Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
By Sarina LaBold, Copy Editor
You know that there are online predators out there, so you have been careful not to include some information on your Facebook page. But what if that is not enough?
Being media literate has become paramount to success in this technology age. Unfortunately, many people think that they are already media-smart, which limits the level of media literacy that they could achieve.
While the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) defines media literacy as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and communicate,” media literacy has become much more than just that. As W. James Potter states in his textbook “Media Literacy,” it is about taking control.
Media illiteracy leads to personal pollution, which Potter says is “potentially as damaging and poisonous to the human spirit as contaminated water and food is to our physical well-being.” Many media companies play to this weakness, particularly targeting our sensitivities, insecurities, and indiscretions.
Shelby Laudenschlager, a junior communications major and history minor, recognizes how much power the mass media has within society to create an overabundance of messages that might be harmful.
“Being media literate means that you have an understanding of how mass media works and what their messages mean. It is important to be media literate and to educate others on media literacy because the messages that the media puts out can be, and often are, taken the wrong way,” Laudenschlager said.
Similarly, Cynthia Fulford, director of the Office of Leadership and Student Development, recognizes how information from the media can be misleading.
“The information [present on media] is not all accurate, true, or fair. In other words, it’s skewed,” Fulford said. “If you are aware that what you are reading or seeing must be verified or questioned before being accepted, then you are more prepared to not become negatively affected by the misrepresentation of information that bombards us every day.”
Understanding the misrepresentation of information is especially important within a society where minorities struggle to have their voices heard. If, within this struggle, you lose a part of yourself, trying to become more like the ideal of the masses, then you have become a victim of media illiteracy. The mass media, as Laudenschlager stated, can easily present information to which they know particular people will be susceptible, such as minorities.
Fulford fights against this bombardment herself: “As an African-American woman, I must be careful to properly interpret what is being said as truth or fact, or [the] opinion of the persons who have either researched the information or are presenting it to society.”
Fortunately, there are ways to improve your media literacy; however, Potter reminds us that media literacy is a continuum. You can never be too media literate in this ever changing technological society.
The first step in becoming more media literate, according to Potter, is to increase your awareness of media manipulation and control how you receive your information. The Center for Media Literacy website states that people need to use critical thinking in order to make wise media decisions. The Media Literacy Project’s vision is to ensure that people have self-determination over their media choices.
Making wise decisions is a must in a world where media is unavoidable. Jim Brancato, professor of communications, realizes that being media literate is the only way to “reclaim your power in the digital age.”
“It’s important to be media literate because almost all of our day is spent with media—talking, texting, reading or watching screens large and small. When we’re not using media, we’re passing by billboards, posters and all sorts of other messages trying to get out attention. We have to uncover who wants our attention so much and how they benefit from it, if we’re going to make intelligent choices for ourselves and our families,” Brancato said.
To help people become media literate, Potter outlines a list of guidelines to making a media literacy strategy: strengthen your goals/drive to become media literate, use media for usefulness rather than mindless exposure, develop an awareness of your exposure, look for useful and purposeful knowledge, place media within the reality-fantasy continuum, examine your media habits, examine your opinions, change your media behaviors, look to multiple media sources, become more aware of how you create your own media messages such as on your Facebook page, recognize that your privacy is not always secure, and take personal responsibility for your media intake.
However, this does not mean that media literacy has to be dry; in fact, Elizabeth Ortiz, assistant professor of communications, claims that being media literate helps us to gain more from the media.
“Media literacy is a set of skills that allow us to be able to enjoy media more while being more critical of the content,” Ortiz said. “We can extract the messages that are beneficial for us while rejecting the ones that could have a detrimental effect on how we see ourselves, others and the world.”
Media literacy does not only affect your current self, but it can also lead to your success or failure in your future career. Jenelle Henry, the director of Career Planning, offers advice on using media more wisely in order to set up a more successful career.
“Throughout a person’s career development, they can read/learn about many different aspects of the career development process, anything from how to format their resume on to which employers might be the best ones to work for, from a variety of places,” Henry said. “A media literate person will give thought to what each media outlet is saying and decide for themselves the one they want to believe/follow.”
If you still need more motivation to become media literate, go to http://www.takethislollipop.com, type in your Facebook login information, and discover at the most basic level why you can never be too media literate.