Sunday, March 16, 2014

Do You Need Media Fast?

Fasting is defined as willingly abstaining from something for a period of time. It is most popularly used in the terms of food, but really can be applied to anything in life. Fasting not only gives us a chance to get away from something, but also the clarity and silence that may be needed in order to really figure out what is going on with our lives. 

So what is media fast?  Readers of this blog may have some kind of intermittent fasting experience.   For beginners, it may means not eating until noon. For others, it means only eating within an 8-hour window each day and fasting the other 16. Others fast for a full 24 hour period once a week.  As for myself, I eat once every 24 hours.  There are numerous other approaches as well.  

What about media fast?

In Hong Kong at the Mass Transit Railways stations, there are all kinds of announcements.  Recently I notice an interesting one – ‘please mind the steps when using the escalators, do not only look at your mobile phone’.  In deed, the way Hong Kong people get addicted to their iPhone, iPad, iPod, i…everything is in a somewhat morbid state.  I’ve seen someone when getting off a bus, his eyes were still on his phone with fingers moving, perhaps composing an email.  In fact, I don’t see anything that cannot be deferred for a few seconds in order to get off the bus safely or use the escalator in a more safely manner. 

Over a social dinner, there was almost no interaction between my friend and me, because her attention was only on her iphone and ipad…that’s why I could only propose buffet when she invites me to eat.  That way I can focus on food, and she can focus on anything she loves.  Isn’t the morbid usage of media seriously affecting our lives?   

In fact, the excessive use of media does not only happen in Hong Kong, it’s a worldwide scenario.  If you can live a better life going on food fasting, are you able to survive without media for a period of time at least each day and regain control of how you want to spend your time, in a more positive way?  Here are a few of my suggestions.

Computer Fasting:  Schedule your computer time as needed. Get on, check the emails, respond right away, delete or file, and keep that inbox clean. Read the sites you want to read and then move on. Do it once a day or twice a day. Don’t just come on all day long and wander around the internet, as you could easily waste a whole day and be less productive.
Email Fasting:  When holidaying, set out-of-office alert such as ‘I’m on holiday with no internet access.  If it is urgent please contact…’  Remember, it won’t be the end of the world if people cannot reach you.  There must be ways that things can move on without you.  My former boss used to take us to offsites where there were practically no mobile connection of any kind (except Inmarsat).
Cell Phone Fasting: Do not make phone call unless it is extremely time sensitive.  Only answer phone calls from important people, whom you are expecting them to call.  Turn off the phone for a few hours a day (at least when you are eating or meeting). These are precious moments in your life that could be used for whatever you want them to be, instead of just talking to people who are looking to kill some time and gossip. Nothing is that urgent.  Do not make excuses such as ‘what if someone calls to inform my house is on fire or the day care centre calls for emergency’.
News Fasting: Check the head pages of Yahoo or MSN in the morning and look at the headlines, anything that is important will be there. Click on it if you find something you want to know more, if not then you’re done for the day. No need to sit through 30 minutes of pure negative energy from the local news. Take control over what information comes into your life, and what does not!
TV Fasting:  Enjoy the shows you like, turn off the TV when they are over.

These are just a few example of how you can apply the practice of fasting to any part of your life. You could fast from negative people, eating out, drinking, information overload, etc and more. Take control of how you want to spend your time, and the only way to know what you want to do is take time to just rest and relax.

I’ve come across a consultant who worked with a university student who was failing her grades. After a review of her schedule and her life, there was no question she was overwhelmed. As a result, her studies were suffering. Her life was so noisy that she had no peace.

The consultant counseled her to fast from all unnecessary input, including some favorite activities. Here is her fasting list.
  1. Stop watching all TV.
  2. Stop all online surfing except for course papers and research purposes.
  3. Fast from Facebook; block all incoming social media notifications.
  4. Completely cease listening to her iPod. Remove those ear buds!
  5. Quit coffee; her caffeine intake was abusive.
  6. Check email only three times a day.
In just 2 weeks, this young woman went from frazzled to calm and peaceful. It was challenging at first, but she was counteracting an addiction.

That’s the point. If you can’t stop checking your email every 3 seconds or Facebooking for hours a day, you are addicted. Those activities can contribute to stress-related illness and cause people to feel overloaded.

If you don’t think you can get rid of the actions that are controlling you, you likely are hooked. It’s time to fast. Fasting can be an easy and effective solution.

Today, review your schedule and decide if you need a media fast.  

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