Tune Out, Turn Off, Go Find a WhaleJanuary 22nd, 2012 © by Susan Swartz
This new concern about our electronic addiction and how we should temper the tweets, take a Facebook fast, is an idea that doesn’t take much prompting for me to friend. Of course, my generation doesn’t need as much encouragement to unplug.
I wear a watch. I read books on paper. I do love my smart phone and would like to find a way to rationalize the purchase of an iPad. Yet, some people think I’m terribly old fashioned for holding onto my CD collection.
Still, I do understand the seduction of the little screen and how sometimes you need to break free and tune out, turn off, go find a whale.
Especially on a cold bright morning when rain is around the corner and soon to obscure the ocean. And when the word has been out for weeks that the whales are back and you’re just getting around to driving out to the beach.
Every winter just knowing that the whales are nearby makes me happy. I imagine their huge gray graceful selves doing a dark underwater ballet as they silently slide along our coast on the way to Mexico’s warm spa.
You can go on the internet and see whales frolicking in the ocean. You can listen to the distinct clucking and squealing noises peculiar to the gray whale and the song of the humpback. But a laptop doesn’t deliver the up-close smell of the ocean or the light touch of the winter sun.
The wind was whipping around the rocky bluffs of Bodega Head, giving the gulls and pelicans a giddy ride as a small shivering group of hopefuls steadied our binoculars and waited.
The winter ocean is pretty thrilling when it’s bringing in a storm and the water goes from calm to churning. But were those white caps or whale spouts? Was that a shadow of a cloud or a giant’s dark back?
Our computer obsession is not good for our health we are told. Experts worry that Facebook makes people feel more alienated than connected. We need to take a break from all those beeps and alerts. I agree. How can a person daydream if they’re always plugged in?
We’ve heard these moderation lectures before. In the days before computers took over multi-taskers were encouraged to develop a healthy balance between work and play. Remember the days of take-time-to-smell-the-flowers?
I’m kind of old school media. I read newspapers, listen to the radio. We have a landline phone in the house. I give journals to people for birthday presents. I write down dates and appointments on a calendar in the hall.
In the book The Information Diet, author Clay Johnson talks about our unhealthy habit of gobbling information and news. With just about everything you want available on the internet, he urges people to be more selective about what we take in and to employ more conscious consumption.
Certainly we all know people who are addicted to their computers. Yet just by looking at Facebook it’s apparent from all the photos of real sunsets and dreamy snowfalls that people do occasionally get away from their gadgets.
We didn’t see any whales that morning. That was okay. Last summer I saw a bunch of humpbacks in the Atlantic from a whale boat out of Gloucester Massachusetts. Those east coast whales came so close to the boat we could wink at each other.
I know our whales are out there, somewhere between us and the horizon. Moby Dick doesn’t have to be available on demand. We have our ways of interacting.