Unplugged: Life without TV
For most of us, it is hard to imagine life without television, without cable to clue us in to pop culture and the latest trends, and the scores of specialty channels that show us how to cook or play poker, or learn about health issues, nature, or exotic destinations. How would we occupy our evenings without television?
But not everyone would agree. There are many Islanders who have made the choice to unplug.
"I never thought it was any big deal that I don't have a TV. I just didn't even think about it," says Michelle Jones of Oak Bluffs. "I didn't want one, I didn't have time for one." My kids were always into something creative - writing a play, then writing the music for the play, and then performing the play. Who had time for TV?"
One of Ms. Jones's daughters is musician Nina Violet, a self-described gardner and farmer when she's not playing music. "My whole family plays," she says. "My influences are the masterpiece - earth, especially the ocean and the woods, and my family, Willy Mason's family, and the community on the Island."
Nothing mentioned about missing television. Instead, Ms. Violet shares her mother's appreciation of the Island community.
Ms. Jones says, "It's the community in which I raised them - and the community that helped raise them - the MV Chamber Music Society that stepped in and sent Nina to conservatories, the Fisherman's Association and the people who taught my kids how to fish. It's not just the choice of not having a TV; it's the other choice that you can make to be more a part of your community. Instead of living vicariously through some community on TV, why not be a part of the real thing?"
Meg Athearn of Chilmark says she's not a purist when it comes not watching TV. However, it's just not a part of her home life at all. "When my children are at Grandma's, they may occasionally watch a show, and there have been a few long winter days where I got a DVD at the library for my daughter," she says. "My husband, Dan and I do projects together at night: we talk; we are never bored; and occasionally we rent a movie."
Ms. Athearn doesn't see the absence of TV in her home as having had a negative affect on her children's upbringing, There's no penalty in not exposing them to television's serving up pop culture or any of the other latest things that other youngsters are familiar with.
"It's just a choice we made," Ms. Athearn says. "The kids play outside, they're creative, they make up their own ideas. The images that they know are ones that they have created."
Then there are the families that have television on part-time basis. Eleven-year-old Tessa Whitaker of Oak Bluffs describes some of what she sees as the pros and cons of having television at your fingertips.
"My parents decided that the summertime would be a good time to not have TV," she says. "At first I was upset. But then as the summer went on, I seemed to forget all about it. I didn't concentrate on TV, and my summer was perfect without it, I was outside in the sunshine more, running around. It was great.
"There are a few advantages. First, you get a lot of time doing fun things that you wouldn't be able to do if you were watching TV. You don't contribute to global warming because you're saving energy, and my parents didn't have to pay for the television bill."
It is not as if one solution is right, and the other wrong. Maybe moderation is an answer. But whatever the lifestyle, the Island seems to be a good place to explore choices and express individuality.
Ray Whitaker is a freelance writer who lives in Oak Bluffs.