One man's factual account is a woman's fiction. Somewhere between their competing versions of reality lies something closer to objective truth. Unfortunately, each person will believe that their story is the only one based on fact. Media Literacy is a relatively new area of study that strives to create critical thinking skills with regards to media consumption, as a tool for self-enlightenment. In short, critical thinking skills are not designed to help you with what to think; they are designed to help you with how to think about the information you consume.
As humans, we consume information through a variety of modes: art, education, entertainment, journalism, public relations, advertising, video games, propaganda, personal account, second-hand account, or otherwise. While we are always processing incoming information by way of our own experiences, today's omnipresent media increasingly exposes us to second-hand information. If you are like most people, then your ideas regarding life's most profound subjects didn't come to your organically, from your own experiences. Most of the information you consume to help you evaluate life's most philosophical topics comes to you from a media source.
To make sense of, or find order in, our world, most of us consult with historical texts, religious texts, news programs, entertainers, performance artists, subject leaders, political pundits, or otherwise. Collectively, we consume this content on a daily basis, whether it was created thousands of years ago or today. This content shapes our beliefs.
Media Literacy is a toolset that helps us think critically, by asking questions, about the content we consume. We all hold beliefs that we've formed throughout our lives. Whether these beliefs are based on our personal experiences or through the content we've consumed, we are all flawed with biases, which act as filters to quickly categorize incoming information.
Generally, we like to consume content with which we already believe, or agree with, because it serves to validate our existing beliefs about religion, politics, economics, race, gender roles, or otherwise. These mental shortcuts allow us to remain efficient rather than contemplate everything we observe. While pure objectivity is impossible, the pursuit of objectivity is noble. There is a vast difference between striving to create objective content and striving to persuade an audience by using their biases against them.
Media Literacy skills are an extension of critical thinking skills. They cover a range of topics from the fundamental communication model, to persuasive tactics, psychological biases or triggers, argument fallacies, media revenue models, creator's intent, traditional media, new digital media, and the psychological effects of continuous programming.
In our modern society, many of us struggle with our ability to distinguish between genuine and manufactured content. We struggle with the social, if not occupational, demand to be constantly connected, online. We find ourselves subjected to nonstop "information." On the horizon, our beliefs--and the analytics related to our media consumption--will be used to create augmented realities; artificial intelligence algorithms will be leveraged to generate content automatically. Virtual Realities will be created for us to explore new horizons or validate our preexisting beliefs about ourselves and our world. Now, more than ever, it the time to develop your Media Literacy skills.