Years ago, when I taught dance, people thought I was very creative because my students danced to the sounds they made with their voice and body. The truth was I couldn’t be bothered carrying around phonographs or tape recorders. I liked to travel light.
In 1985 I came home from a hospital in London, unable to work for eight months, and discovered that in my absence, the university administration had mandated all faculty have computers. I chose to buy the cheapest one available—one or two RAM—that cost four thousand dollars, of which the university paid two. Newly diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, I barely made it through teaching. There was no way I could attend computer classes. In the beginning, I was so tired from the leukemia, just learning to turn the computer on and off left me exhausted. I learned by trial and error, mostly error. I soon realized I had to buy a computer for home use, which only complicated the situation. What I did at home had to be copied to a floppy disc to be transferred to my university computer. Thank goodness for the IT Department who translated the hieroglyphics on my screen to where I wanted to be. Thank goodness for students who took pity on me and either came to my office or my home, half an hour drive from the university, to help me untangle messes of my making, who patiently taught me how to use the university supported software. Thank goodness for the students who took my floppy discs to the university and printed out the pages of my PhD thesis and kindly corrected printing mishaps. I showed my gratitude by making meals, cookies, and editing papers. Thank goodness for the IT Department who found and eliminated the virus I acquired while teaching in Hungary. Thank goodness for the students who helped me upgrade and learn to use the constantly changing software so I could keep up with university supported programs. I learned to use email and to cut and paste. This felt like a major triumph.
I moved to Santa Fe where I no longer had student or IT Department support. I had to find an internet provider and create a new email address. When I inadvertently eliminated all my emails, I took my laptop to a man everyone said was a genius. He screamed that I was incompetent—and worse. He recovered my emails. I left, never to return.
Fast forward to the rise of social media. I tried. Using it gave me a headache. I decided I didn’t need to be on Facebook or any of the others. I would have cancelled but I didn’t know how. I hired various people to help publicize my work, which cost a lot of money and produce little or no results. I convinced myself, which wasn’t a problem, that I could live without it.
Now I have an author coach. She redesigned my website and produced a Zoom book launch. Our regular Zoom meetings cover a variety of issues and subjects leading to thoughtful conversation. Until, that is, she suggested I do Facebook. Involuntarily I covered my face with my hands and put my head on my desk. My body clearly reflected my distress. It remains to be seen whether my brain—willing to try using Facebook—or my body—unwilling to even consider the idea, gets to decide.
Nancy King is a widely published author and a professor emerita at the University of Delaware, where she has taught theater, drama, playwriting, creative writing, and multidisciplinary studies with an emphasis on world literature. She has published seven previous works of nonfiction and five novels. Her new memoir, Breaking the Silence, explores the power of stories in healing from trauma and abuse. Her career has emphasized the use of her own experience in being silenced to encourage students to find their voices and to express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with authenticity, as a way to add meaning to their lives.