Media Literacy is a cognitive skill set that helps media consumers critique the content they create and consume. There are four basic components for any media message; each can be complex and difficult to analyze. This process isn't always intuitive.
Media Literacy isn't a new concept, but it isn't a mature one either. It's become more of a discipline due to the rise of the Internet, interactive platforms, and our media-saturated lives. Critical Thinking is at the core of every reputable media literacy program.
1. Message Creator
4. Message Receiver
A solid Media Literacy program considers numerous aspects of each communication component and includes elements about the media industry.
Here is a quick list of some Media Literacy topics:
All of these topics are worth including, but an effective program must cross-professional disciplines into psychology, philosophy, sociology, neuroscience, and more. Why? Because, as message recipients, we are biased.
Media messages come in many forms: influence, persuasion, education, manipulation, indoctrination, entertainment, exploitation, or otherwise.
Interactive media platforms enable anyone to broadcast their "truth" to millions of people. These efforts are harmless in most cases, but they can be insensitive, manipulative, oppressive, or destabilize communities.
Media Literacy helps us identify when free speech is being used to harm social cohesiveness or undermine democracy.
Progressive democracies rely on some sense of shared truths. This goal is complicated when we, as individuals, have different beliefs. Media Literacy unites us under the overarching banner of Freedom of Expression by helping us tolerate, or even empathize with, our ideological differences while remaining true to our own beliefs.
Media Literacy helps citizens who value freedom of personal expression interact responsibly as message creators and receivers.
Media Literacy helps us classify how we are influenced and why someone might want to influence us.
Media Literacy helps us understand ourselves and the origins of our ideas.
Media Literacy isn't simply a skillset for picking apart media content with which we disagree; it's a journey of personal development.
Media Literacy isn't intuitive. The goal of a reputable program is not to tell you what to think but how to weigh the media you consume. This process is complicated because it requires an honest attempt to be objective, to think critically. Each of us enters the critical thinking process with a personal history of experiences, family traditions, social norms, philosophical ideas, religious customs, and more.
Does life begin before or after birth?
Is God a supernatural being, or is everyone connected as part of God?
Is there one definable truth for everything?
Is a person born or shaped into a specific type of human?
Are some ethnicities or genders created superior to others?
Am I predestined, or do I have free will?
Our personal answers to questions like those above define our reality and guide our behavior. Additionally, they sway how we decide whether something is true, trusted, reliable, or accurate. Statistically, we tend to consume content (media) framed according to our beliefs; yet we scrutinize content more rigorously that isn't. Physiologically, our bodies release "feel good" hormones when consuming content that verifies our preexisting notions; the opposite is true as well.
Thinking critically about the media we consume isn't intuitive, but learning some Media Literacy skills will help.
The first step is simply learning to classify what we are consuming. Is this opinion, journalism, entertainment, propaganda, or otherwise?
Watch my movie review for The Social Dilemma which I put together for Media Literacy Week 2020.
From 2023, this video covers how I see the relationship between media literacy and media manipulation.
Media Literacy is a growth process without a finish line. Understanding how we are being influenced and influencing others is an empowering process.
As a marketing communication consultant, I'm sharing what I know because I believe it furthers democratic ideals. But I add that I am not immune from failure or bias; I'm also on a Media Literacy journey.
In my opinion, Media Literacy programs should go far beyond fact-checking services. They should "steal" from philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, neuroscience, and more. These adjacent disciplines help us learn about ourselves and how we fit into society, and how that society differs from (or is similar to) others. More importantly, they reveal the media's role in our personal development and social structures.
I firmly believe that education, not censorship, is the cornerstone of advanced Democratic societies. With Freedom of Speech comes the social obligation to educate our children about how they are being influenced, educated, indoctrinated, entertained, or even manipulated.
Connect and say hello! I use my social media channels below to further my cross-discipline Media Literacy journey. My background is in marketing communication, but I curate related content in psychology, sociology, philosophy, technology, and more. Thanks for reading!
Check out my book below!