A Day Without Media
COM 150 Glenn Booker
On January 19, 2013 I went 24 hours without mass media. I will describe that day, compare it to a normal day in my life, and respond to the questions about my experience. I picked a day in which I was in a workshop from 10 am to 10 pm to make the exercise easier. The workshop was The Essensual (sic) Experience by Monica Day. I’ll try to keep my description of the day’s events rated PG, in case the gentle reader blushes easily.
To start the day we were given specific instructions the night before. As soon as I woke up about 8:15 am, I found a notepad and wrote for ten minutes. I showered, paying extra attention to the sensations of my body, being a little extra silly, and shaved thoroughly. I picked out clothes to be really comfortable – sweatpants and two layers of T-shirts with 3/4 sleeves on one shirt to help stay warm. Breakfast was also supposed to be extra sensual, but I ran out of time to do that at home, and stopped at 7-11 to get some juice and snacks. My orange-mango juice spilled above my lips a little, and the filling of my apple pie also slipped the bounds of my mouth, so I got to pay extra attention to these details without music playing. I savored the different textures in the apple pie; smooth sweet creamy filling in contrast to the slightly crunchy and flaky shell. The juice was different from my usual plain orange juice, so that got my attention too.
I got to the workshop location at the Pig Iron Theater in Northern Liberties, and chatted with my fellow participants. The workshop had nine participants, a leader, and an assistant for the leader. The morning started with each of us in turn describing our experiences from the morning ritual, and how it made us more aware of our bodies and nurturing ourselves. As each person told their story, another person ‘witnessed’ it, meaning they wrote down the essence of the story (i.e. not every word, but capturing key phrases and ideas). Then the witness told their summary of the story. The purpose of this was to get used to focusing on critical elements and ideas in a story, and setting aside less important fluff or filler.
We paired up with another person, and went through several rounds of writing down what our partner said. In the first round one person filled in “I am …” for a couple minutes, then we switched roles. We did that prompt again for the second round, but the third round changed to “I want…” for both people. After all three rounds, we read back to our partner what we recorded from their ‘I am’ and ‘I want’ statements so they could hear their own thoughts reflected back to them, and vice versa.
During the two-hour lunch break, we were given instructions to create a story based on specific elements from our morning. We had to incorporate into the story: something from our morning sharing, 1-3 of our ‘I am’ statements, 1-3 of our ‘I want’ statements, sensory experiences (touch, smell, etc.), and use these four ideas (take a risk, tell the truth, tell a secret, and something sensual). I walked with some people to the local pizza shop, got that for lunch, and wrote my story. My story started with describing how to perform a turn in ballet, and went into more personal observations after that. During lunch I texted a friend, and couldn’t remember if that was ok, but it was work-related (I’m trustee for him, and the text related to that). After the lunch break we shared our stories with each other.
In the afternoon we built on this foundation of telling very personal stories by writing two letters. One was us writing to our genitals; the other was our genitals writing a letter to us. After writing those letters, we put them aside. A guest artist (Ali Richardson) took over class, and we played with drums and various other percussion instruments for a while, then took a dinner break. I ate the second half of my pizza.
The last activity of the day was more artistic – given a big sheet of white paper and an assortment of crayons, markers, chalk, glitter glue, and other props, we were tasked with drawing our genitals. After completing the drawings, we read one of the letters, usually the one to our genitals, with them now represented in front of us larger than life. That concluded the workshop for the day.
As I drove home, I automatically turned on a music CD, but soon caught myself and shut it off, driving home in awkward silence. I got two magazines in the mail, and set them aside to read another day. I got on my computer and checked for work-related emails, skipping listserv messages. I logged into Blackboard Learn to check on my class there, then went to bed.
A normal day
In contrast, a normal day for me is full of mass media. During breakfast I watch TV, usually the Today show or something like that. Whether I’m on a computer at home or at the office, I usually have four tabs open – a news site (news.google.com), my email, Fark, and Facebook. I check all of those off and on all day. Often I’ll play music in the background, either iTunes or MP3s on Windows Media Player (Garth Brooks at the moment!). During the day I might have classes or meetings, those are the rare events that don’t have mass media in them, except pulling stuff off the Internet during some meetings. Often in the evening I’ll watch videos, either ones I downloaded or ones on YouTube, and/or I’ll watch a little TV at night, which uses cable TV (Verizon) to access a hundred or so channels I mostly ignore. I have dozens of magazine subscriptions and memberships, so many days I’ll get another magazine or two, and flip through them. I throw away mailed ads. I don’t read casually much, most of my reading is textbooks. I don’t play online games or use chat rooms, and almost never “tweet.”
Assessment of Day Without Media
I didn’t particularly like anything about the day without media, outside of what happened in the workshop. I usually have TV or music in the background, partly because I like it, but also partly because the silence is deafening otherwise. I like their accompaniment. Without media and the workshop, my day would have been quiet and isolated, with no sounds except the ones I made and no news sources. It wasn’t very difficult to do without media this particular day because I immersed myself in lovely distraction for 12 hours of the day, but otherwise it would have been very difficult because I am so accustomed to having entertainment and information coming in constantly from around the world. Google News and Fark provide most of my news, with TV mostly providing entertainment, sports (soccer & tennis), and movies. Facebook provides most of my day-to-day social interaction outside of classes and meetings; dozens of people I see only on Facebook regularly, whereas in person I might see them once in years or even never. I have dozens of ‘friends’ on Facebook I’ve never met, yet I follow their lives and presumably vice versa. A day without mass media clearly showed how pervasive and essential it is for my life.