ARE YOU LITERATE OR ILLITERATE?
Have you been shocked to receive a message on WhatsApp: “This message which you posted is F-A-K-E !!!” You can add to that – your forward is insensitive, vulgar, untrue, unkind, unnecessary or very old! The most effective way to avoid such embarrassment and the unstoppable fake forwards/news, is to be Media Literate.You may wonder what this is all about , and you will realise that many of us have at some time or other been caught in this web of sensationalism. Well, this is about that wonderful tool, The Media. The best weapon we have to safeguard ourselves when receiving or sending forwards, in this time of fake news and other failings of the Media, is “Media Literacy” which means: The ability to critically analyse stories presented in the mass media and to determine their accuracy or credibility.
I can hear some people grumbling, ” Oh, come on, I only need the Media to relax, and to have some entertainment. Please don’t give me rules and regulations about it. I just laugh at messages, I don’t think too much about them and I just forward them. Here lies the danger of being “media illiterate!!!” You can decide if you continue to be in this category, or if you would like to be enlightened and become “Media Literate,” and also educate others to become the same.
Going a step further, the Media today can be classified into four types:
1. Print Media (Newspapers, Magazines)
2. Broadcast Media (TV, Radio)
3. Outdoor or Out of Home (OOH) Media.
4. Internet , which includes mobiles, laptops, computers and all those devices which are so tempting to use
This is the age of the media! Media is a good servant but a bad master! To avoid being misled by the Media, especially social media, we should know how to select and circulate only what is good and leave aside the bad.
A few examples will make things clearer. Some days ago, there was a viral message cum horrifying video on social media : “Meiteis gruesome killing of a Kuki tribal girl. Situation is very serious in Manipur. PRAY”. Fortunately, very soon, some sensible person did a “Fact check” and posted a counter article as follows: “the controversial video shared by over- enthusiastic people is an incident that happened in Myanmar and was released in the news on 3 December 2022. Even there, it was only being investigated and had yet to be proved. All said and done, the incident which went viral did not happen in Manipur and was being circulated to whip up people’s emotions at this crucial juncture when everyone is aghast about the horrifying burning of Churches and the persecution, killing and violence against the Kukis by the Meiteis in Manipur.
In the recent past an item which was doing the rounds on social media was posted from a certain school: We are praying for Benjamin Lopez, he is 5 years old and has been diagnosed with bone cancer. Can you please pray and then pass on. This post has been circulating since 2018. On doing a “Fact check” it was found that the school cited in the forward does not have the registration of a child under 5 years of age with that name.
Another news item that created a lot of excitement was that Pope Francis had announced his resignation from the Papacy. He never made such an announcement! This fake news was started in 2021 and is repeated now and then. What was reported was in Italian and when translating it into English there was some misinterpretation to falsely mean that Pope Francis is retiring. This message gets resurrected now and then and is repeatedly circulated on Social Media.
These above mentioned and similar forwards exploit emotions and cloud rational thought. Their objective? To attract more subscribers and more attention. The more sensational the news, the more the subscribers! Media Literacy helps to access, analyse, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms – from print to video to the internet. Media Literacy is considered to be an important 21st century survival skill.
Today we consume vast quantities of information, like text messages, memes, viral videos, social media posts, video games, advertisements and many others. There is one common factor among all these – someone created these, for a specific reason.
How can one become Media Literate? Each time we view somethin
In the media, we need to ask ourselves 4 questions. Basic Media Literacy is as easy as asking these 4 questions while one views a piece of media and before one forwards/shares it:
Who AUTHORIZED this?
It could be an individual, an artist, an activist, a religious/ political/ business representative, and they likely have their own opinion or agenda on the matter.
Why was this CREATED?
The intention of a piece of media may be to persuade, to inform, to entertain or instigate.
Is it CREDIBLE?
Look for direct evidence of the claims which the creator of the content is making. Support for the argument/claim can include statistics, quotes or research from esteemed sources.
Is it BIASED?
Watch out for media outlets that only give one side of the story while omitting opposing views. To develop your own fully informed opinion, cross- check the information with multiple sources.
The REMEDY :
Fight misinformation on both mainstream and alternative media by not being a victim of fake news. Refrain from sharing content that you are unsure about or don’t know where it comes from to prevent spreading false information.
To conclude, I would like to share my personal practice of Media Literacy:
– I select and then only forward meaningful messages, avoiding Good Morning and Good Night messages.
– avoiding hate, hurting messages.
– not forwarding negative messages, which incite religious disharmony against any religion.
– sending a limited number of messages, not carelessly clicking the “send” button.
– following the guideline T – H – I – N – K, is it true? helpful? inspiring? necessary? kind?, before forwarding messages.
– avoiding graphics which are dark and disturbing.
We all know about the Ten Commandments. It is time now to add one more for us to follow: the Eleventh Commandment: ‘Thou shalt become Media Literate”! If this is explained it means : We shall not forward/share irresponsibly, and thus create more chaos and confusion and agony in the world. We shall become Media Literate!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR :
Ms Olga B Noronha belongs to the Holy Spirit Community. She retired as a Lecturer in Economics from St Agnes College, Mangaluru and is a Volunteer on the Susheg Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Mangaluru. She had also worked at Fatima Retreat House, Mangaluru in the office.