was fitted with a small wooden bed in which he carried his gasoline powered lawn mower and 5 gallon gas can.
    He mowed anyones lawn for cash money.
    It’s a free country. He’s free to mow lawns. I’m free to be confused.

    Fast forward 25 years.
    Again working for the local land line telco along Illinois State Route 4 near Campbell Hill I would install telephone service for Amish homes and businesses. A recent story in the local paper explained how the Amish can use telephones and electricity for business purposes.
    Of course a lot of these businesses are operated out of their homes. Very nice homes. Many new.
    The only things these homesteads were lacking that other farms had were cars and pick up trucks. They all had at least one diesel or gasoline tractor and other modern farm implements.
    In Illinois farm implements are not registered like cars and trucks and do not have to display plates to operate on public roads. Nor does the operator need to be licensed to drive them.
    You can put a twelve year old kid on a farm tractor and send him off to grandma’s house if you want to.
    The result of this is a 10 mile stretch of narrow 2 lane curvy, hilly Illinois Route 4 from Willisville to Ava with blind side roads and no shoulder running all day with semis, cars, pickup trucks, school buses, tractors pulling all kinds of home made trailers and the traditional Amish horse and buggies.
    I’m still confused.
    I don’t drive so fast any more either. There might be a slow moving tractor on the other side of the hill.

  8. Roy says:

    My life needed a reformation, a turn around. I don’t think I can do you did, but I am going to limit myself to no more than 1hour of tech per day.

    Thanks for your project Jake.