Importance of media literacy
1. What is Media Literacy?
Media literacy is how we understand and analyze all mass communication, so people don't easily exploit our biases and weaknesses.
2. Importance of media literacy: Media literacy is important for everyone, as mass media/communication has become a highly scripted and biased affair, and most outlets are 'compromised' - either they are in hands of a monopoly, whose only aim is to further its further interests, or people in media are driven more and more to make more money, so they go in for sensationalist and/or partisan news, shows etc.
Media literacy is important because we are consuming media at a growing clip. According to the Kaiser Institute Study, we are consuming 11 hours of media per day, online and offline. This 'too much media' is affecting how we learn new things, and what kinds we are learning. It is important we examine the messenger as well as the message carried.
3. Once you know the vested interest nature of mass media, you will begin to see each political opinion as propaganda (please read guide to 'persuasion techniques') and then duly verify it against counter-claims and other evidence.
4. Media literacy and body image: Mass media also perpetuates a glamorous kind of life that everyone should live. They want us to keep buying stuff to have a certain lifestyle. Beauty magazines, for examples, push a highly idealized and unrealistic kind of woman body, using doctored (photoshopped) images of models, relentless articles in support of staying thin, and most of those are not about health. Mass media heavily promotes 'thin is beautiful', and susceptible female readers start to have serious 'body image' problems, always conscious and shamed for being 'not thin'.
5. Product placements are another way how mass media is highly commercialized. Ever wondered how even a 'normal jobber' is the TV shows uses Apple computers? Which smart person in real world uses unnecessarily expensive computers? Apple has one of the most successful product placement department in business, that's why.
6. How mass media affects society: News outlets (TV news, newspapers, new websites and blogs, Twitter, Facebook pages etc) have 'agendas', special interests they will push, choosing especially those topics they want other others to know more about, ignoring many other related issues.
7. Then, they will influence how we interpret news events, putting their versions, also the so-called 'experts' versions' (many experts are often players in the story/issue, and may be paid to give a certain type of opinion).
8. No one wants to tell us what we 'need' to know. They want us to tell us what they want to tell us, what they think we want.
9. Mass media influences the disadvantaged more, as they have limited exposure to other media and sources, where they can verify information. Most news media owners and top journalists/opinion pundits tend to be very rich people, on the other hand.
10. After 11 hours of media/day, it is not surprising that many of us begin to have a hazy view of real world, thinking what is on television is the real world.
11. Even the so-called opinion polls are skewed. No one knows which people they asked, and what the actual responses actually were. Instant polls, along with Tweets and press conferences have replaced duly researched news stories. Daniel Boorstin, author of the influential book 'The Image' called all this 'pseudo news', people actually making news.
12. Advertising pushing survey results ('4 out of 5 dentists', remember? How many doctors did they actually ask? Who were they?) as some kind of testimonials all the time.
How to be media literate then?
- Break down television: Teachers teach media literacy by showing news clips, but with sound turned off, and then getting students to think what is really happening on the screen. Or, they will cover the screen, and let students think about the sounds they hear.
- Anytime, someone does a press conference or a Tweet, don't consider it as news, just a 'version' from someone.
- Use more than news source: Even if you read most respected news sources such as BBC or New York Times or NPR (National Public radio), read all of them, and then some to get a full hang of the issue.
As they say, 'get out of your bubble'. You may read a liberal website such as Dailykos or a conservative website 'Drudge (United States), but please check the story with other sources. Don't be completely blinded by reading only what you want to hear.
- When it is a source you don't know, look into them: Who owns the website? (check whois.net). Where is the email address and name of the person? Google the person's name? Is she/he affiliated with any special interest? What other work have they done?
- Get the truth about hoaxes: There are websites such as Snopes, breakthechain.irg, scambusters.org etc to know more about anything you think is a hoax. Search Google for 'hoax research'.
- To judge the news, use websites such as Newstrust, Fairspin, or just ask your online friends and followers whether the news is true. This is a very important tip, for not many countries have organizations especially devoted to fact checking.
- Be extra careful with things politicians say: In the U.S., websites such as factcheck.org, slashdot.org/news.ycombinator.com/reddit.com (news discussion), media matters for America etc check for misinformation from politicians.
- If no one else is covering the important news in your locality, do it yourself: Use your smartphone.
- Sometimes, take a break from media: No more TV, no news websites, no more Tweeting for a while.
Get over your FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). The world isn't waiting for you.
Five questions to ask to analyze any media
Next time you watch a TV show, read a news article/see TV news etc,
- Who created this message?
- What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
- How might different people understand this message differently than me?
- What values, lifestyles or points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?
- Why is this message being sent?
(Source: Center for Media Literacy)
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