To Post or Not to Post?: Social Media Literacy

(By: Chris Smith, social-media1_ME Flickr: Creative Commons)
(By: Chris Smith, social-media1_ME Flickr: Creative Commons)

Scrolling down social media timelines has become an everyday ritual for most. From photos on Pinterest to posts from friends on Facebook, using social media has become a common way to share our ideas and viewpoints on various topics of interest. However, along with reading life updates from your long distance buddies online, often comes unintended emotional reactions to posts that you see online. Ever find yourself engaging in making body comparisons to a friend or celebrity’s selfie on Instagram, or become so agitated from a Twitter comment that you engage in a back-and-forth only to find yourself even more upset than you were before you read it? These reactions can come with using social media platforms. People are entitled to their opinions and use their social media pages to express them, often– if unintentionally– offending others. Let’s be honest, when’s the last time you seriously critically considered how people would react to your posts? However, it is important to remember that your posts could affect others negatively or positively without your knowledge or intention.

Before the rise of social media, most of us were primarily consumers of commercial and entertainment media, being constantly bombarded by powerful images in magazines, television, and marketing ads. In these cases, media literacy has been successfully used to address and prevent the negative impact that media can have on body image and general sense of self. Becoming media literate is cultivating an ability to critically analyze media and understand how it affects how we think, feel, and behave.

Now we are no longer mere consumers of media — we are also frequent producers of media through social media platforms. With this in mind, it is important to uphold this same critical eye to our own social media platforms and be mindful of how they could be affecting us and others.

Here are a few questions to keep in mind when critically analyzing how social media posts impact us:

  • What is the underlying message of the post?
  • Do I like/agree with the post?
  • How is it affecting me emotionally?

Here are a few questions to keep in mind when critically analyzing how our personal social media posts impact others:

  •  What point am I trying to get across with this post?
  • Does my post acknowledge my perspective without putting others down?

Critically analyzing social media posts doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to un-friend or un-follow users because you don’t agree with their messages. Media literacy is aimed at developing your critical thinking skills and empowering you to view media outlets on your own terms. Becoming a critical consumer of social media allows you to effectively foster your social wellness while protecting your emotional wellness.

If you’re interested in learning more about media literacy, be sure to check out Student Wellness’s upcoming workshop, Critical Consumption: Media Literacy and Body Image on Wednesday, March 25th from 4-5:30pm, Room 3411, Union.

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