Students reflect on media fast

 

For Eric Doherty, participating in an assignment for Professor Tom Cooper’s class not only gave him insight into how much media he consumes, but also forced him to reflect on his relationship with his father and its effect on his fixation with sports.

“I found out that most of my media intake comes from Red Sox games, Celtics games, and Sports Center,” said the sophomore visual media arts major. “I was able to analyze where my sports obsession came from, and I think it is because it is a connection I have with my dad.”

Each year, Cooper’s VM200 students participate a media fast in which they are divided into three categories of media consumption: one abstains from media in all non-academic purposes, a second only uses a specific genre or medium, and the third is a control group that records all media consumption.

Emerson is not the only school in the area that is starting to “unplug” for productivity. According to an article in the Boston Globe, professors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are recommending students close their laptops and take off their headpones and urging college officials to wean students off of technology, after a student performed a media fast of her own.

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Most students who had to cut out all non-crucial media said in an open discussion that they had several moments of weakness when they broke the fast due to social pressure or the urges of media addiction.

“I have no regrets,” said David Levine, a sophomore film major. “I broke [the fast] to watch the soccer club that I support because I haven’t missed a game in 11 years. I have a disease, I can’t stop watching them.”

Students in the second group said the opportunity to experiment with different genres of media without refraining from their hard-to-break media habits gave them perspective into what their overall consumption is. Students in this group were allowed to choose their media diet from only Emerson media to cutting out comedic genres, which allowed them to reflect and be in control of their use.

But students in group three, like junior visual and media arts major Kristen Negrotti, said the experience was more than just homework. Negrotti says that she was inspired to have her own media fast this May while she is spending time in Guatemala.

“I was in the library a few days ago when I realized I had been there for six hours and had barely done any work and I realized how often that happens,” said Negrotti. “This fast made me more aware, and now I want to be more in control. I want time to do creative things on my own as opposed to being a slave to the Internet.”

Students all mirrored similar reactions to the fast, stating they saw a social pressure related to media use and saw media as a distraction from creative work.