This weekend a Boston Globe piece about ice fishing popped up on my Twitter feed. My great uncle Bob used to go ice fishing in Pittsfield all the time. I never went with him because it involved waking up early and missing Saturday morning cartoons, which isn’t an easy thing to sacrifice. The Globe’s article caught my interest for nostalgic reasons and I decided to give it a read. The piece is about the way new gear is changing the sport of ice fishing and helping it grow in popularity.
This is all well and good, but I have a sneaking suspicion that ice fishing was never really about the sport for Bob because he was the quiet the story teller. Instead it was a setting where he and his buddies could share stories and drink coffee without anyone else around. But this isn’t unique to ice fishing. All fishing, famously, isn’t really about catching fish, it’s about taking time out of a hectic life to be in good company or find some solitude.
I moved to North Carolina and my Uncle Bob grew older and older until winter mornings got too hard for him to make it out on the pond. So I never went with him. But I don’t want to end this on a dour note. While I never went ice fishing, he and I did plenty of fishing together in all the other seasons and I cherish those memories.
If, as the Globe article notes, technology is changing the practice of ice fishing then how is communication technology is changing the story telling aspects of ice fishing? How is social media changing what Bob experienced? People might be tweeting their locations, making Facebook events for parties and fish fries, or Instagramming panoramic shots of pristine winter mornings out on the lake. In this way, they’re ensuring that the memories they make are safely stored for the future.
While the conservationist in me believes that something’s are better left untouched, I also know that I’d love to have some digital narrative or collection of the stories and jokes my Great Uncle told while out on the ice. It wouldn’t be the same as having been out there with him, but it’s certainly the next best thing.