Regardless of your politics, we’ve all been exposed to the concept of “fake news”. It might have been someone who shared an announcement that a celebrity has died, only to find out that it’s either not true or it happened four years ago. Or the news agency that labels an act of violence as terrorism before all the facts are in. Bottom-line: as much as technology and social media have enriched our lives, those tools have also created challenges in being media literate.
So, each of us has been susceptible to misinformation on the internet. My guess is that it won’t be the last time. This isn’t something to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Even professional journalists have had it happen. And the answer isn’t to stop using the internet. It’s to get better about questioning what we read and see.
I recently learned about a digital literacy project called MediaWise. The goal of the project is to teach 1 million teenagers how to sort fact from fiction via a course called “Civic Online Reasoning”. Don’t let the goal of educating teens keep you from being interested in this project. That being said, I’m not going to talk about the “Civic Online Reasoning” course today.
Instead, I want to talk about another course that was actually mentioned casually in a promotional video for MediaWise. CrashCourse Media Literacy is a 12-series program that focuses on how to consume and evaluate the media to become more media literate. After watching the Crash Course Media Literacy program, I would strongly recommend this course to anyone wanting to learn more about how the internet shapes our lives.
The episodes are educational, informative, and sometimes funny. None of the episodes are longer than 10-minutes. I’d like to think that we can afford to take 10-minutes a day to learn more about the internet. And I’m not just talking about fake news. The program does a good job of defining what media is and how we need to think of it as more than Facebook or Instagram. I had several takeaways from this series that I believe will help me be a better media user.
Media literacy isn’t just about what we share. Yes, it’s important that we share only legitimate news. But it’s also important that we don’t assume the all the news we receive is always 100% complete. It’s possible that we’re only hearing a small portion of the news or the facts. And it’s our obligation as a media consumer to research the whole story. We can’t make informed decisions with a fraction of the facts. Granted, there might be times when we don’t get all the facts and we’ll have to decide what to do with that scenario as well. But sometimes, we can find more information if we go looking for it.
You should know what happens with your data. I’m not anti-marketing. I think it’s fantastic that marketing companies have access to consumer data that helps them make good business decisions. That being said, as a consumer, you do need to know what data you’re sharing with companies and what they have permission to do with it. I must admit, I was surprised that CrashCourse included a section on user data, targeting ads, and terms of service agreements. It made me realize that part of my responsibility in being media literate is understanding what happens with my data.
Media consumers might find it helpful to understand the business of media. Another aspect of the program that I thought was interesting was the conversation about who owns what media and how media ownership can impact what information we see (or don’t see). The program also spent some time talking about which media entities are regulated by the government, which ones aren’t, and why we might want to know that information. Finally, it discussed about how media companies partner with the businesses that make our phones, computers, and televisions to form bundles and exclusive agreements, which may or may not benefit us the consumer.
The purpose of this article isn’t to scare anyone. It’s not to imply that anyone should close all their social media accounts. And it’s certainly not to say that marketing and media companies are doing anything wrong. The purpose of today’s article is to encourage people to become more aware about their relationship with media. The more aware we are about media, the more internet and media literate we can become.
I am so pleased that I went down the rabbit hole of the internet and found CrashCourse’s Media Literacy program. I spend a lot of time on the internet. We write content that other people consume. It’s important that we’re responsible media publishers. And as individuals, we must learn how to be responsible media consumers.
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