BEING a member of this generation entails keeping up with the fast pace of a constantly changing world. Technology is evolving, and with this evolution of technology, the access and spread of information has never been easier.
But there are always two sides to a coin, and on the flip side of this ease is the fact that it can also very easily be misused. With the rise of social media, it has never been easier for people to put out baseless information and present them as facts.
According Aysia Tan, "Our society is saturated with media and entertainment, and the influence they have on our beliefs, thoughts, and actions is subtle but powerful. The things we allow to fill our minds end up shaping our being? -- we become what we think about" (Tan, 2016). This shows the hold the media has over us -- the subtlest influences in the way we perceive things can cause drastic changes in our lives. Information is such a powerful tool. However, it should be considered as a double-edged sword.
It can be used to inspire and power people. It is through the media that the injustice that is the unfortunate death of George Floyd was propagated. This sparked an outrage that reverberated throughout the entire world. It gave momentum to the #BlackLivesMattermovement and exposed the systemic racism and racial injustice in America.
On the other hand, it can also be used to strike fear into the hearts of people. We live in a time where the world is at a stand-still. Everything was put on hold by the coronavirus outbreak and everybody is encouraged to stay home to save lives. People have been holed up in their homes, living in fear of a virus that they might not even know they have (because asymptomatic people do not display symptoms). The spread of fake news about the virus and about how the government is handling the situation is causing discord among the people -- they do not know what to believe anymore. Now, more than ever, is the time that we need accurate and reliable information. The people cannot be left in the dark in the hands of the media.
The media can spin a narrative and weave it into an entirely different story. This is why it is necessary for people to be media and information literate. In a world where information is so easy to come by, people need to be able to tell fact and fabricated apart.
The whole premise of Media and Information Literacy (MIL) is that it advocates for people to be more informed about the stories put out by the media. The fact of the matter is: The media exists -- whether we acknowledge its presence or not -- and it will continue to impact the way we think, act, and feel. Aysia Tan states that, "Those who believe media does not affect them are often the people who are most affected because they deny the influence and are therefore not guarded against it" (Tan, 2016). Therefore, it is necessary to be educated about which media sources to believe and which media sources to discard.
People need to keep in mind that all media messages are constructed. The story as it is told almost never exists on its own. Everything that is presented in a media message is a product of carefully crafted choices, each designed to incite a specific reaction from people. During the 2016 presidential campaign, then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte said, "I will ride a jet ski while bringing the Philippine Flag." However, this was reported by ABS-CBN with the additional phrase "and I will fire guns at them," which he clearly never stated. I watched that presidential debate myself. This goes to show that the media can add or take away certain details from a story to build a narrative. With MIL, people will know to fact check something like that before believing it.
The media is also known for using creative techniques to attract more attention and appeal to its consumers. For instance, when McDonalds designed their logo, they chose to use the colors red and yellow because red stimulates the appetite and attracts attention, while yellow symbolizes happiness and friendship. These were not random. These were constructed.
People interpret different media messages in different ways. With the rise of social media, everyone is an influencer. People can be influenced by their peers to think a certain way based off those peers' interpretations of a media message. There was a time when people believed that Jackie Chan died because everybody was tweeting about it -- only to find out that Jackie Chan is still very much alive and well. This is the power of social media.
The only defense that the public has against all kinds of misinformation is by being Media and Information literate. This is why it is absolutely necessary that children be taught how to always ask the right questions and to never stop digging until they get the facts. The Media and Information Literacy courses being taught in Senior High School is a huge step towards creating a smarter, more literate generation. Most stories stop at surface level and not all the facts are there. Only the facts that they want you to see. So do not stop digging, immersing and diving into this ocean of information we currently have.
After all, there is more to an iceberg than its tip.
Christian Vinzen Rodriguez
Student of Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu