Can you survive without a phone? We’re taking the Skype Challenge

That’s not a theoretical question. Since Thursday, we’ve been without phone service. We’re in a remote part of the Catskills in upstate New York. There’s a regular phone, but it’s not ours and it doesn’t have a calling plan. There is, however, a wireless hotspot.

This happens to us every year when we visit Kari’s parents. But this year, we’re going to write about it. And we’ve given it a name: the Skype challenge.

It’s one of two weeks this summer where we’re giving up our phones and only using Skype to communicate.

Here’s what we know so far, based on previous experience.

Timing matters. If you go phone-less during a holiday week (like, say, the Fourth of July week) you can minimize the impact of a phone-free existence. But not as much as you’d think. After all the holiday are a time to reconnect with family, and that means getting on the phone. So in some respects, trying to go cold turkey over the holiday weekend is harder than during a work week.

You don’t know how dependent you are — until you know. Voice communication may seem less important to those of us in an always-on, data-driven world. And while my number of phone calls have dropped steadily since I started my journalism career, there are still times when you absolutely must get on the horn with a source or an editor. Can a PC replace that?

Computer-to-computer communication is great, but … Calling someone on another computer works really well, but once you try to hail another phone, things can get dicey. The last time I was in this situation a few years ago, I tried to call an editor at National Geographic, and was instructed to get on a “real” phone. We resorted to using email, which had its own challenges. I’m curious to see how the technology has evolved.

So here’s how we’re doing it: Starting last Thursday, we’ve been without a cellular connection and haven’t made any regular phone calls. It’s now Sunday morning. So far, we’ve managed to do everything by email. But the biggest hurdles lie ahead. Can we survive Monday and Tuesday, which are work days? And what about the Fourth of July, where every family member will try to reach us?

I have Skype “on” on my laptop computer and iPad all the time. When the family wakes up in the morning, you can hear the familiar “bleep” of Skype coming online. They could make an ad. But will it replace our phones?

We’ll see.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott, a.k.a., Dad, is a writer who spends way too much time in front of a computer.


  • Paddid

    We just got back from 5 weeks in Europe without a phone! Skype always came through for us if we absolutely needed to talk on the phone (hotel reservations, let family know where we were, etc). There were a few times when we didn’t have wifi, though, and then we were stuck. But, after the initial panic of not having a connection, we just let it go.

  • streamerstoo

    Yes, people should take that thing out of their ear and pay attention to the moment!

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