The Heart of Nashua with Joan Stylianos: Sometimes modern technology is no match for word-of-mouth

Back in the days when technology wasn’t so sophisticated, people relied on the local newspaper, radio, television and word of mouth to receive information about potentially dangerous situations in your community. The Telegraph of Nashua was an evening paper for years, so you had to wait patiently for it to arrive at your home.

These days, everyone is tuned in to just about each moment of minutia or magnitude, even when we don’t want to know about every breaking news story. Somehow, it gets filtered via cellphone, social media, 24-hour news outlets and an abundance of cable TV channels and radio stations.

An incident made news in Nashua early on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Like many others, I received an automated call from City Hall on my home telephone (yes, this dork still has a land line). The message informed residents about a bear spotted on the trails at Mines Fall Park near Nashua High School South and cautioned people to avoid the area.

I recall receiving the automated call around 9 a.m., but it was already bouncing across social media sites like Twitter nearly three hours earlier. According to a post by a woman named Erin Smith, she was in the park and on the trails when she spotted a black bear across the brook near the high school. She took a brief video of the adorable bear wandering around. Thank you, Erin Smith, for your keen eye and passing the news along.

The information shared on social media spread like wildfire.

I happen to find the automated messaging system from City Hall to be of value. In general, I think it serves the residents who receive these alerts and news flashes by providing relevant and useful information.

You can register at to receive notifications when Nashua news breaks or there are interruptions in city services due to inclement weather and other issues.

But getting these calls to your landline can be annoying at times, so I need to switch up how I receive them. Text message or email would be better.

One time, a call woke me around 1 a.m. City Hall’s automated system was alerting me about a runaway teen. I felt bad for the youth but ticked off that the call would be made at such an early hour.

So, what did folks do in the “old days?”

I remember a conversation with my late Aunt “Suds” several years ago. She told me that her son and daughter urged their elderly widowed mother to let them buy her a cellphone. She was in her 80s and living alone, and her children worried about her possibly needing immediate help if she became stranded in a disabled car or worse.

Aunt “Suds” had a good laugh. “What do I need that for?”

She was no fool, but a smart, independent and elegant woman who played the stock market brilliantly and was well-informed about important news, community events, sports, celebrities and many other topics — without using a computer.

“What did we do when I was growing up? We kindly asked a neighbor or a stranger to help us, that’s how,” she said matter-of-factly.

My aunt had a point.

A new survey conducted by market research company OnePoll found that young people today feel disconnected from their city or town. But, strangely enough, millennials feel more connected to their online community.

Perhaps you can call that an over-saturation of modern technology.

Ms. Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at