Media Literacy Series Part I: Wait, Media…what?

WELCOME (BACK) TO CAROLINA!! You’re about to encounter the best (and most challenging) years of your life, and we here at Student Wellness want to make sure that you’re finding time for yourself amidst all of that homework, professional opportunities, socializing, student orgs, and all things COLLEGE.

Seven (Wow, it’s been seven years??) years ago, I was a first-year at Carolina. I had NO idea what the next 4 years of my life would hold. Looking back, I can say that I learned A LOT. And not all of that learning happened in the classroom. One of the most important skills that I’ve learned over the past few years is media literacy (especially while I worked for Student Wellness’s Interactive Theatre Carolina peer group).

Students playing a theatre game called

That’s cool. But what is media literacy?

According to the Media Literacy Project, it “is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media… [and] takes into account history, culture, privilege, and power.” This means people with media literacy skills learn to:

  • Develop critical thinking skills
  • Understand how media messages shape our culture and society
  • Identify target marketing strategies
  • Recognize what the media maker wants us to believe or do
  • Name the techniques of persuasion used
  • Recognize bias, spin, misinformation, and lies
  • Discover the parts of the story that are not being told
  • Evaluate media messages based on our own experiences, skills, beliefs, and values
  • Create and distribute our own media messages
  • Advocate for a changed media system

What is NOT media literacy?

I watch TV for reasons like everyone else — because it’s entertaining! Media literacy does not mean you cannot enjoy what you’re watching. Neither is it a reason to judge people for watching what they do. I want to emphasize this point. You can still watch your “bad TV’ or guilty pleasure shows and feel great about it! I certainly do…

Photo that reads

But I also think about who’s being portrayed, whose stories are told, if the plot line mirrors larger societal patterns, or what stereotypes are employed for humor. I challenge myself to think about what I’m watching, and relate these ideas back to my experience as a straight, able-bodied, Woman of Color at UNC.

Now, here’s what I want to know from YOU:

  1. Think about shows or movies you watch or books you read. How do they relate to your Carolina experience and/or your identity?

Comment below or on Facebook. Good luck with the semester Tar Heels, and stay tuned for the next post in this Media Literacy blog series! (Next time, we’ll start practicing some of these skills with one of my favorite shows – Orange Is the new Black.)


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