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Book Review: Fast Media Media Fast: How to Clear Your Mind and Invigorate Your Life in an Age of Media Overload by Thomas W. Cooper, Ph.D.

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The media is rapidly growing and increasing every day. When I was growing up, we had one black and white television set. As I reached High School, everyone in the house had a television (color or black and white). Today, there are computers in every room. My whole family has either iPhones or Droids and everyone has an iPad. Times really have changed.

That’s why I found the Thomas W. Cooper book, Fast Media Media Fast: How to Clear Your Mind and Invigorate Your Life in an Age of Media Overload, so compelling. Cooper takes an in-depth look at the media today. He says 150% of our children spend more time with media than school and 250% more time with media than with their parents. He’s implying that we have a big problem in our society. He claims that we are addicted to media and suggests fasting from it.

He doesn’t just tell us to do it; he actually fasts himself. As an Emerson College Professor, Cooper also has his students fast as part of their final grade in class.

Cooper makes a claim that there are many who blame the media for the things that they do in their lives. For example, one young man was on trial for killing someone and his defense was that television was his babysitter and role model.

The author doesn’t blame media for its influence, he merely states that “reversing the media fixation to firsthand experience and the discovery of individuals purpose and identity would have an impact on human interaction.”

By fasting, the author claims that individuals will have clearer thinking and become more aware of their surroundings. For example, he talks about how he went to a Red Sox Game, and as he watched the game without the commentary, he was able to notice things that he never noticed before -– the crisp clothes they wore, the smell of hot dogs and the energy of the crowd.

In the beginning of the book, Cooper talks about how to fast and why it is important that we all try it once. Following that, he talks about individual fasts and group fasts. He suggests trying it with your family. Could you imagine what your house would be like without media?

Then he talks about the “simple people,” like the Amish, Old Order Mennonite and Hutterite. We look at them and think that they are strange but in reality, are they? They have low or no crime, little or no mental illness, suicide, pollution and divorce rates are next to nil. So are they really “wrong” in the way they live?

Thomas W. Cooper uses solid examples and makes a strong case for media fasting. He asks the reader two questions to find out if he/she is addicted to media, and everyone I know, including my children, would answer yes.

Look around. When you go out to dinner and you see a family of four, what are they doing? They are all on their cell phones either emailing, playing games, on Facebook or any other social media site. It seems to me that no one talks anymore. They are all cued into the media.

I was recently in Europe and watched both Russian and Arab television. I was interested to see how both these stations skewed the truth. Then I started to think about our news. Is our news telling us everything we need to know to make a decision on our own? Or, are they changing the way we think about the world.

Although, I can’t see myself taking a fast from the media (because of my profession), I can see myself taking small breaks from the media to clear my mind and meditate as Cooper suggests.

The book would work really well in a classroom. It is a sociological book that all students should read, especially since they are all digital natives and have never had a time where they fasted from the media because of its prevalence.

If you are interested in the sociological impacts of media on our society, this is the book for you.

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