Self Help

Courageous Conversations: Social Media and Self-Help

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Part of self-help means getting the information you need to make decisions about the world around us. But the multitude of media sources we have to choose from can actually make things more difficult. In addition to legitimate media outlets competing for our attention, we’re bombarded with information that can look like news, but is designed more to promote a cause or organization than it is to enlighten. So how do we become more media literate—better able to discern between what is news and what is noise? Well there are now apps and experts to help guide the way.

Drury University Communication Professor Jonathan Groves has some initial advice: “get off Facebook!”

He’s kidding, at least to some extent. But there’s a kernel of truth to the notion that the Facebook newsfeed has fanned the flames of media illiteracy.

Facebook isn’t the only such site to do this, but it’s the one with the largest reach.

In our interview, Groves cut right to heart of the matter to improve media literacy for everyone.

“When you look at your media diet, what you want to do is look at yourself first. So understand what do you bring to the table as the consumer of these media stories and media sites. What are the things that make you afraid? What are the things that upset you? What are the things that make you angry? Because, news is going to make you angry and afraid and activate emotions. And when your emotions are activated, you tend to be less rationale as you’re consuming news.”

But that sounds like Groves is asking people to play Socrates with themselves. Figure out what motivates them, the whole “know thyself” idea. People have things to do, right? They have to go places. They don’t have time to think through all these things about themselves, or do they?

“Exactly. I’m assigning homework. And that’s why we take the easy way out in our news consumption. But if you’re serious about not being manipulated, and you’re serious about understanding the landscape and understanding news, you have to go through this process,” Groves replied.

There’s that really cool graphic that situates all of the active media sources, which Groves has reservations about.

“I like it. What I like is I like the framework. I don’t like, necessarily, the one that went viral on the web. And the reason why that’s an issue is because not everyone is going to have the same grid.”

So what can you do now to punch up your media literacy? One approach is to get news from apps that aggregate stories from a range of sources. The Smart News app is one example.

According to Groves, “There’s another site that’s called all sides, which is basically trying to identify here’s a take from the left, here’s a take from the center, here’s a take from the right, and you can look at all three stories. We’re still running into the same problem of that’s a lot of reading to do, right? We’re busy people. We don’t, unless we’re heavily invested in the topic, we’re probably not going to take the time to dig into it.”

Okay, first thing on the road to improved media literacy is to download one of these aggregator apps.

The next thing is to know thyself.

Groves offered, “If you know you’re only spending 30 seconds on a topic, and you’re not an expert on it, you shouldn’t be making judgments about it.”

Good advice for boosting media literacy, which makes for real self-help in this fast paced world.

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