Report: 91% of adults own cellphones

A sales person pulls out an iPhone 5s A sales person pulls out an iPhone 5s for a customer during the opening day of sales of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5C. (Sept. 20, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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They are as rare as cheap wraparound penthouses in NYC: adults without cellphones.

According to a recent Pew Research report, 91 percent of all American adults own cellphones. Among the young, the percentages are even higher, with 95 percent of 35-to 49-year-olds and 97 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds in the grip of an electronic leash.

But some New Yorkers are blissfully free of mobile phones -- and they're not all elderly people with poor eyesight and no desire to play Candy Crush. Reasons for opting out of the mobile universe are diverse, but often include a desire to control one's time, an aversion to stress and unworthy distractions, and a complete lack of "FOMO" (fear of missing out). "Cellphobes" tend to prize autonomy, uni-tasking, awareness of their surroundings and promptness -- and making precise plans in advance so that there is no need for follow-up phone calls.

"I have a realistic notion of my bandwidth," explained Matthew Stillman, 40, a landlord and writer. Constant connectivity "exhausts people. It exhausts me and degrades the nervous system," said the Harlem resident.

Stillman prefers to concentrate his attention on one activity and interaction at a time. Constantly juggling screens and inputs "degrades the sincerity with which I interact with people -- and I want to give them my very best," he said.

Jozsef Meszaros, 28, a lawyer, neurobiology graduate student and adjunct faculty member at Columbia University, went cell-free three years ago. Being on his own "prevents me from outsourcing my brain functions to a phone," by resorting to apps instead of figuring out routes and problems himself, Meszaros said.

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Meszaros, who lives in Washington Heights, posited that people who are very attached to their phones have highly responsive reward centers in their brains: They're biologically primed for "consuming and winning, and climbing up various hierarchies and proliferating their social influence," Meszaros said.

He, however, "is not very competitive," prefers socializing in person, and has little use for the opportunities beckoning from the digital world. "I don't need to scan the bar code of my favorite restaurant to get deals," he said.

Steven Doin, 17, of Long Island City, cut the cordless after losing his fourth or fifth cellphone. "I'm irresponsible with phones," Doin said. He borrows friends' phones to apprise his mom of his whereabouts and hands out his mother's number to people who want his contact info.

Serving as his secretary "is a little bit stressful, but at least I know who he's connecting with," said Doin's mom, Irma Viera.

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