In our daily life, a never-ceasing flow of news and information bombards us. It, however, isn't always obvious to us. Once we turn on our smartphones, a deluge of media messages greets us. When you drive to work, you may tune in to podcasts. Once we get to work, we can also constantly check our emails. Likewise, after a long day at work, we may go home only to switch on the television and passively consume media messages. Throughout our daily routines, we are always in the loop when it comes to media, subtly or evidently.
Media Explosion So what is the media? Media is the various ways through which news, marketing messages, entertainment and information are distributed. Once a plural noun, media is currently a singular noun with a heavy connotation. Today there are different types of media such as print, digital and social media etc. As such, mass media is a kind of media that is consumed by a large population. And it depends on individuals in how they peruse the media. As more and more individuals are exposed to media, it has become important to be media literate.
Literacy refers to the ability to read, understand and write as well as create and analyse in a written language. A literate person can critically analyse a text. As such, media literacy is the ability to comprehend and analyse the message disseminated to the readers or viewers by the media. People should be able to not just interpret the media messages, but also create them. In today's time and age, it has become more important than ever to critically analyse the messages provided to us daily. Thus, media literacy is about understanding why and how messages are distributed. It further teaches individuals to think carefully about the information presented to them so that they can ask the right questions, make the right connections and observe from various points of view. It endorses critical thinking in the readers and viewers. As an aware democratic citizen, one has the privilege of self-expression and critical thinking. And media literacy teaches both making the educated individual able to make better and informed decisions.
When we preview news, our attention tends to be attracted by the title or heading. Pictures and captions also pull our attention. And while reading, we tend to combine our prior knowledge to comprehend the text at hand. Understanding what is written in the newspapers and magazines is vital to the absorption of knowledge that then disseminates from an individual to society. How the news and information in the media are deciphered determines the core knowledge and values of a person. Thus it is essential to be an informed and educated reader and viewer when it comes to the perusal of media messages.
Meanwhile, in the perusal of the news, cognitive dissonance plays a huge role. Cognitive dissonance refers to the discomfort that arises in individuals when their thoughts and beliefs are contradicted. Consequently, people tend to reject ideologies and information that don't align with their beliefs. It can be seen on social networking sites where people like, comment and share the content that best reflects their beliefs. And due to this, they only accept information that appeals to their ideologies. Today, it is a driving force in the online media as people squabble, fight, troll and bully individuals with different beliefs and values. It has led to a radical division between people of differing principles.
Passive consumption of news, information and ideology leads to biased and prejudiced values in an individual. In the long run, it can lead to discriminatory behaviours towards people who are different in race, gender and socioeconomic class. Hence, we need to be able to rationally comment on the news presented to us instead of consuming them superficially.
Raising Questions We must be able to ask essential questions on media messages and their purpose. What is the message behind a certain post, news articles and reports? How can one interpret it? How is it supposed to make the readers or viewers feel? It is important to construe the message critically in case it incites discrimination, prejudice or even violence.
Next time you tune into the news or read a post, make sure that you are being critical. Don't just scroll down to your social media, stopping to like or comment on a post. Make sure that you understand the writer's and the creator's objectives. How truthful are the facts and information? How do you feel about the messages? For an unbiased, educated and informed society, individuals must learn to be media literate. And due to the huge influence that media has on society, it is vital to learn to separate facts from fiction when it comes to its consumption.