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Arts & Culture

Saying Goodbye to Facebook, Twitter

Rachel Chapman

WNPR & Your Public Media contributor Heather Brandon has accepted our challenge to complete a media fast. She'll be abstaining from all media Monday, August 1 - Thursday, August 4 and will be interviewed, along with Tom Cooper, author of Fast Media, Media Fast: How to Clear Your Mind and Invigorate Your Life In an Age of Media Overload about her fast on the Thursday, August 4 edition of "Where We Live."  No internet surfing, no television, no video games. This is her diary.

Media Fast Entry 1

So I’ve decided to try this media fasting thing next week. Part of me is fighting hard to say, “This is no big deal. You’ve been away from media before for days at a time. You can do it again. What’s the worry?” And yet, I’m worried. Usually when I walk away from electronic devices, I’m doing something else more all-consuming, or I have other distractions or restraints. Maybe I’m traveling, or out of range of a decent cell phone signal, and with no Internet where I’m staying. Or maybe I’m visiting with people for a few days, so there is no time to immerse in reading and watching stuff. Or maybe I’ve had a very heavy workload, and I shut down a lot of the things that weaken my concentration.

But next week is not like any of that. Next week is another ordinary summer week for me, when I will be at home following usual routines, with a light workload for my home-based consulting, and my three kids hanging around all day, currently between camp sessions and weekend journeys elsewhere.

The last couple of weeks have been similar. I have found myself filling the time with more connections to media, as we sought indoor refuge from the oppressive heat wave, or an easy distraction from occasional boredom. Granted, I limit the time my kids can spend watching TV, or using computers and personal devices. But I don’t tend to limit myself very effectively on a routine basis, unless forced by circumstance.

I like to feel connected to friends and the outside world, especially because I spend so much time at home either working or parenting. Mass online connections, like through Facebook or Twitter, are not as satisfying as getting together in person, but they pretend to meet a need, they do provide a service and some utility, and they are very addictive. In order to wean myself off those things, to say nothing of the other forms of media I will avoid for a few days, I will need to replace my urge to connect with others with some other, more effective approach. One-on-one emails will be permitted. I will also probably need to schedule ways to see friends in person, if they aren’t too busy.

I have gotten lazy about consuming my news, relying entirely too much on Facebook and Twitter to tell me what’s important. Instead of these, or even my RSS feeds to follow, I will be relying on the paper version of the New York Times my neighbor gives me each day after he reads it. Usually I might check that online, but not next week. I wonder what other ways I’ll come up with to follow important news, or if I will just shrug, let be, and knit a few sweaters instead.

Occupying my brain is another way I use media. I’m a puzzle fiend. Word puzzles, logic puzzles, strategy games, you name it, I can spend a lot of time on these especially when things are otherwise slow. I anticipate doing some jigsaw puzzles to replace the iPad version of Carcassonne I have been playing a lot.

I also think we’ll spend a lot of time swimming and biking, because getting out of the house is one sure-fire way to let go and not fiddle so much with computers and TVs. And maybe I’ll leave my phone at home. It’s not that I think I’ll miss anything important by unplugging like this; rather, it’s that so much of society seems to be churning away online, and disconnecting means I miss incidental stuff.

It’s culture: jokes and banter; pictures of pets doing dumb things; commentary about movies, sidewalk scenes, or the latest outrageous idea; twitpics of amusing signage; live tweets about public meetings; and all the idiosyncratic stuff that makes society amusing, terrible, and inspiring. Without all that, I’m not sure where I belong sometimes, because community life has evolved in such strange ways where we all seem to see each other less and less, and people don’t drop in on one another just to be friendly like they did when I was a kid. And now that I reflect on it, even with all “online culture” I’m still not quite sure how I fit into community life or what role I play, and I don’t really think that certainty even matters. What matters to me is what I’m doing with my time, and what I’m doing is going to change.

Next Entry: Media fast: Do children get the short end of the stick?

Join the conversation: What would you miss the most?


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