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By Belinha De Abreu, PhD., author, researcher, friend of The Getting Better Foundation

We live in troubling times.  The news in the past months have shown how conflicted our world is and how disconnected we are despite being the most technologically connected ever. In my opinion, it has made the need for media literacy education vital along with civics literacy and communication skills.

Why? Because what we say matters. It matters when information is shared online.  It matters when facts are mixed with opinions. It matters when people perceive history erroneously. It matters when people don’t know how to talk to one another. It matters when words are used as descriptors, but we don’t consider how they have impact. It matters when peoples’ voices are minimized and marginalized. It matters when the media who should be the voice of reason has become unreasonable. It matters when the voice of calm comes from celebrities.

People like Dwayne Johnson aka “The Rock”  who asks the question, “Where are our leaders?” or John Krazinski’s program “Some Good News,” which has taken this time during the pandemic to create a program to bring joy to peoples’ lives when there has been so much despair and so much unknown about our world.  Their words and their actions matter.

We live in troubling times.  We are at a point where we need to learn to talk to each other… to engage each other in critical discourse. We need to learn more about our history and certainly more about the past because it has a clear impact on our present and thus future.

We need to hear many more voices, but we need just as many listeners.  People who listen not just by taking in words, but by seeing what is happening around them, by being present in the moment. People who are willing to listen to different viewpoints even if it is unmistakably the opposite of their own.

We need to understand the word nuance. Living in extremes has made this a difficult word to understand, but its basic definition is “a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.”  Nuance plays into the way in which we perceive and receive information.

Right now, everyone is triggered by the things they see and hear.  Words have become trigger items for various people in various societal positions and the most evident one – race. In understanding the implications of what people are struggling with we also can find resolutions, but they need to begin with the act of listening, understanding, and learning.

We live in troubling times, but we also live in a time where solutions are possible, where action can bring change, and change brings new possibilities. One solution is in effect media literacy education which asks us to consider these key concepts:

  • All media messages are constructed.
  • Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.
  • Different people experience the same messages differently.
  • Media have embedded values and points of view.
  • Media messages are constructed to gain profit and/or power.

In understanding these concepts we can bring about the beginnings of a dialogue that we can all engage in especially as our society is mediated by various platforms and entities.

Yes, we live in troubling times, but we can effect change because what we say matters…it matters a lot.

Belinha S. De Abreu, PhD. is a global media literacy educator, and has served as an International Expert to the Forum on Media & Information Literacy for UNESCO’s Communication & Information Section.  She is the founder of the International Media Literacy Research Symposium which has been held in the USA and Portugal, and the author of Teaching Media Literacy (ALA: Neal-Schuman, 2019).

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