“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth,” Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden.
Maybe you’ve never read Walden, but you’ve undoubtedly heard of it. During the 19th century, Henry David Thoreau spent upwards two years living in a cabin near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. While there, he spent much-needed time pondering and writing.
It seems almost impossible to find a Walden Pond to escape to today. Our world is inundated with media — TVs are in nearly every restaurant, tablets are inside taxis and almost everyone owns a cell phone. Music blares from each store at the mall, gossip magazines line the aisles of grocery stores and books are available for purchase everywhere from bookstores to airports. And if you want to watch a good movie? All you have to do is turn on your computer and login to your Netflix or Hulu account.
All this media can get to be overwhelming. Our 21st century lives are hectic enough as is — why can’t we have what Thoreau did?
While we may not have access to Walden Pond, we do have a way to escape being immersed in media. Thomas W. Cooper, PhD, posed his outlet solution in Fast Media/Media Fast.
In June of 1989, Dr. Cooper decided to conduct his first-ever “media fast.” For over a month, he “stopped watching television and movies, listening to radio and CDs, and reading newspapers, books and magazines.” Because the Internet and online media weren’t there to tempt him, he didn’t have to cut them out of his life. Still, after the fast, he noticed numerous positive effects on his life — so many, in fact, that he’s decided to take a media fast every year.
What exactly does a media fast entail? After opening his book with 21 benefits of taking a media fast, Dr. Cooper goes on to describe three different types of media fasts:
This type of fast is the most extreme, and essentially involves doing what Thoreau did: “attempting to remove all media from your live, such as in the woods, your (unplugged) apartment, or seacoast,” according to Dr. Cooper. In other words, go completely unplugged.
A practical fast involves “eliminating all media except those crucial to survival.” If you need to check your work email account, by all means, do so. Keep up-to-date with critical weather reports, and read any websites you’re required to utilize at work. Remove all the fluff and keep only the necessary media in your life.
In this type of fast, there’s a little more leniency — it involves “carefully selecting which media you will eliminate or otherwise modify.” Eliminate only those media outlets that you’re addicted to. For example, if you check your Facebook way too often, cut that out of your life. If you’re constantly refreshing your email account, try removing that.
Dr. Cooper conducted his first fast for a month, but you can feel free to fast for as little or as long as you want. Just make sure to follow Dr. Cooper’s instructions and set up a few guidelines and ground rules before you start fasting. In addition, keep a journal during your media fast to document your experience. Write down how you feel and what you do with your time. Perhaps you’ll even decide to cut one media source out of your life for good.
In addition to directions for conducting your own media fast, Fast Media/Media Fast contains bonus information about how to learn from your fast, how to hold a group fast and what the long-term benefits of fasting are.
If you ever feel like Henry David Thoreau and just want to get away from it all, consider picking up Dr. Cooper’s Fast Media/Media Fast. Try doing your own media fast and see what happens — you may be surprised at what you learn from yourself and from the world.