Like most people my age, I have an unhealthy dependence on all forms of media (Instagram, YouTube, online news sites, etc.). Realizing that this was a problem in my life, I decided to make it a goal that I would abstain from media for two whole weeks. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this challenge, but boy did I quickly learn.
Throughout this challenge, I saw just how much I rely on media during every waking hour of my day. I use it to validate myself, to catch up on the latest vlog, and to fill time when I do not want to be alone with my thoughts. The list goes on and on, and I had never realized how much I relied on media until it was taken from me.
No one ripped media from me like the children in Sophie’s Choice, although it certainly would have seemed like it to someone observing my morose self on the first day without any form of media. Thankfully, that gloom did not last as I soon found activities that I could use to replace my usual media consumption. These included:
Playing chess instead of watching TV | My roommate Adam and I have a habit of watching TV shows together in the evening to pass the time. Unfortunately, TV shows (even those as realistic as the ones on HBO) do count as media, so we had to find other ways to while away the evenings.
We had placed a chess set in our living room earlier in the month as a decorative piece, so Adam suggested actually using it for its intended purpose. I went into our first game feeling like I could take him down but quickly realized how wrong I was. I had made the mistake of equating my real-life strategy skills (à la Amy Dunne from Gone Girl) with chess skills. Unfortunately, they are very different, and I found myself losing every single game that we played over the two week time period.
Listening to comedy radio stations | Like a family from the 1940’s gathering around their living room radio, I sat on the couch and listened to some of my favorite comedians on Spotify. I would like to say that this was an earthshattering experience that taught me that comedy is better when it is listened to rather than watched, but that would be a lie. However, it did come through in a pinch for my entertainment-starved self. Speaking of an entertainment craving…
Reading Twilight | You know you are need of something vapid to ingest when you sit down and begin re-reading (yes, you read that right; I’ve read the entire series of books multiple times) Twilight. I honestly thought that it was a semi-reasonable reaction to the cold, rainy weather, but a friend accurately observed that I was just trying to fill the void that reality TV had left behind.
Having the news headlines read aloud to me | I had stipulated that I could not use online news since my news app is basically E! News on steroids because of how often I’ve read articles about the downfall of Kathy Griffin. However, I didn’t want to spend money on a physical newspaper, so I asked Adam to sit on the couch and read aloud the news headlines that I was missing. He graciously obliged and read through the top headlines while I listened for ones that I wanted him to read in its entirety. In hindsight, I realize that Adam deserves a medal of honor for how many odd things he put up with during my media fast.
Going to bed early | One of my many realizations from the two weeks was how much time I spend lying in bed scrolling through Instagram or watching TV shows. I found myself reading in bed at 9:00 or 9:30 and falling asleep shortly thereafter because I had nothing to watch. This was probably the best part of the media fast because I was getting a consistent nine hours of sleep each night and woke up feeling incredibly rested every morning.
Listening to a thunderstorm rolling in | One night I heard a thunderstorm brewing, so I put down the book of Russian literature that I was reading and went outside to the porch. Upon feeling a rush of cool air against my skin, I felt inspired to grab a seat to watch the rain pour down while thunder crashed in the distance. I felt like an Amish child on the cusp of boyhood while I sat there, but it was strangely relaxing to watch nature at its purest without the distraction of a phone to ruin the moment.
Reading LIFE Magazine coffee table books | My usual habit while cooking is to watch a TV show while I whirl around my tiny kitchen like Julia Child on methamphetamines. Since I couldn’t do that, I found myself grabbing the LIFE Magazine coffee table books from the living room and flipping through them while I waited for my food to cook.
I would have never perused those massive books if I had been relying on media to pass the time, but I am glad that I did go through them. I learned fascinating facts from their many years of covering some of the most famous events in the world and enjoyed a more subdued look into culture than the one that Snapchat provides.
Upon ending the fast, I worried that I would immediately fall back into my unhealthy media consumption habits, but surprisingly, I found that this was not the case. I especially loved the habit of not watching anything before bed, so I have implemented it into my nightly routine. There are still moments where I overindulge with media, but I have seen a marked decrease in those instances since completing this fast.
To be honest, I dreaded this challenge from the first moment that it began, but I have now seen how restorative it was. It showed me how to live my life in a way that isn’t enslaved to my devices, and through that experience, I found a freedom that comes from living a less media-saturated life.
This was a challenging goal, but I would highly recommend it to anyone. Even if you only cut out social media or do it for one week instead of two, I believe that it will significantly reshape your perspective of media’s role in your life. And if you do find the prospect too daunting, just remember that you can always use chess to get you through the challenge.