My sister got an Alexa echo for Christmas, and I was, according to my loved ones, inappropriately alarmed. According to my own standards, I was very appropriately alarmed. For as long as Alexas have been a thing, I have been terrified of them. Because, like, they are always listening. Just sitting there. Looking at you. Waiting for you to say their name so they can crawl into your conversation and do your bidding. How scary is that? Like, I’ll just be chilling at a friend’s house, sitting at the table, and I’ll spot one of those little monsters crouched on the counter and I get a fricking chill. I’m not even kidding. They’re just there. Listening.
And I mean, whatever. What am I so scared that they’ll overhear? It’s not like I’m having top-secret conversations that the government should be worried about. I’m not planning an assassination. I’m usually not even talking shit. The only thing that Alexa would use against me is advertising information. Which is insidious, but not that insidious. Worst case scenario, she hears me talking about Recees and goes surging back to the data base like, “Psst! Amazon overlords! Kelsey wants more chocolate snacks. Throw it in her cart recommendations. By the power of fear she shall purchase them in bulk.”
My parents and my sister like to point this out. They like to stare at me across the dinner table and raise their forks at me and say, “What, have you got something to hide?” This is the same thing they pull when they bring up the family tracking app, which I refuse to use. I don’t like location sharing. It freaks me out. Again, not because I’m doing anything sketchy. No one is gonna open the app and see me hanging out at sex shops and dive bars. I just don’t like the idea that if I join this app, other people can open it up and see where I am, at any given time, without me necessarily knowing. That’s freaky! I just don’t get it. My dad really wants me to join so that he can keep an eye on me while I’m away at college, but I’m still the sole family member who refuses to do it.
“So let me get this straight,” my Dad said, frustrated. “You don’t want people to know what you’re doing all the time, but you post intimate details about your life on your blog, almost every week? You published an entire book of poetry about your emotional life? You give out your secrets on your website? How is this any more private than a location sharing app?”
But the thing is, emotional intimacy is different. Sharing for the sake of creativity is different. To me, it seems reasonable to be wary of tracking devices but to embrace emotional intimacy. My work is all about connecting with people. I can’t do that without being real – without being intimate, without tuning into what makes people tick. But for others, it seems much less scary to embrace Alexas and tracking apps. People don’t like to talk about their emotions. Emotional intimacy is SCARY. You can get shot down, rejected, ignored – or you can connect with someone, make a difference, make someone feel less alone.
I know all the arguments for and against Alexas, and tracking devices, and talking about your feelings. I know that my phone constantly tracks me, whether I join the app or not. I know all my phone calls are probably monitored as it is. I know that nothing is really private anymore. But as a person who shares so much, all the time, I think it’s fair to want to keep some things to myself.
yours in haste,
When I was five, I spent most of my time outdoors. I lived in rural North Carolina, surrounded by dusty roads and towering mountains. My best friend, Austin, lived across the street. He was a short, wide-eyed kid who was raised strictly Baptist and spent his days outside too, which is why we were always together. He and I would go exploring.
We lived on a dead end. The side of our houses were framed by the edge of a looming forest. That forest was our wonderland. We romped in the woods for hours, looking for magic. And one day, we found it.
We called the place Happy Valley. It was a place in the woods where the trees suddenly thinned and there was a river that surged and bubbled through the earth. Violet wildflowers swayed alongside our light-up sneakers. We would sit on a log by the river and run our hands over the soft fuzzy moss that grew on the damp wood. We made up stories and ate dandelions and stuck our feet in the water. Then we would leave, and come back, and leave, and come back again.
Until one day, we came back and it was different.
The first sign was a beer can. It glittered on the pathway. Austin picked it up and examined it.
“Aliens,” he said, with certainty.
We proceeded with extra caution, tiptoeing through the underbrush, watching for extraterrestrials.
The trees cleared. My sneakers scuffed into another beer can.
And we saw Happy Valley.
A bulldozer was sleeping by the side of the river. Trees lay cracked and sprawled across the clearing. The wildflowers were gone, crushed into the mud. The river hissed like it didn’t recognize us.
We didn’t know it at the time, but our neighborhood was expanding. The woods that framed our dead end would give way to a new house. Happy Valley would be replaced by a new neighbor.
We bolted out of there. Feet slipping in the mud, chests heaving with terror.
It was the end of Happy Valley. But when the new family moved in, a kid came knocking on my door. And it was the start of something wonderful.
yours in haste,
kelsey day is a young award winning poet who grew up in the blue mountains of north carolina. she has received recognition for a collection of short stories, as well as two novels she published at the ages of 11 and 13. today she is studying creative writing in boston, massachusetts.