As it turns out, some breaking up isn’t hard to do. It took awhile to lead up to some of these changes, but I wouldn’t change a thing in hindsight. As I take a look at my tech inventory (the tech I have, and the tech I use), it’s been pared down quite a bit. Here’s how I did it.
My wife and I designed and built our home eight years ago, and one of the most important things to us (at the time) was a wired infrastructure: Cat-5 in all the right places, and two hard-wired phone lines (one for business, one for home). Over time, I moved my business line to Vonage (voice over IP) to save money for my company, leaving one of our lines dormant. During this time, we had a shared cell phone, and resisted giving up our home phone line in case of emergency or power outage (those things still work when the juice is off!).
We asked ourselves what it would be like to forego our land line in favor of two iPhones, and ran some numbers. It was compelling, especially in light of a near net-zero cost difference when combining the move with cutting cable (more on that below). We made the plunge, and were pleasantly surprised when AT&T said they’d be able to port our land line number to one of the phones – no need to tell everyone about our new number!
Having cell phones as our only phones is quite freeing. It helps our businesses (emoticakes.com and Dawson Media Design) be more transparent, as we can make and receive calls on the go. Other niceties about having a smart phone is the other features that help us stay organized: calendar, weather, contacts, web (+ GPS tracking of downhill skiing: we’ll save that for another post!). We text each other, too, which is really convenient. I’m sure when the kids get older, we’ll have more to say about youths and what happens when they can access the same tools, but we’re not there yet.
We’ve had varying levels of cable plans through our college years and into early married life. Since kids entered the picture and our consumption dropped, though, dropping cable seemed to make more sense. Spending time in a hotel with basic cable always reminds me why we don’t miss our cable. I find it’s hard to turn it off once it’s on, but it’s a time suck. You’re watching a show you hadn’t planned to watch in the first place, and suffering through commercials to boot. The thing that made me laugh most was when my youngest was watching Cartoon Network in a hotel room, and asked me why the show was so weird. Turns out, it was the period of commercials between two shows at the top of the hour, and he didn’t know what a commercial was. Ah … ignorance is bliss.
The enabler was the original Apple TV: a silver hotplate that got us thinking. We realized that with our limited viewing, we were watching more streaming Netflix and DVD than we were watching broadcast television. Unfortunately, we live in an area where over-the-air signals prohibit us from getting any broadcast channels. The price point of the black AppleTV was the tipping point for us. We called our cable provider, returned our hardware, and resigned ourselves to the fact that without cable, we’d give up watching current programming … not true! We bought season passes for several of our favorites from the iTunes Store, and watched the episodes the day after they aired. We’ve also recently started one cool habit: we watch the nightly news podcast each morning with our kids before they head off to school. We’re very happy with our new (cable-free) media life.
Technically, this is adding a cord, but it’s a change in how we consume media, so worthwhile to discuss here. We have a lot of books, use our local library quite often, and eschewed e-readers for awhile. That changed late last year, when we started looking at the Books app on an iPad and compared with other e-readers. We latched onto the Kindle, and now all four of our family members have their own. I’d say that it has further increased our reading due to the convenience factor. It’s so easy to travel with a variety of books. It’s also nice thing to be able to read books concurrently with other family members (unless it’s a borrowed book). Both kids have really enjoyed looking through the Amazon library for books they’d enjoy, too. Sadly, our school has a blanket policy against having these devices out during reading time (paradoxical, right?) due to the fact that some of them can have games installed. We opted for the Kindle model that lets you read and not much else, which has been working great.
Learning & Professional Development
We (obviously) have Internet access in our home, which has enabled us to take advantage of online learning and professional development opportunities. Without the online resources, we’d turn to books, seminars or conferences. I’ve been a lynda.com subscriber for several years, and enjoy keeping pace with new technology and techniques with the engaging video and tutorials. I also really enjoyed CS 193P through Stanford University on iTunes U, which led me to develop an app for the iPhone. It’s really interesting to hear about how major universities are teaming up to make higher education more accessible. It’s exciting to imagine what our kids will have access to from anywhere in the world. Amy has found some great technique-oriented sites like craftsy.com for her emoticakes.com bakery. The kids have started really getting into online learning, too, as a supplement for their regular school. Some of their favorites include khanacademy.org, ixl.com and xtramath.org.
Probably our most extreme case of cord-cutting was Facebook. Both of us had friend lists pushing 500, but it was deceptive to us: a Facebook friend does not equate to a real-live friend from the neighborhood, work or in between. We both just dropped out of the Facebook-sphere (our businesses still retain their presence there). The news feed was all-consuming, and we just got … well, tired of it. So we turned it off, signed out, and haven’t been back. Are we missing out on some things? Surely. Random pictures from someone’s office party, news from people we don’t speak to very often. But no, we’re not missing it all all. I professionally stay on Linked In and started up on Twitter to help keep up with trends in technology, but that’s about where I draw my social line.
So that’s it! Not exactly a seismic shift in how we consume media and interact with the world, but certainly a set of tweaks that, taken collectively, have made us happier than we were (a) without spending a whole lot of money, and (b) saving us a whole lot of time.