The Health Benefits of a Media Diet

Professor Tom Cooper on His Book "Fast Media, Media Fast"

Professor Tom Cooper describes what it means to go on a media fast.

Tom Cooper

Carrie Fuller
November 30, 2010

It’s not Weight Watchers or Nutrisystem; it’s a new kind of diet. Visual and Media Arts Professor Tom Cooper’s latest book Fast Media, Media Fast (Gaeta Communications, 2011) is a diet for your psyche, and a fast for your mental well-being.

Twenty years ago, Cooper began experimenting with media fasts and media diets as a way to counter society’s media obsessions and addictions. He spent time living with the Amish, the Rapa Nui, and other indigenous groups in order to compare  “low media” and “no media” cultures with our own and share what he learned about the pros and cons of media saturation.  

“If you want to see yourself and your society afresh, as Thoreau did when he escaped to Walden, you now have to leave the media behind.”

Cooper has perfected the techniques of media fasting and included them in his book, which provides the tools for families, classes, civic groups, as well as interested individuals, to find what Cooper calls the “new Walden” by transcending the “new social environment” of digital culture. 

“If you want to see yourself and your society afresh, as Thoreau did when he escaped to Walden, you now have to leave the media behind,” said Cooper. He suggests that the “new Walden” is a place where you can hear yourself think amid a media-drenched, noisy, “speeded-up” society.

After taking a media fast or diet in his class, many students of Cooper’s have written about the hidden benefits. “They tell me they can now think more clearly, their grades have gotten better, they are helping people they have been neglecting, or just that they have finally taken the time to clean their room.”

However, Cooper is not implying that we give up media for the rest of our lives. “This book is not intended to bash media,” he explained. “There is great content out there worth consuming. This book is meant to encourage people to take these media fasts or diets as a way to reboot and reconnect with the things in their lives that are important to them.”

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