Beyond the headlines: Why Media Literacy Matters.

Dearest freshmen,

First, let me just say you are young and have your whole life ahead of you. Enjoy it while it lasts because the next three to four years will pass you by in an instant, and then you will be forced into the real world as an adult (scary I know.)

While it seems like yesterday that I was in your shoes, so much has changed in the digital world that we live in. You grew up during a time full of evolving media. You were raised on social media and apps, while these only became popular during my high school years.  This is why I have some advice for you; Please be media literate.

I want you to think about all types of media and what meaning they bring to your life. Look beyond the headlines. This doesn’t mean binge watch Stranger Things on Netflix or stalk your ex on Facebook. I want you to be critical. I want you to analyze the digital world around you so that you can talk about the media’s role and its impact on our culture. Think about how this media is serving our democracy. Is it helping to improve political, economic, or social practices?

Take the time to understand how mass media and communication have evolved (iPhones weren’t always a thing you know.)

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Question and scrutinize everything in the media, from television programs to twitter handles. Think about your favorite one or your least favorite one.  Describe it. Then analyze it. Why is it so alluring to you? Why do you dislike it? How is it different than other programs or news feeds? How does it keep you engaged as a consumer? Think about it from a different perspective.

Sure, there are fun gifs and memes that your favorite twitter page generates, but have you thought about the targeted audience or message being sent to promote those images? Have you wondered about the impact of media on a specific audience?

I ask so many questions because I want you to become more than just a loyal follower. I want you to be engaged as a media literate consumer because if you don’t learn now, when will you? Use your best judgment.

2017 is an interesting time. We have a President that many people didn’t vote for, we have fake news popping up everywhere, and we are constantly witnessing social media changes.

If you don’t stop and involve yourself in understanding this media then you may be doing yourself a disservice. Tomorrow, next week, and next month will present us with new technologies. I want you to be an active part in judging their value on our society. It’s your duty.

Your old(er) friend,

Jelyse

Are we dating our smartphones?

As I sit amongst a table of friends, I slowly begin to look around me. I realize that every single one of my friends is on their smartphone. Silence ensues and no one bothers to acknowledge the fact that we’ve stopped talking to one another. As I glance around the restaurant I notice couples ignoring their meals in place of their iPhone screens. I see a mother hushing her children while she glances at her device. They are sending texts, scrolling through Facebook, looking up quick recipes, and viral videos. When did this become the social norm?

Is this the result of easy access to information in the digital age? Or a bad habit?

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I sometimes think of this YouTube clip titled: “A generation of idiots, smart phones & dumb people.” It shows how in our insatiable need to be connected we are actually losing our connections. Now don’t get me wrong, I am in no way calling my friends, co-workers, and family members idiots (especially you Mom,) but I sometimes feel that we forget to be present in the moment because of our need to feel “connected” online. I too am guilty of this. Sometimes it’s just easier to bury your face in your smartphone screen than that boring task we were working on. Our phone works as sort of an escape from reality that we control.

I think this reliance and dependency for our smartphones has happened through digital media convergence. There are three forms of emerging media that I am thinking of specifically: telecommunications, cable TV, and computers. These three separate entities have blended together to give you your significant other…I mean your smartphone. Every application imaginable can be downloaded on your phone, and that’s why it feels like we are spending so much quality time with this technology.

Spending time away from your phone means missing out on something important on social media, or via text, or via email for work so we feel a sort of separation anxiety or FOMO. This device has become such an integral part of our lives that almost seems impossible to be without. I use my phone more often than I would like to admit, but I just can’t quit Siri or my twitter feed.