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Media Literacy: The Foundation of Modern Discourse

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| April 26, 2022

What media literacy is, why it’s important and how to apply media literacy skills to your daily life.

Media literacy helps us break down echo chambers, think critically about the information we encounter and become discerning consumers of media content. Here’s what media literacy is, why it’s relevant and how to develop and apply media literacy skills to your daily life.

We’re surrounded by the media every day. We encounter messages designed to influence our thoughts and behaviors no matter where we turn.

We can break down echo chambers, eliminate communication barriers and think critically about the information we encounter by having the ability to discern truth from misinformation and becoming conscious of our media consumption.

This means developing media literacy skills to navigate today’s complex media landscape.

What is media literacy, and why is it important? Let's explore how you can develop media literacy skills and apply them to your daily life.

Media Literacy: Definition

Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate in various media messages online and offline. Thinking critically about all media types enables us to understand how these messages shape our culture and society. 

Media literacy education promotes awareness of media influence. It helps us develop the ability to decode media messages, understand the context and assess how those messages influence our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It also enables us to create media intentionally and responsibly.

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The Importance of Media Literacy

Media literacy is an expanded concept of literacy in modern society where information comes in all shapes and forms beyond the written text. It helps us consider all aspects of a message to identify reliable sources, overcome media biases and get to the truth.

Media literacy skills enable us to inquire about issues, express our opinions and contribute to civil discourse. They also give us the tools to advocate for a better media system that promotes fairness and critical thinking.

How to Apply Media Literacy to Our Lives

Here are some media literacy examples to show how it can help us navigate the media messages we encounter every day:

Explore Social Issues Around Media Usage

Media literacy helps us understand various social issues, many of which are accentuated by the widespread use of digital media. These include (cyber)bullying, misinformation, disinformation, herd mentality, groupthink, misuse of statistics, censorship, reputation management, propaganda and more.

Develop Productive Media Habits

Media literacy helps us develop the skills to use media productively, such as identifying and correcting addictive behaviors associated with gaming, social media usage and online shopping. Additionally, it helps us avoid risky actions that could jeopardize our privacy and information security.

Evaluate Information Sources for Reliability 

Media literacy skills enable us to identify biases, fallacies and other ways people misrepresent information to manipulate their audiences. The ability to tell facts from misinformation will help us develop objective points of view and critical thinking, which are the foundation of productive civil discourse.

Create Content and Participate in Media Culture

The ability to assess and analyze content helps you build the foundation to create media (e.g., blog posts, videos, podcasts) to express your opinions responsibly, publish content and contribute to civil discourse. This allows you to share ideas and advance causes that are important to you.

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How to Develop Media Literacy Skills

Here’s how to improve your media literacy skills and become a savvy participant in today’s media environment:

Beware of the Algorithmic Trap

Many media platforms design algorithms to serve users the content they’re most likely to engage with so they spend more time on the sites. However, the confirmation bias creates an echo chamber that keeps narrowing down the range of content you see and prevents you from gaining exposure to other opinions.

While we can’t completely avoid the influence of algorithms in our life, we can cultivate awareness and make room for new voices. For example, change your Facebook and Twitter settings so you’ll see posts based on recency instead of personalization. You can also turn off autoplay on YouTube so you don’t mindlessly watch whatever the algorithm serves up, or seek out media sites (like The Doe) that use data to help break your echo chamber—not reinforce it.

Examine the Validity of the Content

When you consume a piece of content, find out who created the message and why. Get curious about how the publisher attracts readers and holds their attention. Consider how different people may interpret the message differently and if any important facts or points of view are omitted.

Verify that the content and supporting sources are up to date. Consider the author’s credentials and the publisher’s or sponsor’s involvement (to identify conflicts of interest). Question why the content exists—for instance, whether it’s trying to sell a product or push an agenda.

Avoid Inherent Biases in Your Search Terms

When we seek information (e.g., through search engines) and interact with content, we bring our points of view to the mix. The way we search for information signals to content producers what’s popular and can, in turn, influence what we see in search results.

Meanwhile, the keywords we use in searches may cause search engines to return results that favor one opinion over another. For example, if you enter a derogatory term that describes a population, you’re more likely to get unfavorable content about the group. If you ask a question in a way that implies a certain answer, you’d likely fall into the confirmation bias trap.

Use terminologies outside of how you inherently think about an issue and vary your search terms to get content with different points of view and develop a well-rounded perspective on the topic.

Don’t Stop Learning and Questioning

Media literacy is complex and contextual. It continuously evolves with the channels from which we get our information and our interpretation of the messaging. We must keep adapting to how content is presented to navigate the shifting media landscape.

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Media Literacy: The Gateway to Productive Discourse

Gaining media literacy skills is critical in navigating today’s complex and often contentious media landscape. By becoming discerning consumers of media content, we can form unbiased opinions and participate in civil discourse productively.

If you’re looking for new ways to break free of your echo chamber and discover unique media, Take our Doe Prints quiz to learn more about your worldview and get personalized reading recommendations that help broaden your consumption horizons.

TAKE THE QUIZ

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