We are all imperfect when it comes to media literacy—let’s acknowledge it

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Media literacy—the practice of critically evaluating all kinds of media and understanding how it shapes our lives—is a learned skill no one can expect to wield perfectly all the time.

With social media’s rapidly evolving algorithms grabbing our attention with clickbait, it’s crucial we initiate a broader cultural discussion about how we are all vulnerable and imperfect media users. 

Engaging in widespread dialogue about how it’s impossible to critically view every experience on our screens won’t just make internet safer, healthier, and more productive, but it’ll also help to break the stigma further isolating those who accidentally believe misinformation online.

Nobody of any age, class, or level of education is a flawless internet user. Even Millennials and Generation Z—understandably labeled 'digital natives’ —aren’t immune to the dangers of online misinformation. 

While proper media literacy education and technological updates may improve how our screen time affects us, the change we need is the widespread acknowledgement of and conversation around our susceptibility to absorb, spread, and experience misinformation.  

The intentionally sleek, uniform, and comforting design of the social media user experience creates the perfect environment for facts, opinions, and malicious lies to be indistinguishably mixed together.

As we subconsciously absorb information while scrolling for hours on end, consistently upholding the ‘you can’t believe everything you read’ mindset is an unattainable task.

Much like how our culture collectively discusses how our romantic lives can be difficult, messy, and imperfect, we should also address the messiness and difficulties of our imperfect digital lives. Similarly, we should discuss this without shaming the challenges of constant media absorption.

Thanks to internet culture, the impactful contradiction of discussing the difficulties of the social media experience using said social media can cause real change.

For example, in online ‘body positivity’ communities, posts discuss the dangers of social media misinformation impacting our health and body perceptions. This mass cultural conversation has pushed critical thought surrounding online body representation into our collective consciousness, impacting our consumer experiences, self-perception, and the trajectory of our broader culture.

The ever-evolving algorithms defining our online lives sophistically manipulate our perceptions of truth. Our most tangible mistake is refusing to admit that we can’t constantly think critically about this as we scroll through our apps.

Let’s talk about it—on-and offline.

Lauren Thomas is a fourth year Film and Media Studies Major, and The Journal’s Podcast Coordinator.

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