media literacy, Social media

What is media literacy?

In its basic form, media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms. We hear too much banter about “fake news” and fake websites and journalists who are biased. As a communication assistant professor who teaches aspiring journalists, let me first make a few things clear:

1) Unless you’re working for biased media companies (yeah, I’m calling you out, Fox News, but there are liberal biased media companies, as well), most journalists are trained to be unbiased. TRAINED. Doesn’t mean they like a story they’re covering, but it means they have the education to cover it objectively.

2) Additionally, your local news reporters, your local beat reporters, are probably the most unbiased out of the bunch. They’re probably the ones you get the most objective news from.

3) You as a consumer probably don’t wholly understand your own biases. You see something that maintains your viewpoint on the world, and you are more likely to believe it’s true. Unless you understand your own worldview and biases and are willing to go research on your own from time to time, you’re much more likely to believe fake news.

Media illiteracy has become such a worldwide problem that educators are starting to introduce this concept into classrooms. I don’t even have to address the problem we have in America. It’s evident everywhere.

Before we go further, check out this NPR link and game Factitious. See how you score.

Okay, back? How’d you do?

I teach an entire course on media literacy. It’s a trickier concept that you might think, but, if you are willing and interested in becoming more media literate, here are three tips to help you get started (and signing up for my class can be the fourth one):

1) What are they selling?

Everything you see in the media is selling something, and it may not be for a monetary value. Is it your vote? Is it your action? Is it your opinion? Ads are easy, but TV shows, columns and editorials, photos – everyone is trying to make you pay attention. If they’ve got your focus, you need to ask yourself why.

2) Who is profiting?

Which big media outlet is profiting? What politician is profiting? What happens if you believe/say/buy/vote a certain way? What does that company or that individual gain? What can you watch or support locally or through a grassroots campaign?

3) RESEARCH.

Why, oh, why does everyone hate research so much? It makes you understand the world around you so much better! You don’t even have to go to a library – just go to the Internet on your phone! If you see a story, “500 million immigrants to arrive in New Orleans” and you’re like, “OH MY GOSH! No, my world is coming to an end!” (which, to be honest, I probably need to have a heart-to-heart with you if that’s the case, but that’s beside the point), do a few things: look to see if a) it’s a legit news source (websites such as 965WKESnews.com are pretty easy to come by and are NOT REAL NEWS – I literally just made that one up); b) when it was published (as in last night or three years ago); and c) is any other news outlet in the area covering it? If not, it may be not real.

There, three easy suggestions to help you not fall for fake news. Because, really, when you post something on social media, the last thing you want to happen is someone to say, “Um…you know this is a hoax, right?”

Or, even worse – for you to inadvertently spread false information to others.

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Tweetbook

Five messages.
Eight notifications.
Thirty-four “my network” things. Whatever that is.

I cannot express how little I use LinkedIn – well, maybe those above semi-sentences just did. And I should. I really should, if for no other reason than I flipping teach social media, and LinkedIn is just a teensy bit of an important social media networking tool. You know, maybe just a little.

I don’t remember why I originally joined LinkedIn. I am really happy at my current job, which is something not a lot of people can say. So I wouldn’t have opened an account to search for new job connections (unless I was on one of my “WHY DO POLITICIANS KEEP SCREWING OVER LOUISIANA EDUCATION” kicks, which has occurred from time to time – see this link, this link, and this link for just a few recent examples). But LinkedIn is actually a very important tool, even for people like me, who are happy with what they do.

LinkedIn allows you to make connections with people who are in similar businesses with you. For me, as an educator, that is invaluable. Not only can I talk with fellow higher education professionals about what books they’re using, what service-learning projects they enjoy, and what new research they’re doing, but I can also make connections with people in the communication field, who would be able to help my students with internships and jobs.

My SM toys of choice are Facebook (because I’m old), Instagram (because I like pictures), and Twitter (why, oh, why?). I don’t use any of them really to aid in my occupational connections – not intentionally, at least.

But I do – quite accidentally, really. I tweet and retweet information that is important to my students and my colleagues – and occasionally some smart aleckness or quip about my kids. Because everyone is more than what he or she does at work – we are full, well-rounded individuals with families, with hobbies, with favorite foods, and with interests other than simply what we get paid to do.

So that’s why I chose my main three. It’s not for occupational connections, though I do have those. It’s for the original reason of social media: to stay in touch.

And, as we all get older (because it does happen, daily), it’s always good to keep up-to-speed with the changing technology – not just for ourselves, though that’s important, but when The Artist comes home in ten years and tells me she started a “Flickbook” account, I want to know what it is, how to use it, and to get my own account. Not to be a helicopter parent, but because if I don’t understand the technology as an adult, she as a teenager without the wisdom that comes with age and experience, won’t know either.

Plus, technology has offered us a wide range of communication tools. And if I don’t know how to use the technology, I won’t know what’s real news – and what’s fake news. But we’ll talk about fake news and media literacy next Monday.

Dementia

Helping those who help

My dad suffered from dementia for three years. During that time, I watched my mom slowly transform from just a wife to a wife and a caregiver. In case you’re wondering, that’s a crappy position to be in.

As my dad worsened, my mom, who was still working as an elementary school teacher at the time, had to hire someone to stay with my dad during the day while she worked. The caregiver had to arrive at 6:30 a.m. so my mom could make it to school in time, and then she would rush home for the caregiver to leave at 4 p.m. She had to carefully schedule all of her errands, such as medicine pick up, getting gas, and getting groceries, because, toward the end, Dad had to have 24/7 care.

I’ve had friends and other family members who have dealt with similar issues, whether it be caring for an ailing parent or other family member or dealing with personal longsuffering. And, while I personally haven’t been a caregiver, I have seen basic needs that we all could meet.

Just show up. There’s an insightful book by the same name that documents two friends as one of them suffered and eventually died from cancer. And the point of that book was simply just to show up. Just go for a visit. Call. Text. Especially for someone who is dealing with long-term suffering, it is a blessing to realize you haven’t been forgotten. That your loved one hasn’t been forgotten. And when you show up…

Mind your manners. Read this article. No, seriously, go right now and read it. Because I can’t sum it up better.

Bring food. Maybe it’s because I really like to eat, but some of the sweetest moments in dealing with Dad’s dementia was when I would have really hard, long days and friends would bring over dinner to me and my family. They wouldn’t even give me an option other than, “What time do you want dinner?” That was such a blessing during days when I had driven two hours or three hours to spend all day at the hospital with him.

Offer something specific. “Just Show Up” mentions this, but don’t be vague with your offers to help. Yes, it’s nice to say, “Whatever you need, let me know,” but it’s a lot easier if you are specific with what you can help with. “I’ll babysit your kids tomorrow so you can go to the grocery store.” OR “I’ll pick up your groceries for you.” Sometimes the caregiver can’t think of what he or she needs or feels awkward asking for things such as childcare or groceries. So spell it out yourself. And always…

Pray. I can’t make a list of needs without including this, because we all need to pray. Continually. Throughout our day. In the shower. In the car. As our kids are running around the house with popsicles (or is that just mine?). Pray daily for those who are suffering, who you may not see regularly because they can’t come to church or go shopping or work anymore. Keep praying.

If you have any suggestions, too, please share!

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He’s getting older…

My main squeeze got a little closer to 40 this week.

Three years ago, we signed papers on our current house on his birthday. Two years ago, we had just brought a newborn baby home. So I wrote some smart aleck comment on Facebook saying, “Last year, I bought you a house; this year, I gave you a baby; next year, I’m just getting you a card.”

Well – I apparently prophesize because the next year, inadvertently, I got Kyle a card – with a personal note from his favorite meteorologist.

This year – this year I have been lax. We purchased each other new light fixtures for the house (#adulting) for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and he bought himself some fancy new cooking equipment “from me” for his birthday. I would tell you what it is, but it sounds French, and I only took Spanish, so I wouldn’t even begin to know how to spell it.

But because he is awesome, I wanted to dedicate this blog to him with the top 5 birthday memories (not just his birthday, either!) I have over the years we have been together. Therefore, in no particular order…

  1. The Artist’s First Birthday
    The week of our firstborn’s first birthday was hard. SO hard. My dad had broken his hip and was in a hospital three hours away. But we had friends and family members who stepped up and turned The Artist’s party into this magical wonderland. We had her party at a park near our house, and watching Kyle walk up the street with her in the stroller with balloons was so beautiful.
  2. The SS Beach Birthday
    Kyle gets the best birthday parties ever (you’ll see in a minute), and I think The Engineer will get some of these perks of being a summer baby, too. Somehow, during many times in our marriage, we ended up going on vacation on or very close to Kyle’s birthday. This one particular year, we went with our Sunday School class to Hot Springs and rented a houseboat. That was fun enough, but then Kyle received a call that he passed his master’s comprehensive exams, too. Winning birthday that year.
  3. His 21st birthday
    For Kyle’s 21st, I blindfolded him and had his friends spray silly string all over him. It may not have been his favorite birthday, but it was one of mine.
  4. His 30th birthday
    I planned another surprise party for his 30th, and it was fabulous. Not only did we have a surprise party, but also I made a video of 30 people giving 30 different memories about him. What makes this one stick out is that some of those individuals have died since then, and having them on film wishing Kyle a happy birthday is so special.
  5. My 21st birthday
    So this is one story we like to tell over and over. We had just gotten engaged the week before my birthday – and he basically forgot my birthday in all the excitement of the engagement. So to make it up, he rushed to Walmart and bought me an iron (no, no, I’m serious) and a card and wrote, “You iron out the wrinkles in my heart.” I can’t EVEN roll my eyes hard enough. But it does make my top five list.

Happy birthday, love! Whether it’s with cards, houses, kids, or irons, I’m so glad I get to spend all the birthdays with you.