WNPR and 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.
I had to take my kids to get their blood drawn this afternoon. Ordinarily I would tweet through the experience just to get through my own anxiety about their anxiety. Sometimes it helps to feel like I have my community of friends with me in my phone. Today, I didn’t have that feeling.
A lot of parenting experiences can be kind of grueling in that way, where I might feel very alone, wearied, and lacking in humor. Twitter has helped me through a lot of those times, either because it’s so completely disconnected from the moment I’m having, or because I can read instant feedback, in the form of both support as well as absurdity, that both help to lighten the mood.
But I also disconnect myself from the moment I’m having by joining in that virtual space. My kids sometimes resent being the objects of that experience. They also sometimes enjoy it, maybe because they see how much it makes me laugh. I can’t really know what it looks like from their point of view, though. I know they like having me back these last few days.
I went out last night to see some people, which was way more fun because I hadn’t been online, and so all the details of how they are and what they’ve been doing were totally a surprise. I didn’t have a cheat sheet on their lives—I had to rely on their spoken words, in the moment, for information. It was a whole new world.
The phone has become my friend again, instead of something to avoid. When I get a call, I might not even recognize the number, and I eagerly answer with a cheerful “Hello??” I don’t even care if it’s telemarketing at this point. It’s just nice to hear someone’s voice in this weird period of isolation. I’ve had a couple of long calls and they have been very gratifying (none of them with telemarketers, by the way).
Isolation has indeed been a bit of a problem for me, but it’s remedied by the presence of friends. I managed to plan a long afternoon visit yesterday with a dear friend I don’t see very often. Another friend invited me out for coffee later tonight, knowing I might like to have some human contact. It feels a little like I have a disability, and people are generally very understanding once they realize I’m on a media fast. There have been some questions about how it’s going. There has also been plenty of teasing. Last night, one friend said, “Oh, you didn’t hear about that event, did you? Oh, that’s because I tweeted it.”
Not partaking in the rush of Twitter has been the hardest part of this fast. I genuinely use it regularly for current information and staying in touch with people frequently. Withdrawing from TV has been the easiest, since I rarely watch anything passively and there are few shows that matter to me that I can’t access later.
Lacking news has been, in a way, the most enjoyable aspect, because my brain is more quiet and less disturbed by all the bad news that surrounds us. When I picked up yesterday’s New York Times and saw the large photo of a severely malnourished Somali child, I was quite struck by the awful feelings it elicited. The debt ceiling news is similarly depressing to me, and so I’ve been happy not to immerse myself in such information or dwell on the details for a few days.
Questions arise now for me: how do I incorporate this approach to daily life in a moderate way, so that I can maintain connections but also maintain sanity?