Live Naked: The launch of my media-free year

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Written by Chef James Barry

Written by Chef James Barry

Hello, my name is James and I am addicted to movies.

That’s right, whenever I have a moment of free time, I’m streaming Netflix. Let me be even more specific. This isn’t just “I’ve had a long day, I’ll watch an hour of TV.” This is OCD: I’ve got a Netflix queue that I must finish! (Despite the fact that I’m constantly adding to it.) I fixate on that queue, which plays out with my streaming documentaries and movies in the background while eating, working, or cooking. Before I was married, I even watched movies while I lay in bed to help sleep.

A few months prior to 2013 I made the decision to go on a month-long media fast starting in January.

I realized that movies, TV, surfing the internet, and radio were filling up my brain to the point where I was losing my mind.

Literally! My nervous system was constantly stimulated.

I’ve noticed over the last 7 years that my ability to cope with stress was gradually lessoning. I would get mild panic attacks during stressful times and my stomach would be turning inside. All from everyday things, like being late for a meeting or dealing with customer service for Wholesome2Go.

More and more I felt like the answer to the overwhelm wasn’t just less work and more play.

It was getting rid of the unnecessary stimuli.

I decided starting January 1st, 2013 I would not watch any television or movies, nor listen to any radio, read magazines or newspapers. I would limit my personal email usage to two times a day, not socialize on facebook or use the internet unless for a work-related matter. This would be my commitment for the entire 31 days of January.

I’m three days shy of meeting my one month commitment and the revelations have been profound.

First off, I don’t miss media at all. For the first time in 28 years, I don’t know who is nominated for the Oscars. I don’t know what’s going on in the world other than what gets filtered down to me through friends.

I’m engaging with my wife and friends more. Most importantly, I’m taking better care of myself. I’m eating better, sleeping better, and thinking clearer.

I smile more.

A very telling day I had during this fast was after a grueling two-day catering gig. I returned home, buzzing from the flurry of activity required to pull off the event. Normally I would plop myself on the couch, turn on the TV, watch a movie or two, eat mindlessly and check out. Not this time.

It took everything I had to sit at the table, eat some food, and talk with my wife. For the first 15 minutes, I just sat there eating, not able to look at her. I so wanted to shut down, decompress, and numb out but I didn’t know how to do that without media. So, I sat there bewildered as she watched me, struggling with all the emotions bubbling up from the last two days. Eventually I looked up, we talked about what I was going through and had a good laugh at my learning how to cope media-free.

I’ve re-upped my commitment and will be media-free for the whole year of 2013.

Two days before I started the media fast and signed off personal use of facebook, a friend posted the following Orson Welles quote on my page:

“I passionately hate the idea of being with it; I think
an artist has always to be out of step with his time.”

I humbly accept the path least traveled and look forward to a year of change and connection.



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19 Comments

  1. paula chu

    January 30, 2013 at 9:24 am

    James, this is so wonderful and brave. If you ever wonder if what you are doing matters, or if it is only affecting YOU, wonder no more. You’re part of a tipping point that HAS to come — or maybe a balance-righting point is more correct. I and many others are watching this shift closely, and are making (albeit smaller, at this point, in my case) changes in our lives, too.
    I am torn, though, as I would be so grateful if you could post insights and epiphanies as they unfold! At the very least, enlist Margaret to post for you, please. Thanks, and ROCK ON with your bad, unplugged self. 🙂

    • Chef James

      February 5, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      Thanks for all the love Paula! Very much appreciate your enthusiasm and positivity. I promise to write another blog with updates!

  2. Will

    January 30, 2013 at 9:27 am

    I love the idea of what you’re doing James. While not everyone can bring themselves to commit to this level of media nudity it is thought provoking at the very least.

    • Chef James

      February 5, 2013 at 9:22 pm

      Yeah, my level of going media free is purposely extreme. I’ll share more of why in later blogs. Thanks for posting Will!

  3. Hans

    January 30, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Well done sir! A very inspiring post, and a noble goal for 2013. A great thing to model for your daughter too, as she begins to have awareness of the world around her and the screens that dominate it. Blessings my brother.

    • Chef James

      February 5, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      Thanks Hans! Feeling tons of joy spending more time with my wife and daughter! Much love to you and your family!

  4. Kristina

    January 30, 2013 at 10:37 am

    James, you are my HERO!! I once heard someone say, “if you want to know what your priorities are, look where your feet take you”. Facebook and Netflix are my PRIORITY. I have put media (social media to be exact) before my goals for the last decade. It’s hard knowing that and continuing to do it anyway. I used to draw! I used to write songs!

    I don’t know if I can commit to a year or even 30 days… but, after I click “submit comment” on my response to you, I can certainly turn off my computer for the rest of the day and see what the day brings. There are so many hours in the day!

    You have inspired me. Thank you so much for this.

    • Chef James

      February 5, 2013 at 9:19 pm

      Thanks Kristina! How did your day of turning off the computer go? Try a weekend. I’ve been hearing from more and more people going media free on weekends and loving it!

  5. April

    January 30, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Yes! Awesome James! Thank you for this honest sharing, so many can relate to. Last Autumn we went Internet free at home, now I have to do my work at work! Crazy! When we are at home together it’s familytime, and the gifts have been immense. Yes to aligning our true values to our actions and opening to deeper inner alignment. Love

    • Chef James

      February 5, 2013 at 9:18 pm

      Hey April! Totally impressed and blown away by the internet free home. I love that it inspires a clear boundary between work hours and home/play hours.

  6. Mark

    January 30, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Great piece…thought provoking. I am at the tipping point as well and while my approach may not be as radical, I wil take action to reduce the unnecessary stimuli that crowd my world.

    • Chef James

      February 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      Way to model honoring your tipping point, Mark. I think many people are maxed out but may not have the awareness to recognize it. Hope you find the approach that works for you. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Kristi

    January 31, 2013 at 7:25 am

    I love this idea! And, I had to laugh at some of your comments – mainly because they resonated a little too well! This is inspiring to say the least and something I will be contemplating integrating a bit more in the coming month. Thank you!

    • Chef James

      February 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks Kristi! So glad it resonated. It has been very powerful for me hearing about people being inspired to go media free and shut down for simply a weekend. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Leslie

    January 31, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Really beautiful and authentic piece, James. I enjoyed it immensely. As your friend and huge supporter, I acknowledge the courage and commitment that it takes to do this, and I’ve already noticed a difference in your demeanor, energy, etc. And it’s all good 🙂 I am also glad to be joining you on this media fast in my own way. Cutting out TV and limiting my other media has already been life-changing for me in some ways. I am excited to share this journey with you and continue to watch each other grow and to connect in deeper and deeper ways. Thank you for sharing yourself!

  9. Isabella

    February 14, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    This is SOOooooo inspiring James! Thank you for your leadership and courage in taking the challenge beyond your initial goal. This brings back memories of my last relationship when we didn’t have TV for a while because we simply could not afford cable. It also brings me to remember one of my life coach training exercises where all TV, radio and movie-watching was off limits for about a week or two – it was life-changing to live like that – I got to know the real me a lot better and I like me a whole lot more media-free! I believe you’re on to something huge for me this year – thanks a Million Chef James!

  10. Pingback: Live Naked: Dare to Fail | Anti-Age Me

  11. Diana

    February 21, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    I got rid of my cable and TVs several years ago which everybody thinks I’m crazy and my Internet providers always trying to give me the package deal with the TV and it blows them away when I say I have no TV but I do still watch things on Netflix or Amazon for my favorite PBS so I couldn’t imagine going to totally media free but obviously the fact that I couldn’t imagine doing it means I need to try

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