Click Here To Purchase Fast Media, Media Fast: How to Clear Your Mind and Invigorate Your Life In an Age of Media Overload

Author: Thomas W. Cooper

Publisher: AuthorHouse/Gaeta Press
ISBN: 9781452085005

The concept of the “fast” – the willful self-restraint from an activity (usually eating) to enhance one’s overall health and appreciation of life itself – is appealing in theory. In practice, most people are far too ingrained in their daily habits to make much of a change, let alone a wholesale withdrawal from the fruits of their beloved routine.

And it’s not just food that some life coaches advocate giving up. There’s the disease of accumulation (remember the “living simply” movement?), the scourge of workaholism (to be cured by living a more “mindful” life) and even sex (check out the self-help section under “The New Celibacy”). It seems that for every passion on the menu of humanity, some well-meaning scold is trying to get us to go cold turkey, convinced that our lives will be better if we can only learn to go without.

So now that you’ve given up food, work, and sex, guess what else turns out to be bad for you? Well, if you’re reading this review, you’re a prime candidate for the next assault in the self-help army’s march to total asceticism: media.

Or, to be more precise, “fast media” – defined in a new book as “the hurried and superficial hawkers of this and that snippet of information vying for our attention.” And Thomas Cooper, in his Fast Media/Media Fast: How to Clear Your Mind and Invigorate Your Life in an Age of Media Overload, makes the case that what you are doing right now, reading this review on your laptop or other device, might be harmful to you.

To Cooper’s credit, he doesn’t posit an all-or-nothing approach to media fasting. He knows that the modern world is almost impossible to navigate without some media (which he broadly defines as books, newspapers, magazine, CDs, radio, TV, movies, DVDs, the internet, or “any form of communication created for or distributed to an audience of over five hundred.”) Instead, he recommends a periodic fast – a week-long (or, for the truly committed, month-long) unplugging from the media stream every so often.

Cooper takes it as a given that the average person is suffering from information overload so he doesn’t spend a lot of time covering what has become a dourly popular sub-genre of non-fiction: proof that we’re all overwhelmed. Instead, he seeks to relieve the stress caused by that non-stop immersion and return us to our intended lives as thinking, feeling people. In a statement worthy of this modern-day Thoreau, Cooper shares with us the initial reasons behind his own experiment with media fasting: “To restore balance, inner peace and quiet, space to hear myself think original thoughts (if such exist), care for my family and to lose unnecessary mental weight. But there were deeper and more penetrating motivations – to provoke thought in myself and others; to encounter my world from afar and afresh; to take deeper and fuller responsibility in my sphere of professional activity…to have impact, however small, as a world citizen on the state of the planet, our media, and our understanding of both.”

Readers of Walden will recognize the patter, drawn directly from Thoreau’s famous dictum about why he retreated from society (“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”)

It’s hard to argue with any of Cooper’s logic. His book efficiently points up the deleterious effects of a 24/7 media culture, and he also documents convincingly his own experience studying the benefits of unplugging. There are chapters dedicated to discussion of various “Plain People,” such as the Amish, and how much greater is their family cohesion and deeply-rooted value system – as well as far fewer stress-related health conditions. “Yes indeed,” one is inclined to nod in affirmation as Cooper builds his case. “I can see how important this fasting is. I get it,” the typical reader probably thinks as he puts down this highly readable, passionately argued book, perhaps even planning his own media fast. And then, a cell phone rings. An e-mail alert pops on the screen. The snippet of a favorite song is discerned from a passing car radio. And just like that, we’re sucked back in to the world of media.

I don’t think Cooper’s problem will be finding readers for his interesting and well-researched book. Rather, I think his problem will be finding readers who have more than a theoretical interest in his ideas. This book is a lot like Skydiving for Dummies: it’s intriguing, something we all say we’d like to try, but in the end, few of us have the courage or desire to actually make the leap.

Click Here To Purchase Fast Media, Media Fast: How to Clear Your Mind and Invigorate Your Life In an Age of Media Overload