Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | September 21, 2014

The Circus in Your Hand

Quill-Pen-425x282-300x199I’m not a Luddite. I have this blog, don’t I? And a facebook page! I text a little (albeit slowly) on my flip phone. I read books on a Nook now and then. My school Wikispace is 8 years old and going strong, and many of the young teachers I work with have even used it. This summer, I taught on online course for a local university and had a pretty good time doing it.

So why am I so opposed to getting a smart phone? And why does my school-issued ipad sit at the bottom of my desk drawer, unused and ignored? There’s no GPS on my dashboard, no ipod in a dock in my office or bedroom. I’ve never seen a Twitter post or learned how hash tags work.

Portable-AM-FM-Radio-Mp3-CD-Player_20090808412I wish I knew why I’ve stalled this way. I’ve yet to read any statistics or studies about people like me, a surely ever-shrinking group of hold-outs who make do with a “dumb phone” and a desktop computer – those of us who have ventured out only partway into the eddying waters of hypertech while keeping one foot firmly on the island of disconnectedness. We listen to radios rather than streaming, watch movies on DVDs, and still prefer a paper map.  It’s like I’m stuck in 2002.

It’s all accelerated so fast in the last 10 years, I can’t keep up. I stopped trying when it became clear that I was a slow adapter, and that innovation was not going to put on the brakes just for me. By the time I’ve mastered a new system or gadget, the thing has already become obsolete. Everyone else has moved 3 steps beyond me.

jetIt’s not just because I’m a “certain age.” Many of my high school students share my sentiments, while many people older than I am have run gleefully to the Apple Store each time a new igadget comes out. If you’re like my Aunt Janette, you pick up 3 of them at once.

Perhaps I harbor a deep-seated mistrust of wirelessness. The whole world could be at my fingertips, but I find that overwhelming and a little bit scary. It makes me mentally exhausted to think about the endless places I could go on that tiny screen. And I feel spiritually violated when I consider the myriad ways people and advertisers could send me messages and track my every move, should I decide to succumb to hypertech. Just scrolling through my Facebook feed makes me feel bombarded with stimulus. I can only take so much.

CIA-spy02It’s not a fear of the technology itself but of the people who use it — a mistrust of faceless corporations who might try to take advantage of me.  At present, my only retail membership card is for Barnes & Noble, since I naively think that a purveyor of books will not try anything nasty with my information. In my way of thinking, the dollar or two I don’t save with each purchase at Pet Smart or Hallmark is the price I am willing to pay for my privacy. Each time a clerk asks for my phone number and I say “I’d rather not tell you,” I’m taking a stand for personal freedom. Lately, I’ve begun to feel like a bit of an anarchist.

hut on islandWill the world allow people like me to continue living in this slowed, semi-connected, alternative universe? In a few years, will it be impossible to access money or prove my identity without my fingerprints and smart phone trail on the grid? Can I survive my final four years of teaching without being forced to move all my lessons to the ipad?  Will my non-Tweeting habits put me in peril, as I miss out on the Emergency Twitter Alert System?

I guess I’ll find out.  The Wikispace I mentioned above is considered ancient by today’s educational standards. We’ve gone through 3 classroom platforms since Wiki’s first came out, yet I’ve pushed back against the need to change mine solely for the sake of changing it. The Wiki does the job. Why put in hundreds of hours to create a Google or Schoology site when I don’t have to? I lack that drive to innovate for the sake of innovation.

circusThe phrase “Stop the world – I want to get off!” was coined nearly 50 years ago as the title of a musical set against the backdrop of a circus. How quaint to think that in 1966, someone felt things were moving way too fast. Now, most people have a miniature circus right in the palms of their hands.

Some of us, I guess, have always felt the continual need to shut down the circus, unwind, and escape to the woods where we can sit quietly and look at the trees.

So don’t bother sending me a text while I’m out there. I’m not bringing my phone.


  1. I can certainly relate to this Kate. I enjoy some of the “new” stuff—especially because it is such an easy way to kind of keep up with news of family and friends. Janette had her “old” phone cleared and said I can have it…I may give it a try because it is one you can give verbal commands to call someone or even send text ! I’ll let you know how that goes. I leave for Az. on Sat. the 27th to help Judy. She is to get a new left hip on the 24th. Sure hope all goes well….she has been in so much pain-bone on bone- but refused to see about it until after the move to new place. I will return on the 18th of Oct. assuming all is well. I’m flying Southwest with a plane change/layover in Vegas just in case I need to delay return. So glad we got to have a little time together after the weddings. Love, Jo

  2. I expect I’ll make the leap eventually — most likely out of necessity as more and more things move to digital and not having a smart device becomes crippling.

    Have a good trip! It’s great you’ll be there with Judy.

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