Media Fasting

The idea: 24 hours without social media, TV, reading books, newspapers, or listening to podcasts or the radio.

Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

Here is what I learned:

It was harder than I thought. Now, mind you, I once did a seven day media fast. That was excruciating, but I survived. I figured, “hey a week was hard so, 24 hours? I got this.” But a year of re-habituation to media consumption and I had an automatic urge to turn on NPR in the car, to play a podcast, to watch some TV in the evening. These were ingrained habits. Nothing like losing something to remind you it exists in the first place.

It caused me to make some permanent changes. I tried to set up my phone to avoid temptation. I removed the easy access to media. Last year I rid most icons from my home screen. Now, I removed the news, stock, and social media from my widgets. Swiping right to see updates was my go-to boredom escape. Now it is just weather and my calendar. You can only look at that so many times a day!

I was bored. It was hard at first, but I found I grew fond of it. It was as if I’d discovered a lost land of the mental landscape. It was a land I once knew, like the path of my childhood creek, and only vaguely remember. Being bored allowed me to explore, think, talk, & act with more carefree abondon that I know when I’m consuming media. Now I am trying to incorporate more pomodoros into my day because I realize how valuable those moments of boredom can be.

I spent more time talking to my wife. One of my worries with social media is that it substitutes real social interaction with the virtual. But the biggest impact on my relationships that day was not watching TV at night. “You know, we never talk like this unless we go out to dinner,” my wife said.

It made me realize the problem is media consumption. Everyone is so fixated on the impact of social media on our social relationships. I have a different theory. The thing to guard against is consumption, not social media, and not media in general.

Taking a page from the intermittent food fasting world (I do 5:2 Time Restricted Feeding). I’m going to experiment with intermittent consumption media fasting. What that means is I can still use my computer and phone for creation and direct interaction with people but not consume media including old school media like books and TV. To make it sustainable, I’m going to try doing it for more limited time periods. I’ll post on how it goes.

Originally published at siouxneil.com on March 20, 2019.

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