While we recognize the limitations of any singular blog post’s ability to answer big questions like the ones we’re asking, our intention is not to tell you everything there is to know about this issue, but rather to open up a space for conversation, reflection, curiosity, and a consideration of all the other questions this one question sets in motion.
What is the impact of media on our lives?
Growing up as a(white cis-female) millennial it is hard to dispute the impact media has had and continues to have on my life. As a small child I would dance around my house singing Disney songs as an adolescent I found my personal style flipping through countless teen magazines; as a young adult I was an early adopter of social media; and as a woman in my 30s I have dedicated my life to the pursuit of creating a media literate society. I have sat crying as I watched unimaginable events play out in live time before my eyes and rejoiced as the diversity of messages and information has grown beyond the confines of one ideology.
Each moment of media consumption lays down a narrative or idea for me to follow that will either challenge or reinforce what I believe. From the Disney movies of my youth telling me to find my prince and live happily ever after, a narrative given to me I had to break, to the book White Fragility that was downright uncomfortable to read but helped me break free from many ideas that would keep me reinforcing white privilege. These narratives can take hold of us shaping our values and understandings of the world. This is happening to all of us each and every time we pick up the black mirror or flip on the black box.
I find it interesting that we equate our devices to voids, empty spaces designed to hook and grab our attention without requiring anything but our time to have access to an endless pool of thought. These pools, that are constantly being filled with the ideas of individual and collective consciousness, hold our past, present and visions of our future. At face value this sounds wonderful. Why wouldn’t constant connection to the globe and everyone in it be a good idea? Why wouldn’t we want unlimited free information just a query away? The optimist in me sees these spaces and marvels in their potential to connect us across space and time but the realist in me recognizes that this information ecosystem also holds the potential to cause great harm.
What happens when I only consume the hyper-curated and perfected imagery flooding the visual communication landscape? When I let those images develop my understanding of what is beautiful or not within myself? How warped does my perception of self become and how does that impact my idea of self worth and overall mental health?
What happens when I consume information that provides only one perspective? When I let the algorithms take the reins to what I will see? How siloed does that information pathway become and how does that limit my ability to form a fully informed decision?
What happens when these impacts spread from the individual to society?…
It is hard to imagine my life without media. I sometimes think wistfully about tossing my phone out the window and never looking back and I have found great peace in the days I disconnect digitally and focus completely on the physical world around me. But media has always been a part of my life and how I understand the world. From the books I read to the shows I watch with my kids, media is always there helping me to navigate this journey we call life.
And although I’m wary of those who are waging warfare on truth and weaponizing the dissemination of information through digital spaces I believe if we can focus on doing two things as we ingest media we may yet mend the divide. If we can approach information consumption with a critical eye and open mind while finding ways to communicate with curiosity and compassion to our fellow humans, maybe just maybe we can reap the benefits of instant access to information and connectivity across the globe.
We are all in this together, and I remain hopeful that together will we rise 🙌
actions to take
Reflect upon your own media consumption.
Seek information instead of letting the algorithm show you.
Disconnect from technology.
questions to consider
How is my mood affected by the information I consume?
What channels create positive moods and which create negative?
How diverse is the information I consume?
Where do I obtain most of my information from?
What information do I give value to by clicking on, liking or sharing?