What is Media Literacy?
There are quite a few definitions of media literacy out there. And although we found each of them informative and full of details, we also found them to be overwhelming. So, after taking some time to think about how we understood media literacy and what we wanted this website to communicate, we came up with a simplified definition.
The Not So Fast Campaign defines Media Literacy as:
The ability to use critical thinking skills to consider the perspectives, motives, and biases within the information we see and hear.
When consuming and creating media, someone who is Media Literate:
- recognizes and challenges their own biases.
- understands that one’s personal life experiences may influence how they interpret information.
- approaches all information with genuine curiosity and empathy.
- uses all of these skills when engaging in civil discourse.
Information + Truth = Knowledge.
We have unprecedented access to limitless information. It is important to remember that easy access to information does not equal knowledge.
Today’s landscape is different:
Generations before us, [more or less,] operated from the same base of facts. They were able to rely on “gatekeepers” to verify the information they encountered every day. Everyone would watch the same evening news programs and read the same newspapers. Today’s landscape is very different. With technological advances and social media, gatekeepers can be bypassed (for better or worse). Disinformation and weaponization of information are not new problems, but the speed and exponential reach of this type of news are.
- We are all operating from different sets of facts– based on the information we seek out across multiple platforms.
- A hunger to be “in the know” leads us to seek out information that confirms our already held beliefs, even if the information isn’t accurate.
- You can create and validate your own reality.
- The 24-hour news cycle lends itself to press-release journalism and reporting on things as they happen (without always taking time to check for facts)
- We get information faster, which leads to more mistakes.
- Universal truths are called into question because everyone has a platform to voice their opinions, regardless of credentials.
- Traditional news outlets aren’t making as much money as they used to, resulting in more sensational headlines and stories to try and generate revenue.
- Trust in quality journalism is declining due to attacks and erosion of ethical standards by individuals and government officials.
There is a significant amount of effort required for information to be accessed and used correctly. We have to be increasingly vigilant when thinking about the information presented to us. The good news is, once you start to think critically about the news and media you encounter, it will eventually become second nature.
Here are a few basic reminders:.
- Try to slow down and pause before you react.
- Prioritize curiosity and empathy instead of knee-jerk emotional reactions.
- Be aware of your own background, perspectives, and how new information can shift your thinking.
- Also, be aware of how others backgrounds and perspectives can influence how they think about certain information.
- Realize that changing your mind in light of new evidence is a strength, not a weakness.
- We can all be empathetic, but we need to remember to challenge ourselves to use those skills when it’s the most difficult, whether due to frustration, anger, or confusion.
- Figure out your purpose before committing to your current world view.
- Don’t share information unless you have verified it.
- If you do share incorrect information, turn the resulting embarrassment into genuine curiosity.
If we can do all of this and figure out what we stand for, we can make better decisions about what we share and how we think about the information we see and hear every day.
If you would like to learn more about media literacy, check out some of these great organizations:
The National Association for Media Literacy Education is a national organization dedicated to media literacy. Their vision is to see media literacy be highly valued by all and widely practiced as an essential life skill for the 21st Century.
Media Literacy Now is the leading national advocacy organization for media literacy education policy. They are changing the way people think about media and literacy through building public awareness and influencing policy.
Critical Media Project (CMP) is a free media literacy web resource for educators and students (ages 8-21) that enhances young people’s critical thinking and empathy, and builds on their capacities to advocate for change around questions of identity.
Project Look Sharp is committed to transforming education through developing, promoting and supporting media literacy education and critical thinking skills at the community, state, national, and global levels.
Media Literacy in our everyday lives…
Share your story and let us know what Media Literacy means to you! Media literacy means something a little bit different to everyone. We look forward to reading about your experiences and feelings about media literacy and will be picking our favorites to feature here!
Tell us your story!
Thank you to Tyler Nagel, of Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, for his help with this content.