How many gadgets are you surrounded by right now? Laptop, mobile phones, TVs and so on. For any working household in a city, these media and communication technologies sound pretty normal. Even most of the villages have a form of media: the radio. And mobiles are progressively penetrating the scene. Surely, we are living in a media-saturated world.
Psychologists say children spend more time watching TV than in school. The youth are almost always connected to the internet via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Not to mention the countless hours spent on video games every week. With so much of our time being dedicated to the media, do we truly understand its inherent nature and our relationship with it?
Media brings the world into our homes. Latest news, history, wars, everything that we have information of is through the media. We rely heavily on it for entertainment, knowledge and leisure. The media is also responsible for influencing our opinions and image of ourselves. What the media projects is what we believe to be the norm, the way a certain thing should be- what should you buy, how a woman should be, which political candidate is better. Because we receive these messages again and again we lap up anything given more attention to (read advertising) by the media, without actually thinking about it.
One needs to realize that today what we see is not necessarily what it is. Factually based professional journalism is becoming rare. Media ethics are going down the drain. In a bid to get the best TRPs any faulty news could be flashed as breaking news. Headlines are twisted to get attention. Many times important news is not covered as it might not be sensational. The way an issue gets covered doesn’t necessarily portray its reality.
Here’s where media literacy and its importance comes in. Media literacy is learning how to use the media selectively and wisely, to understand how it actually works and critique it well. It’s the ability to recognize bias, sensationalism, stereotyping. The principle of this education is to empower young people to understand the mass media and how it works so that they can be in control of this important aspect of their own lives. Media literacy is simply being aware of reality.
Teenagers and children are in special need of it. They are still too young to have a firm opinion and are easily influenced. Children are exposed to highly violent video games, which might lead to behavioural disorders. While we do have certificates to ensure that violence in movies doesn’t reach them, nothing much has been done in the sphere of gaming. Disturbingly there are many popular games in the market promoting rape and sexism too. Teens buy and do anything that is ‘in fashion’.
They often have a distorted view of sex (from movies and print media), thus indulging in it- resulting in unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases. Commercials with their superfluous advertising lead children into buying things they don’t want, as opposed to what they need. Celebrities often engage in cinematic scenes involving drugs, violence, smoking, drinking or sometimes behave in a certain way demanded by the producers. The way media projects them, affects youngsters more than anything as they consider them as their role models and are happily obliged to copy them.
Adults are not free from this influence either. The excessive advertising regarding fair skins, thin bodies have led us to believe that only one ideal definition of beautiful exists. Fat people are still ridiculed. One could call it ‘adult-bullying’. Eating disorders like bulimia result from this pressure. Rampant eve-teasing can be traced back to movies, where it’s perfectly normal for a guy to stalk a girl and the girl obviously falls in love with him. Item songs and their sexist lyrics objectify women. If only women equality was promoted the way movies are, the scene would have been quite different. Even media directed at addressing social issues might have a different agenda. Satyamev Jayate was accused of using music and showing teary eyed people at the perfect time to generate emotional responses in the viewers, thus ensuring their faithfulness to the show. Constant targeting by the media has led people to have a rather negative opinion of Muslims.
Clearly media literacy is the need of the hour. It can be advocated through workshops, classes, online presence through articles and videos, discussion with peers and family, education in schools and colleges. Media outlets need to realize their duties. Let’s spread it to the extent that mass media thinks twice before fooling us into believing false ideologies.