Regardless of your politics, we’ve all been exposed to the notion of “fake news”. It might have been someone who shared an announcement that a celebrity has died, only to find out that it’s either not true or it happened four years ago. Or a news agency that labels an act of violence as terrorism (or completely dismisses it) before all the facts are in. Bottom-line: as much as technology and social media have brought value, those tools have also created challenges.
So, each of us has been susceptible to misinformation on the internet and my guess is that it won’t be the last time. This is our new normal and not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Even professional journalists have experienced it. And the answer isn’t to stop using the internet. It’s to get better about questioning what we read and see.
I recently discovered a course called CrashCourse Media Literacy which is a 12-series YouTube program that focuses on how to consume and evaluate the media. It might be tempting to think that if you use the internet a lot you already know everything there is to know. After watching the CrashCourse Media Literacy program, I would strongly recommend this course to anyone wanting stay grounded and learn more about how the internet shapes our lives.
The episodes are educational, informative, and sometimes funny. None of the episodes are longer than 10-minutes. I’d like to think that we can all afford to take 10-minutes a day to learn more about the internet. And I’m not just talking about “fake news”. The program does a good job of defining what media is and how we need to think of it as more than social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram. I had several takeaways from this series that I believe will help me be a better media consumer.
Media literacy isn’t only about what we share. Yes, it’s important that we share only legitimate news. But it’s also important that we don’t assume the all the news we receive is always 100% complete. It’s possible that we’re only hearing a small portion of the news or the facts. And it’s our obligation as a media consumer to research the whole story. We can’t make informed decisions with a fraction of the facts. Granted, there might be times when we don’t get all the facts and we’ll have to decide what to do with that scenario as well. But sometimes, we can find more information if we go looking for it.
It’s important to understand what happens with your data. I’m not anti-marketing. I think it’s fantastic that marketing companies have access to consumer data that helps them make good business decisions. That being said, as consumers, we need to know what data we’re sharing with companies and what they have permission to do with it. I must admit that I was surprised the CrashCourse program included a section on user data, targeting ads, and terms of service agreements. It reminded me that part of my responsibility as a media consumer is understanding what happens with my data.
Media consumers might find it helpful to understand the business of media. Another aspect of the program that I thought was interesting was the conversation about who owns what media and how media ownership can impact what information we see (or don’t see). The program also spent some time talking about which media entities are regulated by the government, which ones aren’t, and why we might want to know that information. Finally, it discussed about how media companies create strategic partnerships with the businesses that make our phones, computers, and televisions to form bundles and exclusive agreements, which may or may not benefit consumers.
Now, the purpose of this article isn’t to scare anyone. It’s not to imply that anyone should close all their social media accounts. And it’s certainly not to say that marketing and media companies are doing anything wrong. The purpose of today’s article is to encourage people to become more aware of their relationship with media. The more aware we are about media, the more internet literate we can become.
As business people, we spend a lot of time on the internet. We use articles and reports from the internet in our presentations and proposals. We share content on our social media accounts. We comment on what people write on their blogs, etc. It’s important that we’re responsible media publishers which means as individuals, we must learn how to be media literate.15