Question Your Consumption, Or Else
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Question Your Consumption, Or Else

The importance of media literacy in a media-infested world.

Question Your Consumption, Or Else

We are in an age of constant media consumption. You continuously consume media every day, whether you’re a bookworm, addicted to Netflix or even anti-technology. The average person is exposed to thousands advertisements each day, and many people now “media multitask,” which means using multiple media at once. (For example, when you’re tweeting while watching a TV show or listening to music while reading.) Media literacy is “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media.” It means questioning and critiquing media rather than mindlessly consuming it. Be an active consumer of media, and you will enjoy media even more.

Media is persistently pervasive, and there’s no escape. Pick your poison; whether it’s books, social media, movies, magazines or even the newspaper, you are influenced by the media. No matter how strong you think you are, you are not immune, and thinking everyone except you is affected is called the third-person effect. For instance, the news and crime shows can make you believe the world is more dangerous than it actually is, and teen movies give you an idea of what prom is supposed to be like (I was disappointed too). Once you acknowledge this, you can start thinking critically.

Don’t be a passive consumer. Question what messages the media is trying to convey. Media always says something about a culture, intentionally or not, because it is a byproduct of it. For example, even if a news company tries to remain objective, there is limited space and a group of individuals must decide which stories are most important; they also choose the placement of stories and what information to tell. Even if your news source isn’t blatantly swayed to one side, you will think some issues are more important depending on the headlines. Agenda Setting Theory says that while the media (mostly) doesn’t tell you what to think, it tells you what to think about. One way to get more objective news is to get your news from multiple sources.

Be critical, even about your favorite things. You can still love something if you find something problematic about it, and that doesn’t make you a bad fan or a bad person. What would be problematic is blindly accepting any message or stereotype because it is attached to a specific person. You don’t have to scrutinize every single detail and rant about everything you see (unless that’s your thing), but understand that media “provides insight into our culture.” People develop associations after repeatedly seeing them, and archetypes of certain groups of people eventually become ingrained.

For example, many commercials for laundry detergent depict a busy mother. What does that say about the expectations of women and motherhood? What about fathers? Are they depicting specific people, or has the "busy mother" image been repeated enough to become a stereotype? This commercial comments on these questions.

Or consider this ad for Axe. What does it say about masculinity and beauty standards? An ad doesn't have to be a PSA to get a message across.

Music also says something about our culture. For instance, "All About That Bass" is an extremely catchy song, and many have praised it for empowering young girls and women who do not fit the single beauty standard pushed by most of the media. Personally, I appreciate Meghan Trainer's message of self love, and I love that she is trying to empower girls and women to feel comfortable saying no. I believe songs like hers and “Flawless” are important in a world of “if you like the way you look that much, you should go and love yourself” and “you don’t know you’re beautiful, and that’s what makes you beautiful.” You don't have to agree, and many do not. I have heard people reject “All About That Bass” for still defining beauty and confidence based on men's tastes. No matter what you believe, I think we can all agree that pop songs are more than catchy tunes. Songs become popular for a reason, and take a moment to think about the lyrics when you're singing along to the radio.

Whenever you watch a TV show or listen to a song, you are consuming a singular viewpoint and formulated depictions of people. Makers of media content want an audience, so they meticulously craft messages they think will sell. When do certain archetypes become harmful? Do you have a certain view about something because of the depictions you have seen in media? There's no right or wrong answer, but start a conversation. Media is much more than pure entertainment, and critically evaluating media and their messages will give you a much stronger appreciation for it.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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