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Reader Participation Day: Does Availability of Cell Phone Service Affect Your Decision to Visit a Park?


Got a signal? Photo by bradleygee via Creative Commons and flickr.

Are you one of the increasing number of people who suffer from nomophobia?

That's a term derived from "no-mobile-phone phobia," or the fear of being out of mobile phone contact. A recent survey in the United Kingdom found that about two-thirds of those questioned admitted to anxiety if they didn't have contact with the important people in their lives 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When the term first arose it applied primarily to the fear of losing one's phone, running out of "minutes" or draining the cell phone battery, but it's been expanded to include situations when you're in places where a signal isn't available. There's even a website dealing with the problem: The Mobile Phone Anxiety Centre offers "Tips for avoiding loss of mobile contact."

It's an issue that certainly has implications for many national parks and other natural areas. As we've reported on the Traveler in the past, proposals to construct new towers to expand cell phone coverage in national parks can be counted on to draw plenty of comments, pro and con.

So, what about you? Are you anxious about being out of cell phone contact during a park visit?

Would you actually decide to skip a trip to a park just because the answer to "can you hear me now?" is ..."no"?


Yes it does.  I prefer the parks w/o cell phone service and go out of my way to avoid it. I leave where I'm staying numbers with people so if something critical develops, I will get the message first thing in morning or later at night.

Personally, I prefer not to talk on the phone while enjoying a vacation. That said, I enjoy using the technology on my smart phone to be able to google questions I might have about something I see or am doing, look at maps, etc...All of which I need a cell tower.

Good topic, Jim!  Is it a good path for NPS to pursue pop culture trends while the true significance and health that these great places give us is marginalized?  I have watched this transition from no cell service to what it is now at one Park and it's disturbing to see on some days more people talking on their cell phones ("you'll never guess where I'm at") than not.  I see it as another part of the culture that keeps us detached from significance.  Just saying...

I'm self-employed, and any time I go "off the grid" I risk missing an opportunity for a project. But I visit parks specifically to go off the grid and my clients know that. I call my primary clients before I leave to find out what may be coming up with them and to let them know that my availability when I get back.
With elderly parents, it's a different situation - I normally leave the contact info for my lodging and even the main phone number for the park in case of emergency. When my dad was hospitalized with his last illness, I cancelled a long-planned trip to a national park just in case things went badly, which they did.
But does being outside of cellphone range make me nervous? No. I embrace being out of range and feel comfortable with the way I manage contingencies.

I like to have cell phone service in the park for safety reasons. We like to hike and  it is nice to know the outside world isn't that far away! We don keep our founds on silent, however!

This might sound shocking to younger Traveler readers -- it's certainly incomprehensible to my teenage students -- but the world actually existed before cell phones!  In fact, I lived my first 37 years without one, and it's only been in the past decade that I've owned one.   But I still treat it like my home phone most of the time; I don't bring it with me to work, and I often forget to grab it when I take trips.  The availability or lack of cell service has absolutely no affect on my decision to visit a particular park.  In fact, I echo the previous response, that I'm actually grateful to be somewhere that has no signal; it just adds to that feeling of getting away from everyday life that many of us enjoy in the national parks.

It is nice to have cell phone service but I would never avoid any location, let alone a National Park, simply because it was not available.  I also would be opposed to putting cell phone towers in National Parks.  Most of the visitors to National Parks (in my experience) are not there very long and can certainly live without for those few hours. 

I wouldn't base the decision to visit a National Park on cell phone service but in general I would prefer to have it available. 
Exercising self discipline so that I don't allow it to interfere with my experience is my responsibility. 
Judicious placing of the towers so that they don't interfere with the scenery is the NPS's responsibility. I would prefer no service if there is no way to site the tower so it is discrete. 
There is a safety factor. I also like the convenience of Google maps, etc. 
I am not in the least bothered by the way other people use their phones. A loud cell phone conversation isn't any more disturbing than a loud voice conversation or out of control children or pets. It isn't about the device, it's about courtesy. 

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