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The Intersection of Technology and Community, or What Happens When Your Computer Dies

We live in an interesting age at the intersection between a total dependence on technology and am old fashioned reliance on each other.  Currently, my computer is broken, and I am in a state of panic. I don't consider myself a very technological person, but It turns out that I am astonishingly dependent on my computer.  

On Thursday, I was tutoring a student when an odd icon appeared on my computer screen, and suddenly everything stopped working.  I am currently writing this article on my daughter's computer knowing that I must complete it and submit it before she and her family leave the Island tomorrow. 

If my computer can't be fixed, I will have to buy a new one because, of course, to do without a computer for even a few days is unthinkable.  Whether or not the computer can be fixed, I may lose all my files and documents--which will seem like a tragedy--even though, in the great scheme of life, it won't be.  Worse things--much worse things--could happen.   

Oddly enough, however, this mini-crisis has emphasized for me the joy of living in a community of caring people where an old fashioned and traditional spirit of generosity of abounds.   When I first took my computer to the computer shop, I was told that it could not be fixed and that I would have to take it off-Island to an Apple store to have it repaired.  In a state of despair, I paradoxically turned to another aspect of technology to discover a very human sense of community.

I posted on AskNantucket and Nantucket Year Round community to see if there was someone on Nantucket who might know what to do.  I received over twenty responses.  Not only did people provide me with resources, they also provided long, well-researched solutions.  They took an enormous amount of time and trouble to respond to my problem.  I am not sure that one would find this sort of personal response anywhere else in the world.    

When I went in the next day to pick the computer, Martha was there.  She was amazing.  She was convinced that she could fix it, and she worked tirelessly to do so--and to do so quickly.  I am going to pick it up on Monday, and I have little doubt that it will be perfect.  And even if it isn't, I have NO doubt that Martha will have done everything possible to make it perfect.  

I remember when I was newly divorced and ill prepared for life on my own. I loaded my three daughters in the car and moved to Vermont.  I was alone, scared, and unemployed.  Luckily, I found a strong community of women who gave me support, lifted my spirit, found me jobs, and helped me parent my children.  There was no technology at the time.  The only way to connect was word of mouth and close and personal.  Now, with technology, our community is much smaller and more immediate, but no less supportive and powerful. Contrary to the popular opinion that technology isolates us, it connects us--perhaps in even more immediate and powerful ways than we found in that world of the seventies.  

In the winter, Nantucket is a small island.  It is a place where we take care of each other.  We work at the Food Pantry, we take the things we no longer need to the Take it or Leave it, we nurture each other's spirits through our churches, our schools, our community spirit, and YES, even our on-line groups.  We feed each other--literally, emotionally, and spiritually.  I know a florist who gives reduced rates--and sometimes even free flowers--to those who need the joy of a fresh bouquet.  I know teachers at the Public School who not only work long and hard hours each week despite personal problems including health and well-being and still go in on Saturdays to plan and make sure they are providing the best education possible for their students.  I know a woman who goes to the Take It and Leave It every Monday afternoon to collect all the left over clothing to give to people who could use it before it is thrown away. 

And now I know people who answer cries of distress over the internet.  

No matter how we respond to each other, on Nantucket we do it with intelligence, grace, generosity and compassion.


This is Pat Jones' first year living full time on Nantucket. After decades of teaching English at the high school and college level, she is now embarking on a new and challenging odyssey. Both retirement and Island life are new and exciting and occasionally daunting.  In this column she will share what it is like to live on Nantucket year round. As a poet, a writer, and a novice visual artist, her metaphor for the journey is “Throwing Paint.”