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Gain media literacy

Understand the meaning of messages given out by the media

education Updated: Jun 28, 2011 17:13 IST

The media has a significant influence on us. Each of us uses it in one way or the other. It is necessary that one learns how to understand the meaning of the messages given out by the media, and analyse and use them in a way that benefits our growth and development. Being media-literate is essential in today’s day and age. The following basic guidelines can help us.

1 Balance your media diet: Balance is the key to life. This balance needs to be across all aspects of our lives, including the kind of television programmes we watch. This would imply that whereas one may be consistently watching serials or a particular genre of television, it is more important to balance it out by watching other types of media as well such as sports and news, to name a few.

2 Differentiate fact from fiction: What is shown is not always the reality. Some things get exaggerated and some things are played down. One needs to be able to understand the difference between what is a fact and what may be a fiction.

3 Look for logical explanation: A lot of times, we may get swayed by what is shown on TV and start taking everything at face value. It is necessary that instead of blindly believing all that is said or shown, one questions and looks for an explanation about them.

4 Never imitate: Imitation is not the most mature response. Simply mimicking what another person does on TV is not the most prudent way to lead one’s life.

Instead, learn to think for yourself and do things according to your understanding of situations.

5 Look for alternative views: Life is not all black and white. Everything cannot be thought of from a singular view. It is important to look for alternative perspectives and explanations for the same thing.

6 Ask yourself ‘why this’: We question people. We question motives. Then why not what we watch or are exposed to by the media? Learn to question. Questioning what one is being exposed helps one better understand the reasons for the same.

7 Always look for the hidden beneficiary: Things are not always the way they appear to be. A number of times, there are hidden beneficiaries who may be significantly benefiting from what is being shown and exposed to you. But knowing that these exist and that they have a bearing on one's life is very important to be able to make prudent decisions and choices.

8 Discuss media-related experiences with others: If you are to validate the meaning and interpretations of what you are being exposed to, it’s crucial to discuss what you watch or listen to. Talking with your friends and other adults around you would help you gain an alternative perspective to the very things you may think you know well. This would enable you to expand your horizons and knowledge base as well.

9 Balance time with variety of activities: Time is precious and it need not always be spent being engaged with different types of media. Expose yourself to different activities. Try and balance your time by getting involved in various things such that you have well-rounded, holistic personality.

10 Learn to de-glamorise: A lot of things are packaged and presented to us in a manner that makes them irresistible to us. We feel instinctively drawn to them and want to be similar to them. But de-glamorising them is an absolute must so that one can see them for what they are and not just what they may be purported to be.

The author is a psychiatrist, and chief, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Healthcare