Thinking about what to write for this first blog post was difficult in that there are so many perspectives and snippets from readings to guide which form it will take and considerations of where I’ve been and where I’m at in terms of media literacy. Yet, this is the great complexity of an individual’s media literacy journey; what one person focuses on, another will ignore. This is to say that what we choose to focus on and ignore, like Potter’s supermarket analogy, forms our unconscious (and conscious, I would argue) media literacy processing levels. This notion will make for such a wide variety of blog posts from the 832 crew this week. Okay, let’s get into what form it took for me…
It was my first year of university when I signed up for the media game-changer: Facebook. I didn’t put much stake into signing up for something like Facebook because I was obviously media illiterate and immature, although I do credit my typing skills to my excessive use of MSN Messenger. No one in school had taught me to critically think about my digital identity or being a responsible digital citizen. Much like Chat GPT is the topic of conversation right now, Facebook became the topic of conversation in most of my circles as it gained momentum, including in my Ed classes. Specifically, we were encouraged as we entered the professional world to delete any negative aspects of our past so as to not ruin the polished reputation a teacher should have in order to avoid public and student scrutiny. The ‘message’, as defined by McLuhan, became clear to my classmates; in addition to hiding our past or current selves that didn’t meet the mold of who a teacher should be online, it shifted to making ourselves hard to find (the classic first and middle name only so students couldn’t search us). Fast forward at the speed of technological advancement to 2023 where I have multiple social media accounts including for different aspects of my life (teaching vs. non-teaching, etc.) and the message, for me personally, has evolved along with the integration of media in daily life. In another ed tech course I took recently, something that has stuck in my brain and has changed how I choose to use social media is that instead of fearing that a student might find strategically camouflaged Waldo (their teacher) on the internet, use the position of being a teacher to have a digital, vast-reaching voice. Now that is an advanced socially responsible level of media literacy development (p. 32) piece of advice if I ever heard one!
This is not to say that I don’t grapple with the role media plays in my life and those I am surrounded by. I really struggle with the automaticity (pp. 7-8) of media in my daily life; I like being in-the-know, but I dislike the unconscious reliance. There is an actual order of things I check on my phone when I wake up and before bed – I’m not the only one, right?! Because of this internal struggle to reclaim independence of media (to a certain degree) and her sociologist perspective of media, the Sherry Turkle TED talk really resonated with me.
For example, I am very conscious to not be on my phone while in a space (conversation, meeting, visit, etc.) to send the message that the person/meeting/visit is most important in that moment. For me, this is a message of respect, focus, and interest. However, I have gained the perspective through secondhand experience that it is not always a lack of manners when someone is doing so; perhaps they are adding an event from the staff meeting into their calendar on their phone, checking for scheduling conflicts, cross-referencing info, etc. While those are etiquette issues, I also still hold some spaces as sacred no-phone zones, as Turkle mentions, like the dinner table or when playing with my kids (other than to snap a quick photo or video of them) because children will do what they see and when the eventually get phones themselves I would like to instill that unconscious behaviour.
SIDE BAR: I recently saw a Tik Tok of Elon Musk explaining if a meeting isn’t meaningful or someone isn’t contributing then they should leave. Thought it was an interesting and obviously differing perspective than mine in my thoughts above.
I also share in Turkle’s worry that constant connection and dependency on phones/media is minimizing our ability to relate to ourselves. When did we become incapable of being bored or completing a single event of media exposure versus the multitasking of 3 hours of exposure in 1 (p. 5)?? For example, being on maternity leave I have to visit the doctor fairly frequently for check ups, shots, etc. and one thing I always notice while sitting in the waiting room is the majority of people hyper-focused on their phones. I will defend all the teenagers I teach that ageism targets for this behaviour and say that they are not the only ones who have lost the ability to sit in nothingness, a seemingly lost skill/ability.
Turkle’s TED talk brings up many societal issues that I frequently wonder about and am interested in. Listening to her and noticing the publishing date of the video, I wondered what she thinks of all of this now, 11 years after this TED talk. So, I took advantage of my immediate access to media, and I watched a few more of her videos on Youtube, focusing on more recent ones like this one. I was pleasantly surprised that although the media and societal examples included were more up to date, her concepts/topics stand as strong as they did 11 years ago.
On the whole, with every historical media advancement, fear has been easy to stir up in the public in terms of what that advancement will be capable of, how it will change society, and what it will replace. This is why change happens so slowly – society cannot handle such rapid change. This is interesting to consider when looking at modern media advancements and the exponential rate at which they grow and how perhaps that rather than the media itself it the reason for behavioural changes that seemingly are mutually exclusive with such ever-evolving advancements. In other words, we are glitching because our processing speed cannot keep up to the rate of advancement, it is not the advancements that are the issue. Just a theory! Ultimately, I won’t let the historic pattern of fear mongering dictate my every move with media, professionally or personally, rather I will navigate in a way that works for me to adapt to constant changes as a way to keep my mind sharp.
To close, in my perspective and what I observe language-wise professionally and personally (because as an English teacher and with kids in the language acquisition phase I am always thinking about this), I am with Lunford on this one (p. 17). Sorry Sutherland, but the ‘media has negatively changed language’ argument has been proven wrong by this post alone; I have been concise in that text references/allusions have been simply linked rather than explained, yet there was no problem with expansive language!
Feel free to share thoughts/comments/questions/alternate perspectives!