Fast Media, Media Fast

While researching media fasts online, I came across a pretty interesting blog from a contributor to Connecticut’s WNPR and Your Public Media. Heather Brandon went on a selective fast from media for four days last summer after interviewing Thomas W. Cooper, author of Fast Media Media Fast: How to Clear Your Mind and Invigorate Your Life in an Age of Media Overload. (I’m also happy to find that this book exists and will skim through it in the next week to see what it can add to my piece.)

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As Brandon prepared for her fast, she noted:

“I’ll be doing a practical and slightly customized fast: no Facebook, Twitter, iPad/iPod/video games, TV, or online browsing (unless work-related). Allowed: texting for informational purposes, newspapers, and radio. Dr. Cooper suggests that electronic mass media fasting can reasonably leave intact one-on-one connections like email and phone calls. The goal is to eliminate media that ‘could potentially homogenize thought,’ he wrote in an email.’

“Dr. Cooper predicts several beneficial effects from this. I will find more hours in my day for reflection, creativity, sleep, play, family, community, art, and spirituality. I’ll also sharpen my perceptive ability and memory, and think more for myself rather than in slogans and jingles. I’ll create more of my own media, rather than consume it. Enslaving habits and mindsets will be behind me. I’ll become more selective about life choices, relationships, career, and my own relationship with mass consumption of information. I’ll be more of service, and I may rediscover nature and a balanced life, developing talents I have neglected. (Cooper, 50-51) In other words: I will transcend! Or something.”

Interestingly enough, she does seem to transcend. Or something.

Her fast was very short, but she makes a lot of observations during her time away from Twitter. She describes connecting with people on a more intimate level, especially her kids. And, she ends her fast by asking, “How do I incorporate this approach to daily life in a moderate way, so that I can maintain connections but also maintain sanity?”

Her blog doesn’t follow her re-immersion into digital life, but it left me thinking about my return to media.

PBS suggests, in one of their additional resources for the Frontline special “Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier,” that a media fast encourages “introspection,” and that after a fast you should “use media and digital technologies more thoughtfully,” instead of “launching right back into your old media habits.”

That’s definitely what it was like for me. I didn’t even have the mental capacity to “launch right back into” old habits. My brother was eager to introduce me to some of the movies I missed while on my mission, and put in “The Other Guys” my first week home. I couldn’t even watch the opening scene—it was too overwhelming visually.

I’m okay watching action movies now. But, my readjustment to media will never be a return to what it was before. Like Heather Brandon, I discovered I really did enjoy interacting in-person with the people in my life, immersing myself in something other than a screen.

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