I dislike telephone communication in general compared to face-to-face interaction. I am not interested to communicate with anybody by mobile phone for a socialising or business purpose. I work from home now and am near-constantly reachable on the home land-line telephone number.

If I am out, nobody needs to reach me urgently anyway, except my family. So the only mobile phone I use is a "family number" for me to maintain contact with my parents and sister. This number is linked as a 'twin number' with my father's mobile under a "family sharing plan" offered by the telecom provider, and is not meant to be given to anyone else. The point is that the family mobile number is not the same as a personal mobile number because it is not even my phone or my number, and it could be used by any member of the family.

I really don't have a personal mobile number, and it's mainly because I had several negative experiences with mobile phones when I used to be a high-ranking public health official in city administration for a 2 year period in 2010-12. I am not active on any social media except Stack Exchange which is apparently not a social media, and prefer to get communications by email rather than on a mobile.

However it seems to be a new element of social culture here in India that whenever one meets an old friend/ acquaintance or meets someone new in a professional or personal capacity, they end up asking for your mobile number. It is real-world social "networking." This happens to me routinely and I have struggled to give these people a good answer. People look amazed, disbelieving and hurt when I say that I don't have a mobile number. They want to know why. When I happened to meet an old classmate after several years last Sunday at the supermarket, this problem recurred:

After speaking with me for few minutes,

Friend concludes: OK I'll keep in touch. What's your Whatsapp number?

Me: you know my personality; I am not on social media.

Friend: still you must be having a mobile number...

Me: I don't have a mobile number. You can reach me anytime at my home number which you already know.

Friend: I seen a mobile phone in your pocket.

Me: That's my mother's phone. You can reach me on that number too...

Friend: I don't want your mother's mobile number.

Me: (smiles stupidly.)

Friend (disbelieving): what? You really don't have a mobile number? Everyone has a mobile number. Why you don't have?

Me (invents a weak excuse): I am changing my mobile number. The new number will be obtained in a few days. Meanwhile you can reach me anytime at my home number.

Freind: ok, be sure to send me your new number when you get it.

These people often look hurt when I say that I don't have a mobile number, as if they suspect me of being unwilling to share my mobile number with them. Some of them ask why, but I am not comfortable with discussing my reasons with these people. So I am forced to invent weak excuses.

It's a fact that I am extremely introverted and don't want casual telephonic contact with friends, relatives & acquaintances. So my aim is to channel all calls to the one home based land-line telephone number (or, alternatively, my mother's phone) so that I am actually reachable but people will use it only for a genuine purpose. However I find that it is not enough for a person to be reachable on some telephone: sharing one's personal mobile number has acquired a whole lot of social and interpersonal connotations so that not having a mobile number is viewed as unbelievable and downright counter-cultural in this age of instant communication.

If I meet this friend again a few weeks later he is sure to ask me again for my mobile number. How do I convincingly convey to friends and acquaintances that I don't have a mobile number of my own, without going into my personal reasons which I do not want to discuss with these persons?


  1. honest yet blunt responses like "this phone number is only for family members", "I dislike phone communication" and "I don't give anybody my mobile number" are considered unfriendly in Indian culture unless you give them a full and detailed explanation of the reasons, which I don't want to get into in these cases.

  2. As clarified by a very constructive comment from user @Cascabel, what I am really seeking to convey convincingly to friends and acquaintances is that I am not available for real-time voice-calling and WhatsApp based communication via a mobile phone, but saying that explicitly to them would be considered very unfriendly here.

  3. May I also clarify that I am not asking for 'convincing excuses' as some members might have misunderstood, but seeking a convincing interpersonal approach to the situation.

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    But the actual fact is that you do have a mobile number (your "family number") - so what you're really asking for is either a convincing lie, or some way of explaining that your mobile number is only for family. – brhans Jan 31 '18 at 13:48
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    That's my mother's phone. You can reach me on that number.... People can reach you on your mother phone? – Juan Carlos Oropeza Jan 31 '18 at 13:52
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    I don't understand how you are ok giving away your mother mobile to others, but not yours.Doesn't the same problems you are afraid from mobiles apply to her? – Juan Carlos Oropeza Jan 31 '18 at 13:58
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    It sounds like you have already lied to one person by saying "I am changing my mobile number. The new number will be obtained in a few days." You say that being blunt (ie: "I don't like mobile phones") is something you want to avoid, but lying just made your situation even worse than that, at least for many cultures. In your culture, you say it's rude to be blunt without further explanation; is that even more rude than the lie you gave? I think that is important to specify. – Aaron Feb 1 '18 at 16:40
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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – Arwen Undómiel Feb 1 '18 at 21:03

20 Answers 20


From what you have said the issue is not actually closely tied to whether or not you have a mobile phone or are willing to share its number, so no amount of explaining that will help. The problem is that people's refusal to accept your answer.

There are likely a number of intertwined reasons for that and I can't possibly, being in a different culture entirely, anticipate them all. Here are a couple of aspects to consider though:

  • Your reply is unexpected because you are, in this regard, a statistical oddity. most people have a mobile phone and most mobile phone owners in your milieu are happy to share their number and WhatsApp. Stories have hit the headlines in the UK recently about WhatsApp servers not being able to cope in the mornings and evenings as vast numbers of people in India message all their hundreds of WhatsApp contacts to wish them 'Good Morning' and 'Good Night', if those stories are correct then you are bucking a big trend and people are surprised.
  • Your reply is so unexpected in this climate that they wonder if you are lying to avoid being social with them, as an individual, and they are affronted, especially if they think they see evidence that contradicts your statement.

It is possible that you will never get most people to accept your word at first pass on this, because it is unexpected and causes them doubt and a little insecurity. It may be that the best you can do is anticipate their response and try to head it off before it is given:

After speaking with you for few minutes,

Friend: OK I'll keep in touch. What's your Whatsapp number?

You: Oh, I know you will understand this, but a lot of idiots just don't listen or believe me when I explain that I don't have one. You know [in a confiding tone] I had a lot of trouble before when I had one for work and I know my good friends understand why I want to avoid all that and they call the landline if they want to speak to me.

Friend: That is the trouble with people today, they don't listen when people talk!

Okay, that might be a bit ambitious hoping for that response, but the idea would be to put your friend in the position of already having been praised for not haranguing about your reasons and reassured them of the esteem in which you hold them. Very often if you can show people that you believe in their better self, the more they try to live up to that expectation.

  • "most people have a mobile phone " --> with 7.6 billion people, sure this is accurate? Given this it appears 70%+ do. – chux Feb 2 '18 at 6:31
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    @chux: This answer is talking about "most people" in the OP's social milieu, not "most people" in the world. People apply context when making assumptions about people they meet in real life. – Peter Cordes Feb 4 '18 at 12:59

Just tell the person that your mobile phone is only for family calls:

"I'm sorry, but I only use my mobile number to contact my family. I do have a phone number, though: <home number>".

Or maybe even better, don't even mention "mobile":

"Yes, here's my phone number: <home number>. I don't have WhatsApp."

Don't make up excuses. As you've experienced, these can catch up with you.

Just be honest. don't tell the person you don't have a mobile phone, but tell them you don't use it that much, if they ask for it. You don't need to lie, but you don't need to tell them every detail, either.

In regards to your edit:

blunt responses like "this phone number is only for family members" <...>

I think it's quite problematic that a honest answer like that is considered "blunt". That said, I'd rather be blunt and honest, than vague and dishonest.

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    Thanks for the sensible advice @Cerbrus. When people asked for my mobile number I just gave them my land number and said they could reach me anytime but they immediately spotted the code and said "This is your land number, what's your mobile number?" – English Student Jan 31 '18 at 13:57
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    I must say there's quite a cultural difference, but I'd just say: "I only use my mobile phone for family". In my opinion, that's a sufficient answer. If they keep asking after that, I'd consider that pretty rude, since you already explained why you gave them your home number. As a last resort, I might say something like: "It's not personal, but I just only use my mobile phone for family." – Cerbrus Jan 31 '18 at 14:00
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    When you say "this phone number is only for family members" that basically telegraphs "I have a number but I won't give it to you. Some people (family members) can have it, but you cannot". Of course this sounds extremely weird and people naturally would like to know reasons for this weirdness. – Andrew Savinykh Jan 31 '18 at 20:09
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    @AndrewSavinykh: I'd like to refer you to my first comment here. I'm guessing it depends on your local culture, but it's very acceptable to tell someone "Only for family, I don't want to discuss why". The other person will have to accept that. If they don't, I would honestly reconsider if I'd consider that person a friend. They've been provided a way to contact you, but apparently, that's for some reason not "good enough"..? – Cerbrus Jan 31 '18 at 20:18
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    @CrazyCucumber: That's not necessarily a problem. If they see it's a landline, they could ask for a mobile number, but then you just say you only use that one for family. If they don't ask, no problem :-) – Cerbrus Jan 31 '18 at 20:19

How do I convincingly convey to friends and acquaintances that I don't have a mobile number

In the same way you convinced us: by telling the truth. What's wrong about the truth? You've seen in first person that using an excuse led to even more troubles.

without going into my personal reasons

Telling the pure truth does not automatically imply entering in details.

A simple

I've had bad past experiences with mobile phones, which upset me and about which I don't really feel like talking about. Please note, this is in no way a personal problem with you, and you are actually welcome to reach me whenever you wish via my land-line.

That's the simple truth, without entering details. At this point, if they insist, then they are rude, not you.

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    "A simple <....>": I'd argue that that's already going into way too much details. – Cerbrus Jan 31 '18 at 13:52
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    I don't want to discuss my reasons with these people @Markino. Now edited question to clarify. I do agree that the truth is most preferable, but "I've had some negative experiences with mobile devices, so I don't want to use them except for emergencies" is not considered a good reason in modern Indian society. Worse, they will ask what we're those negative experiences and they will feel hurt if I don't tell them! Thanks for the prompt answer. – English Student Jan 31 '18 at 14:04

A phrasing that I might use here in the US in a situation like that might be.

I don't use mobile phones. This one is for emergency purposes only.

Contacting family is close enough to an emergency that I wouldn't mind bending the truth on the matter, but you can decide for yourself. If you are constantly talking with your family on it, that phrasing might not work as well. Here in the US, an "emergency purposes" phone may also give the impression that you are on a plan which doesn't have very much talking time on it, and that impression may help dissuade them from seeking the number further.


You should tell them the truth.

They are confused and keep asking questions because you are basically lying from the start.

At first you say you don't have a cell phone number. Actually you do, but you only want to use it with your family.

They know it's a lie because they saw the phone, so they ask about it.

You tell more lies like "I will change my phone number soon" etc.

It will be easier if you tell the truth, even if it is to say that you don't want to tell them your phone number.

I also don't use social media and only use email and cell phone. And I change my cell phone number every ~6 months and only tell my new phone number to some people.

  • Thanks for pointing out that my being evasive confuses them and makes them to ask more questions @safebookverified. However, the truth is complicated and none of them are close enough friends for me to tell them how I had problems with mobile phones in the past. On the other hand, saying that I don't want to tell them my phone number would be considered unfriendly here. – English Student Jan 31 '18 at 14:42
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    But it's true that "you don't want to tell them your phone number" right? If it's really important to be friendly then you should get a phone number for them, maybe on a 2nd phone. If you don't want to use any apps like whatsapp then you can just not install them and tell them you don't use any apps. Now you are trying to find the balance of being friendly and doing what you want. There is no balance, when you lie they find out and you are fighting. If you keep doing it, and if you are a girl and they are a boy, they will hate you and maybe do something bad. So you should choose 1 clear option – user12155 Jan 31 '18 at 14:56
  • Good point @safebookverified. Yes, the fact is I don't want to tell them my mobile number, which is meant only for 3 family members. I am looking for a convincing and socially acceptable way to communicate that to acquaintances. Your inputs are highly appreciated. Welcome to Interpersonal.StackExchange and I hope to see more such perceptive posts from you here! – English Student Jan 31 '18 at 15:01
  • But I think it's not socially-acceptable to lie, so there is no possible solution. If you want to use some simple and easy lie with no loose ends and no possible follow-up questions, you can say "My boyfriend (or father, mother) doesn't allow me to tell my phone number to anyone". Your problem is that in your example you are lying in a somewhat indirect way. Whether you lie or tell the truth you should be direct. So lie directly or tell the truth directly, then it will be cause less problems. – user12155 Jan 31 '18 at 15:16
  • I think it is socially acceptable to utter a harmless lie, provided the lie is socially convincing. Still I would prefer to be truthful in an interpersonally convincing manner. What I find very good advice in your comment: "Your problem is that in your example you are lying in a somewhat indirect way. Whether you lie or tell the truth you should be direct. So lie directly or tell the truth directly, then it will be cause less problems."__ Thanks for the insights @safebookverified. – English Student Jan 31 '18 at 15:20

Your reasons for not having a mobile phone are very principled and well thought out. You sound like someone who does not compromise on their principles, so why would you wish to tell people anything less than the truth?

It seems that you do not worry about what people will think about you not having a mobile phone in the long term - that is, you know that people will have to call your landline and know that you don't use a mobile. But when face-to-face with someone questioning it, you seem to panic and want to make something up rather than stand up for your decision on this matter.

You need to have confidence in your beliefs and be prepared to tell anyone who asks exactly why you don't have a phone. You don't have to give so much detail. I admit I depend on my phone, but I can imagine it must be very freeing not to have a phone. You are free from all the anxieties that come with being constantly connected with everyone and everything. By contrast, you are allowing yourself to be trapped by panic when you are faced with someone questioning your stand. You must let go of that anxiety.

If challenged when telling somebody you don't have a mobile, perhaps say:

I really don't have one. I find that I don't need one.

If they try to tell you that you do need one or should have one, perhaps say:

I used to have a mobile phone. I find it is very freeing not to have one anymore.

By always making it clear that this is your personal stand rather than expressing a dislike for mobile phones you should hopefully avoid making other people feel insecure about having one themselves.

  • "I really don't have one." But that'd be a lie. What if the OP actually carries the family phone in his pocket? – Cerbrus Feb 1 '18 at 10:52
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    Extremely perceptive answer, thanks a lot @Astralbee. You have identified my core here issue very well: it is social conflict-aversion -- I simply hate to get into arguments with acquaintances and always prefer evasive methods such as weak excuses. You are right that it is very freeing for an extreme introvert like myself to be not connected to everyone all the time: that would be so tiring! Yet I'm available if needed on the home number.The solid points given here (and in your other answers on IPS.SE) are highly appreciated and I shall try to be more assertive in such matters in future. – English Student Feb 1 '18 at 11:38
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    Your points are convincing @Cerbrus. This is my temporary solution: I really don't have a personal mobile phone and I have learned to keep the "family phone" out of sight when I carry it somewhere and also put it in silent/vibration mode, to avoid contradictory statements. – English Student Feb 1 '18 at 11:44
  • @Cerbrus The OP sees a clear distinction between a personal mobile and a family mobile. My suggested statements only begin if challenged and so assume that he has already stated he does not have a personal mobile. – Astralbee Feb 1 '18 at 12:20

Requirements you've stated:

social culture here in India ... asking for your mobile number. ...I have struggled to give these people a good answer. People look amazed, disbelieving and hurt when I say that I don't have a mobile number. They want to know why.

honest yet blunt responses like "this phone number is only for family members", "I dislike phone communication" and "I don't give anybody my mobile number" are considered unfriendly... [I don't want to] give them a full and detailed explanation of the reasons ... I am not asking for 'convincing excuses'

...seeking a convincing interpersonal approach to the situation.

Given the requirements, you have a difficult situation that can't easily be resolved, and I understand your frustration. I'd approach this in one of two ways, or possibly both, and while the second isn't a strictly interpersonal solution, I don't think it's out of line with the range of solutions you should consider:

Don't be so literal

This is a social convention, they're asking for your "mobile" number in order to connect with and contact you. It doesn't matter that it's a landline, and you seem very set on the idea that if they're asking for a "mobile" number then you must explain that you don't have an actual mobile phone.

Instead translate their request into what they're really asking, "What is the number to call when I want to reach you?"

Give them your landline number. You don't need to point out that it's not a mobile number:

What's your mobile?

Call me at [number] or I can be reached at [number] or just [number]

It's dodging the question, perhaps, and if they text you they'll discover that it's a landline, but it really is the best way to contact you.

If they ask for your whatsapp number, you can register for whatsapp with a landline, just go through the normal registration process and when they send the verification text wait for it to fail, after which they'll do a verification phone call. You can then use whatsapp on your computer to check for messages, etc.

If you don't want to use whatsapp or similar services, don't worry about telling them. When they try to contact you using those metheds their service will tell them you're not in the network. "What's your whatsapp?" can be answered with, "My phone number is [number]" without further explanation.

Replace your landline with a mobile phone

Transfer your landline number to a mobile phone, then leave it plugged in all the time at home. That is your mobile phone, it's your home phone, and avoids even the literal interpretation problem that some might still believe is deceptive.

It's better than getting a mobile phone that you leave at home because it should be cheaper than having a landline and a mobile phone, and you'll still only have to deal with two numbers. It'll receive text messages, and you can associate it with online messaging apps (such as whatsapp) if you want to avoid further discussion and explanation.

You don't need to tell them it's not the phone you carry with you. It's the best number to use to contact you, and that's what they really want.


I like the answers that advocate for honesty, even if that's a reserved kind of honesty like Cerbrus' answer. But I want to address what I see as the root of the issue and offer a possible solution from that (it feels like a longshot but maybe this will be useful to you).

The idea of the motive was somewhat touched upon in spagirl's answer (ah also Graham now that I read it), but it's worth expanding on:

Why do they look like they feel hurt? Is it just because they feel you are lying? But why would they think you are lying? Lies have a motive, so when they seem like they don't believe you they are also assuming a reason you might be lying, and I think that'd usually be that you aren't interested in communicating with them, so you'd tell a lie about the phone number.

In that sense, I think honest explanations about why you aren't giving them your number are good, but what they were ultimately looking for wasn't that, it was to have channels to easily and casually communicate with you, so even if you explain, that goal still isn't met for them. Emails don't do since they maybe are seen as too formal and slow in comparison to phone calls and Instant Messaging apps (I'm going to focus on IM apps since you specifically mentioned Whatsapp). Going through your mother, similarly, maybe doesn't feel as casual and easy, but on top of that they might feel like they are inconveniencing your mother every time they want to reach you.

So I think that in order to change their attitudes, instead of focusing on explaining the phone number issue, try focusing on finding alternatives to open that channel of communication, this can reassure them that the issue isn't that you don't want to stay in contact (unless you actually don't want to, which would complicate matters here), and ideally by doing that, you stop seeming like you have a reason to lie to them, which in turn makes the phone number story more believable because the motive to lie is gone.

(To give some ideas about IM apps: Not sure what works best in your location, or even if you really are open to using any IM app, but if you are: Hangouts: it's fairly well known, and since it's email based it's easy to assume people can use it without much trouble. Skype is one of the most popular ones (in my spheres anyways) and also easy to use. I'm personally a fan of Discord, but maybe that's too niche. Anyways, I'm sure there are more IM apps that don't need a phone number, so if you are willing, my recommendation is to focus your energy on giving alternatives to these people)

EDIT: Adding this from the comments: If you aren't looking for alternative methods of communication: Maybe make as friendly an emphasis as you can on this: "I work from home now and am near-constantly reachable on the home land-line telephone number." to reassure them this is a good and easy way to reach you, and as your personally preferred method of communication.

  • I appreciate your very perceptive answer and your willingness to look at motives @Franco Pino. It's a fact that I am extremely introverted and don't want casual telephonic contact with friends, relatives & acquaintances. So my aim is to channel all calls to the one home based land-line telephone number so that I am actually reachable but people will use it only for a genuine purpose. But it is so counter-cultural in the modern age that people feel disappointed for all the reasons you identified.Welcome to Interpersonal.StackExchange and please do contribute many more such excellent posts here! – English Student Jan 31 '18 at 17:56

I think in this situation you are right with

These people often look hurt when I say that I don't have a mobile number, as if they suspect me of being unwilling to share my mobile number with them.

They're probably taking this as a hint that you just don't want to remain in contact.

I think the simplest solution here would be to tell them why you don't have one/give the number out and offer an alternative communication method.

Sorry but I don't keep a mobile phone anymore due to personal reasons, you can contact me by e-mail or landline instead however.


It is sad that the social norm is keeping an up to date device and a costly phone plan for it to use. I am for honesty as are others but you should make your decision clear to them as you tell them you don't have a phone. Not "I don't have a phone. Please don't ask." but

As my friend I hope you will understand I do not keep a cell phone.

In revealing and explaining bit by bit, layer by layer you see what troubles are caused. You just need to be up front with your means of communication and not embarrassed by them.


The thing is, I myself would be completely averse to giving people my home phone number. Your bad experience as a public official was probably due to the fact that all kinds of people were calling you with complaints or something. But again, if the problem was that random people were calling you, then it doesn't matter which phone number is "out in the wild". Home phone is even worse, because depending on the model it usually doesn't show you who's calling.

The fact is, your position really runs counter to the social norms, and any such situation will cause tension. That's the nature of every position that is against the grain of how everyone else is doing it.

The solution for both giving someone a mobile number and avoiding unwanted calls is to actually have a mobile number and give it to people BUT to set the phone up in such a way that it's mostly in "do not disturb" mode. I'm not sure if it's available in all flavors of Android, but on my phone (Sony), I can set up either one rule for all or several days of the week, or several rules that are different for different days of the week. My rules are set up for the time from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., but you can set them up for 00:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.—basically, notifications can be off all the time, except for starred contacts. You can star only members of your family, and thus only calls from them will go through. Other calls will still show up in your call log, but the phone will not ring. (I'm pretty sure a similar solution also exists for the iPhone—turning off notifications for everyone except for starred or "favorite" contacts.)

So, basically, you can give people your number, and at the same time tell them, "I often forget my phone in my bag, or leave it on vibrate and don't feel it, so it's really best not to call but to email me. And I don't use messengers–I don't like them." People might try to call you a couple of times, but then when they see that you never pick up, they'll just give up and email you (which is what you want).

I'm often in touch with public officials. Most of them have two phone numbers, and they differentiate to whom they give one number but not the other. I know a person who has changed his phone number three times in the time that I've known him. Anyways, even if you started giving out your number to different people, it's usually a long time before the number gets out into the wild and you start to get unwanted calls. Then, if it really becomes a problem, you can change your phone number, because in reality you only have several people to whom you need to convey that you've got a new number—only your family. [Some people really have a much longer list of those to whom they need to communicate the change, but they do it anyway; your situation is much simpler—change the number, notify only your next of kin. Everyone else will be left in the position of not being able to call you. And you might never meet these people again.]


They want to know why.

If you feel it's none of their business, tell them it's none of their business.


"Because I don't want to have one, and I really don't want to go into the reasons. You can reach me using 'X' or 'Y'.

If they keep pressuring you after you tell them this, you could literally tell them "My reasons are none of your business, and you can either contact me using 'X' or 'Y' or not at all."

  • That is all very clear communication, thanks @Erik. Sadly, being so frank in such matters is considered rude here. – English Student Jan 31 '18 at 14:07

I'm in the same position as you are. I don't use a phone, and have a cellphone only for very close friends or family. Most of my communication is done via e-mail, and I'm pretty inviting when it comes to that.

I, too, run into this problem, and usually approach it pretty honestly. Something very simple, like

I don't actually have [use] a phone—I talk with everyone through e-mail. Want my e-mail?

If I'm asked why (which I usually am), I respond with something like:

Phones feel as if I'm constantly connected to something. They feel, to me, kind of mentally oppressive—this constant, ever-connected, buzzing distraction, that never stops begging for my attention, but stops me from just being there. A whole world gets super compressed in a 4x4 fluorescent screen. I don't like it.

It's honest, short but certainly not terse, and substantial enough that the other person doesn't feel hurt—and realizes you're giving them a legitimate reason. Often times it even spurs some good conversation (usually regarding technology and relationships, or something of this sort). A common response, for example, will be something like "What if you're lost!"

(Sorry, I'm making the assumption that we both have a similar reason/philosophy for not using phones. Disregard this answer if we don't!)

  • "I'm making the assumption that we both have a similar reason/philosophy for not using phones" __ You are absolutely right, thanks @AmagicalFishy. What I hesitate to do is explain my reasons to these people, because they have tended to pull me into arguments while trying to critique my perspective and simultaneously 'defend' their world-view. If I meet an understanding and sympathetic person I shall certainly follow your advice. – English Student Feb 1 '18 at 12:02
  • @EnglishStudent Ah. I see why this approach is me-specific, in that case. I love those kinds of arguments! The imp in me suspects that people so readily try to argue on this because, deep down, they know it's true. ;) – AmagicalFishy Feb 1 '18 at 23:08

You could try to compromise your answer somewhere in between blunt and full explanation. Try to find the shortest way to tell the truth that will both not provide information you don't want to share and also provide little room for the other person to ask further.

For example:

Friend says...

What is your mobile number?

Then you could respond with...

Since I dislike mobile phones, I do not own one. When I'm out, I often bring one of my parents' mobiles for emergency-use only to appease them, but I do not have my own. I use email and my home land-line instead, and I'll give you both of those. My number is...

Providing all of that initially dodges multiple points of confusion that your friend may have had. It...

  • conveys the point that you do not own a mobile phone to give a number out for

  • acknowledges that yes, you do have a phone with you - something important to acknowledge so that you don't appear to be hiding that fact from them

  • provides a reason why that number for that mobile phone should not be provided before they even ask, so they do not have to ask "What about the number for that mobile phone?", at which point your reason sounds like an excuse since it is after their question

  • makes it awkward for the other person to ask for the number to the mobile phone you have with you, since it's not yours, and they might not be comfortable with the possibility of someone else answering it

  • leaves the situation open for the friend to push for getting the "family emergency number", something which I would view as rude of them to do but I know some people would do it anyway; you said that, though this is not preferable, you are willing to do this, so you could respond with "Ok, but do not be surprised if I am not the one who answers when you call" - now they know to have low expectations for your availability on that one

  • makes it known that you do still want to be available, and provides the information for that before you give them time to ask any questions or make any comments

Further, you said you like face-to-face communication instead. If you want to do more of that with the friend as well, you could also mention something about being open to get together, in whatever capacity is normal for your culture. Here where I am, for example, I might add "And we should hang out some time. Maybe we could have lunch together at Burger King next week."

Now, during all this, it is possible that the other person might interrupt you at any of the points which they are surprised by.

  • "...don't own my own. The one I have..." "(Interrupts)What do you mean you don't have your own?"

  • "...I'll give you my email and..." "(Interrupts)I don't check email often. I call or text."

If the other person provides short interjections like that, you could continue speaking where you left off. "... The one I have is my parents', which I bring as an emergency phone to appease them."

I think this would cut down a lot on the other person prying for more information for several reasons. The biggest reason is that it no longer feels like you are hiding something or refusing to cooperate. Second biggest reason is that you addressed some of the primary points already.

It is possible that some people might still pry further. For example, "You dislike mobiles? Why on Earth would you dislike them?" Some of this will be simply because you are having a conversation and mobile phones are currently the topic of your conversation. Some of this will be because the other person still finds your situation surprising or wants to convince you that you should make yourself more available.

Try to think of a short response that you can give that is true, easy to believe and difficult for someone else to argue with. For example, something like

I just dislike using them, so I trashed mine and refuse to have one of my own. That is my opinion.

I think this type of response is likely to cut out the vast majority of further requests. It is true, difficult to argue with - how do you argue with "I just dislike them. That is my opinion"? -, and since you specify that it is an opinion a further explanation does not even need to exist let alone be given.

Anyone who continues prying further into your reasons now will probably do so no matter what responses you provided. These kind of people you simply cannot appease.

You mentioned that it is rude to be blunt without further explanation, and that you want to avoid the further explanation. Sometimes, "This is just my opinion" is all the explanation there is. Literally. "I like green more than orange" is an opinion, and it literally has no further explanation available since I just do.

You do have further explanation possible, but opinions can be held for no reason at all. So you could use that as your crutch here for anyone who tries to press you for further questioning. You can use "That is just my opinion." and "I just dislike using them." multiple times. And you can refer back to things you have already said instead of trying to think up new things.

Them: You really don't have one?

You: Yes, I really dislike them.

Them: But they are so useful. How can you keep yourself cut off?

You: It's just my opinion, that's just my preference.

Them: Couldn't you at least get one for our sake, so we can keep in touch?

You: I just really dislike them. But I do email, and I am willing to use my home phone.

That will probably work for most questions and comments at this point.

Then all you have to deal with is the odd question that really cannot be answered this way, such as "I understand that is your opinion, you already said that. But I don't check email often. And what do I do if I need to call you while you're out?" For those few stubborn people that refuse to take no for an answer, you need to decide ahead of time if you are willing at all to go into more details or not.

If you are willing to divulge more to insistent people like this who demand more of you, then just do so: "I work at home, so I am available at the home phone a lot. It should not be a problem."

If you are not willing, then at that point you are out of options and need a clever way to give up. Whatever you do at this point is the same thing that you would do to give up in any conversation, so it's not specific to your case. Something like "I don't know what else to say. I am sorry that I cannot oblige you, but this is the way it is." Even for the stubborn people who demand more of you, this is the end of the line. There really is nothing else for you to say at this point. If you get to this point and it feels awkward, that's because it is awkward, but it is no longer you who is making it awkward. The other person might disagree with that, thinking that you are the stubborn one, but again, there is nothing you can do about that.

Secondary Idea (Costs money)

Alternatively, get a mobile phone that you do not intend to use. You get everything you want, except that you have a phone bill now. Consider it the cost to solve your problem.

Figure out the cheapest cost of a mobile phone, then think of that as the amount of money it costs to avoid answering deeper phone-related questions. Decide if that is worth it for you. If not, refer to the main idea above.

If you do not mind wasting the money, you can pay for mobile phone service and leave it at home. It is only there to appease people. Ignore it, and do not bring it with you. If you give out its number, make sure you tell people that you often forget the phone at home and miss a lot of calls. Tell them that, as funny as it may sound, you are actually available more often via email or your home phone, and offer to give that too. If people mention their calls to you that you have missed, just keep saying that you forget the mobile phone all the time and that they should use email or the home phone.

You could even answer the mobile phone occasionally while you are at home. At that point, why not? It is not much different than talking on the home phone if you are at home.

Also, you could be honest and say "I don't like mobile phones, so I forget mine a lot. I like seeing my friends, but since I dislike the phone I just cannot make myself remember to bring it with me."

This might get mentioned a lot. It might even become a theme in your life, people talking about your forgetfulness whenever they see you, maybe even multiple times in one day. But you can just keep repeating the same thing again and again, every time. If you want them to start using email or your home phone number, then each time they bring it up you could respond with "Try my email or home phone. I'm not always available their either, but I do answer that more often."

This way might be easier than my original suggestions, as there is less for your friend to ask about, less for them to be confused about, and less for them to feel like you are withholding something.


I would just like to make them understand it's my policy and not personally related to them.

That's impossible if your family-only phone is visible.

I'll assume now that you solve that problem (maybe e.g. carry a small knapsack or a fanny pack and keep the phone tucked away).

Now, let's hit rewind.

After speaking with me for few minutes,

Friend concludes: "OK I'll keep in touch. What's your Whatsapp number?"

"Just call me on the 555 number. Here it is, in case you've misplaced it." (Give friend a card or little piece of paper or whatever.)

"No, man, that's your landline. I mean your cell."

"The 555 number is the best way to reach me -- actually, the only way to reach me."

"Come on, guy, what's up with that? You don't trust me with your cell number?"

"I hate cell phones. Nothing personal, man. I just don't have one."

Now change the subject to divert the conversation. Example:

  • Oh, hey, I'm playing in a new co-ed soccer league that just started up. We need more people, so if you know anyone interested, send them my way, okay?

  • Oh, I forgot to ask, how's your brother doing? Did he decide to go to grad school?

You can adjust all of the above for the local vernacular. The important thing is to be firm but warm. That's the element that seemed to be missing from the dialog you posted. (But I'm really glad you posted it, because it made it easier to understand the nature of the problem.) It's funny, because at ELU you're probably the friendliest, most positive participant there. Conjecture: you were afraid of the cell phone topic and stiffened up.

I too choose not to have a cell phone. Different strokes for different folks. We're all different -- so what? Let's move on with life!

Bottom line: do try to wrap up the encounter with warmth. E.g.:

Hey, I'm glad we ran into each other. It was great to see you. Say hi to your brother for me.

  • Spot on assessment and a very solid answer, thanks @aparente001: if you are not a psychologist then you should be! I'll be more active soon on ELU. What I can do is hide the mobile as long as it doesn't ring when I am speaking with the person. The reason I stiffened up was that the guy (close friend at high school but zero contact for 20 years) reacted like it was a social crime not to have a Whatsapp number. That told me we had nothing in common at this point and I froze up. He also forced me to talk on the phone to another classmate I had not seen for 20 years. I dislike pushy people. – English Student Jan 31 '18 at 23:21
  • @EnglishStudent - Can you put the phone on Silent when you stow it in your bag? And even if you don't, what are the chances of it ringing during a random chance encounter? // Now I'm thinking what you really want to know is, how to learn to give someone the cold shoulder, even though it goes against your grain to do that -- i.e. it's in conflict with your self-concept as a polite, gracious persion. – aparente001 Feb 1 '18 at 3:04
  • Yes I can put it in silent mode -- it would be really effective @aparente001. And yes, you are right: I do feel guilty giving them the cold shoulder but as an extreme introvert I simply cannot tolerate near-constant casual telephonic contact with so many random people! – English Student Feb 1 '18 at 11:25
  • @EnglishStudent - Well, fortunately, that will not be a problem, because apparently most of these casual acquaintances will not be calling you because they have their own aversion -- to land lines! (I have no idea why....) – aparente001 Feb 2 '18 at 4:11
  • You are absolutely right again @aparente001. None of them called me on the land line. – English Student Feb 2 '18 at 13:52

If you don't like to explain why you don't have a mobile number, you could get a "basic phone" and a minimalist plan. Then technically, you would have a mobile, but it wouldn't be very effective for non-emergency situations.

Then you could show them the "basic phone" and they should understand that it does not have the capability to use apps. Of course that may elicit "Why are you still living in the 90s?" type of responses, but then you can divert with preferring physical buttons or that you prefer being able to give your environment your full attention since the internet is distracting. Then when they suggest direct texts, warn them that you don't have that many, so it's mostly for emergency purposes only.

Of course if you don't like this approach, then you can look for studies that discourage the use of mobiles. For example, you can ask if they have seen "Screenagers" and tell them that it inspired you to cut mobile devices out of your life.

  • The OP seems pretty set on not having a mobile phone. How does this solve the problem? – sphennings Jan 31 '18 at 16:38
  • @sphennings The OP does have a mobile phone, he just doesn't want to give out the number to any one other than close family. – Dan Anderson Jan 31 '18 at 16:50
  • Interesting approaches, thanks @Kora. I actually have a basic phone for family and use a separate tablet for all sorts of online actions. – English Student Jan 31 '18 at 17:38
  • @sphennings Since the OP uses his mother's mobile, I thought he was okay with carrying one around. I equate a basic phone with a portable landline. Telling the other party that OP doesn't have enough texts/minutes should discourage frivolous contact. It gives the other party a way to contact OP, but also makes it clear that doing so may create hardships for them. The acquaintance could try to convince OP to upgrade, but then they might be considered the rude one. If OP already provides E-mail and Home Phone, that should show that OP is not actively discouraging contact. – Kora Jan 31 '18 at 20:11
  • 1
    That's very true @Kora. I have a policy in place and that policy is: "contact me on home land-line or by email." I am trying to present it more convincingly if possible, to friends and acquaintances. – English Student Jan 31 '18 at 20:53

Fulfilling the expectations

I will give you an unconventional (although not completely new) answer: Give them what they want.

Your friends are expecting to receive a mobile phone number in addition to your home one (I assume mobile and landlines have different prefixes in India).

As your reasons do not seem "philosophical" ones (eg. not wanting to own a phone, or entering into a contract with Facebook Inc), rather than explaining all reasons why you don't have a mobile phone, it would be simpler to get a mobile number and give out that.

Then make this number point to your home one. This may be a virtual number that redirects the call to your home number (there are probably providers of this service with Indian numbers). Or you could use a simple forward (which depending on the plan could cost money per received call). Or simply play a recorded message asking them to call .

So far, this covers providing them a mobile number where they can call you. You can convey this information:

I have mobile number XXXXXX but more often than not, I have it simply forwarded to my landline.

Yet they will prefer knowing "the mobile number" despite being of identical functionality.

Why using WhatsApp

The second issue relates to them wanting to communicate through WhatsApp.

The underlying reason to prefering WhatsApp than calling is that sending a message is much less intrusive (and you would indeed prefer not to be phoned for petty things while working).

Many other messaging systems would work as well: sms, email, icq, jabber, snail mail, pigeon post¹…

Yet, people in India (and many parts of the world) seem to have standarised on WhatsApp for the time being.

You: How is it that you didn't tell me about X? Friend: Oh, sorry, I didn't remember to tell you separatedly. Why don't you install WhatsApp? You could quite easily. You: You know perfectly well that I don't have WhatsApp. Why didn't you simply send an email? Friend: Since everyone else [receiving the notice] uses WhatsApp, it's easier if telling everyone the same way. You: Everyone has an email address, too. You could have sent it by email to everybody. Friend: It's more inconvenient, since maybe they don't check their mailbox until they are at home. You: That's just the way they use it. They probably have the email synced on the same smartphone, too. Friend: Perhaps they don't see the email [since they have so much unread mail they don't open].

(The funny thing is that, if you then use that IM solution, you may find that such information isn't provided that way, either)

It ends up being a circular argument. In fact, you could easily build a IM program that works on top of emails. And you could work on your inbox by sending every email to WhatsApp (with a small loss on formatting, and a horrible email UI).

In fact, my conclusion is that they use IM in a certain way, and email in a different way. This is pretty normal and expected, since they are being used for different types of interaction. (Also historically, they have evolved separatedly, even if nowadays they have some shared features)

Which is reinforced by application UI focused on a given action, and an inefficient use of email.

¹ Ok, maybe this one would require too much effort and provide too little bandwidth.

To WhatsApp or not to WhatsApp

There are several stances you can take:

  • Do not sign up that number to WhatsApp.

This way you stay closer to your original intent. If/When they want to communicate with you, they will be forced to use alternative means.

This won't really provide your friends the kind of channel they expect, though.

  • Concede and use WhatsApp daily.

You will probably be able to install WhatsApp (with your "number for friends") in the terminal you use for the family number (from your description, it seems to be a smartphone). Access to the phone number is only needed at the time of sign up (or if you later changed terminals), and it doesn't even need to be installed on the same terminal.

However, this is akin to what you wanted to do. An additional point I dislike about this position is that I could feel manipulated into using this system, forced by the society (not that I would like being manipulated unknown to me!).

  • Install WhatsApp and use it sparingly

An option in between the above would be to opt into using the IM system, and check it from time to time, but nowhere as often as other people do. So perhaps you decide you will review it on Sundays, or once a month. Then you would

Tell your friends that although you have this installed, it's not an effective way of communicating with you

Yes, my WhatsApp number is 123456, although I don't pay much attention to it, I tend to review the messages about once a week, but sometimes forget. If you want to contact me, you're better off giving me a call.

This may also raise a few eyebrows (How is it that you don't check if you received every 5 minutes??), but not as much as not having a mobile phone. It will also make it easier to mention how you prefer face-to-face interaction, and encourage them to call you and meet, rather than sending messages.

Then you would actually review it occasionally, replying to everything received in that time (which deserves one). You may end up pasting the same message to many people, e.g.

I hadn't connected since last week and I just saw your message. Thanks for sharing that link, I have sent it to my email and will have a look at it later.

This lets you keep contact with your friends the way they want (WhatsApp), but sends a clear message about how ineffective it is. They may be ok with this high-latency communication, or switch to a different platform, but then that's up to both of you.

Note that this will only surface with people that actually interact with you using this platform.

Also, I wouldn't hide the connection status (so that others can view that you haven't logged in for a long time), and I would explicitely state in the profile that they should call you if they want you to see it "soon".

In spite of this, and having told them, they will probably forget about your peculiarity anyway, and expect a shorter turnaround, so depending on the effort to dedicate, I might also print a business card for friends stating your home phone, your whatsapp number and that it shouldn't be relied on.

Finally, note that most IM systems trap you into a collective vendor lock in, as even when there are several alternatives, "everyone"² needs to use the same solution in order to be able to communicate.

² More exactly, all communicating parties need to share at least one medium. A client which supports multiple networks can be used to increase compatibility, with the additional burden of creating and handling multiple accounts.

Even on federated systems like XMPP, you need all people to use a XMPP client using the "same servers", even if they are run by different entities. Ironically, Facebook messenger, Google Talk, WhatsApp and many other are actually using (or used) XMPP but not federating with other servers and thus creating its own walled garden.


These people often look hurt when I say that I don't have a mobile number, as if they suspect me of being unwilling to share my mobile number with them.

Well, to them that would seem a reasonable assumption, especially if they see you carrying a mobile phone. Specifically, they may think that you may share your mobile number with others, but not with them, which would be a reason to feel hurt.

To show them that it's not about them, it may help to hand them a business card listing all the ways you deem acceptable to be used by them to contact you: Email address, landline number, maybe postal address. If you want, also include instant message accounts you use from your PC.

When handing out the card, don't draw too much attention towards the fact that it doesn't contain a mobile number, i.e., don't say stuff like

See: There's no mobile number on my business card. Do you now believe me that I don't have one?

That would make it seem like a set-up and they may start to believe that you hand out different business cards to different people.

This doesn't mean you have to conceal this, either. Something like

I don't have a mobile number of my own. But here's my card with other ways to reach me.

should be fine.

Some of them ask why, but I am not comfortable with discussing my reasons with these people.

I assume you'd be comfortable to tell them what you told us:

  • That the mobile phone you carry is only for your family to reach you.
  • That the mobile phone number is shared with your father's mobile phone.

If the "family sharing plan" is cheaper than having two separate mobile subscriptions, you may tell them that, too, together with the fact that a subscription of your own wouldn't pay off for you, because you'd use it so sparingly or not at all. "Saving money" is usually a reason people will understand, even if brought up by someone who could easily afford to spend more.

When people want to know more details than you are willing to give and consider it rude when you don't want to answer, the time has come to, well, not to be rude, but to accept to be considered rude. If you can, stay authentically friendly and polite while declining to go into these details and leave it at that.

Avoid lying or making misleading statements, especially when that would require more lying or explaining at a later point.


Give the person some ability to make their own judgements.

This answer is inspired by me having seen your name before, and recognizing a sort of pattern to some of your questions. Each of these have been up-voted to a score of 20 or higher.

Each of these six questions, asked in a period of less than six full months, seems to be focused on worrying about how someone else will be feeling in reaction to what you do. If you don't like the expected reaction, you hope to have a solution that will cause a different reaction. The reason I bring up these other questions is that they demonstrate a pattern. An answer that is restricted to just this one specific question is not going to solve the overall issue. You're bound to have the same root issue cause more headache if you don't deal with the root problem.

To some degree, you can do this sometimes, perhaps by phrasing things in a way that is more readily understandable. However, you cannot totally control other people's reactions. You are allowed to not have anybody else control what you think. Similarly, you are not allowed to control what somebody else thinks. If they want to disapprove of a choice you make, they do have that right. You don't have the right to prevent them from having that right.

After speaking with me for few minutes,
Friend concludes: OK I'll keep in touch. What's your Whatsapp number?
Me: I don't have a mobile number. You can reach me anytime at my home number which you already know.
Friend: I seen a mobile phone in your pocket.

Nothing wrong so far. Then you said:

Me: That's my mother's phone. You can reach me on that number too...

This sort of opened a can of worms. This isn't necessarily bad, but there's a better approach, which is to give them less information. Try this:

That is not a phone that I receive social calls on. The best available way to reach me is...

However, continuing to analyze things:

Friend: I don't want your mother's mobile number.
Me: (smiles stupidly.)
Friend (disbelieving): what? You really don't have a mobile number? Everyone has a mobile number. Why you don't have?
Me (invents a weak excuse)

Stop right there. How this was done needs to be discussed. You didn't restrict yourself to only true statements. Never lie.

Since you shamefully did, let's look at how to handle this next:

Freind[sic]: ok, be sure to send me your new number when you get it.
Presumable next week: Friend: Okay, what is your new number?
"Me": I ended up actually not getting one. I also am not getting one. Here is what you can do...

Then provide available options. If your friend doesn't like that, then deal with that situation. Either cave (give in), or stand your ground. Either way, be firm. Let the person know reality. Don't try to re-portray things in hopes of avoiding a need to handle the consequences of reality.

Hypothetical next steps:
Friend: But why...
"Me": Look, understand me. I'm not going to discuss the reasons now. [Change discussion]

If the "friend" keeps inquiring about your personal cell phone, lay out your terms: You will discuss other topics, or you will consider such rudeness to be grounds to end the discussion. Ask your friend to be polite and stop pressing on that topic.


It seems to me that all the answers here are from people who don't have your experience of fending off such people. I do, however, have such experience, as I too hate phones.

This is the only solution: I got a second phone.

My smartphone is used as what it is: a small computer. It has a SIM in order to have internet access, and the associated number is known by only a couple of people. My dumbphone is useless to me, since I have no desire to make or receive calls. Its purpose is to have a number that I can freely give out to people without worrying that they will bother me. I've disabled voicemail on it, and it's always on silent. I never, ever volunteer the number to anyone, or give any indication that I want to get a call on it. I put the number on forms that require it, or give it to people who insist on a number and don't care how I wish to be contacted. I usually throw in, "My numbers's XXXXXXX, but I hardly answer it.’ This warning is always ignored because they can't conceive of not slavishly answering a phone at once. If I want someone to contact me, I hand them my business card with my e-mail and home-office address on it.

I occasionally check to see if there are any SMS received. I reply telling them to e-mail me if its important, and just ignore them if they are wasting my time.

Nothing else works. Such people cannot grasp the idea of not liking being pestered by phone. There is nothing you can do to stop them, so just divert them instead.

  • Your answer is highly appreciated, thanks @Amy Dee D. Would you encounter any problem if somebody tried to call you on the dumbphone for something they consider important, and you ignored it as you always do? – English Student Apr 17 '18 at 20:05

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