Media literacy, not literacy literacy. I cannot help but noticing how prevalent it is among Millennials and Gen Z, who are arguably the biggest internet consumers.
Okay, I am not saying that we are one hundred percent literate in the media. We are not. But, compared to the older generations -who consume the internet a lot less-, we are far less easily duped by internet content.
We are more reactive to clickbaits and we have great eyes for photoshopped images. We also can get belittling and even hostile towards ‘fakeness’.
Yes, my words are anecdotal. But, the generational disparity is hard to ignore and I had been noticing this for quite a while; I was even more convinced of its existence after watching a Danny Gonzalez video, in which he doctored his own photo to make himself look like someone else and his Instagram followers immediately knew it was photoshopped. He succeeded only after an impressively-meticulous planning.
(Note: I have to mention that the much younger internet consumers are also relatively gullible. But then, it has less about their internet experiences and more about having less developed brains.)
Personally I credit our relatively high media literacy to four factors:
1. The participatory nature of internet cultures
Unlike ‘traditional’ media, the digital one allows its consumers to be its content creators as well and many embrace the opportunity.
Inevitably, many internet consumers know the behind-the-scenes process of content creation; they have learned how to doctor images, edit videos, do sound design and write scripts and/or blogs.
2. The unintentionally educational nature of certain content
Some Youtubers I have watched love to make videos about having fun with photoshopping. Those who make commentaries constantly call out deceptiveness of online content creators; sometimes, even ‘traditional’ media is not free from their ‘wrath’.
Consequentially, many of their viewers will end up becoming more vigilant for doctored images and overtly-manipulative choices of words, video editing and sound design, even without any prior experiences in said activities.
If you are a Twosetviolin viewer (or one of a similar channel), you would probably be able to detect fake musical performances in films and TV shows, even without any prior experiences in musical performances.
3. The awareness about public personas
Youtube fans are becoming more cognisant about public personas.
They know how Youtubers behave on camera do not always represent their true selves and they have learned to differentiate the masks from the true faces. The fact that some Youtubers constantly switch personas in the same videos force viewers to be attentive of the behavioural changes.
Yes, idiots who easily fall for personas still exist. But, I notice their presence has waned for the past few years.
4. The embrace of irony and post-irony
I previously said that internet consumers can be hostile towards ‘fakeness’. Well, that is not entirely accurate.
‘Enjoying things ironically’ is a thing and online, it is very widespread. It is socially acceptable to enjoy things because they are aesthetically-bad and, consequentially, some content creators love making content that is meant to be enjoyed ironically.
Scripted vlogs are one of those ironically enjoyable things.
Vlogs are meant to be unscripted accounts of the Youtubers’ lives and any scripted moments easily stand out, thanks to their glaringly plastic quality. But, as long as the creators do not claim their works to be factual, the viewers will be able to enjoy the artificiality.
Post-ironic content is as popular as the ironic one, if not more. While it still involves irony, it also thrives to blur the lines between it and sincerity, forcing the viewers to work harder to separate the two.
I was introduced to the concept of post-irony by Youtuber Nerd City, who asserted that post-ironic aesthetic on Youtube was meant to defy the saccharine and overtly-manufactured one approved by the Youtube establishment. While I was never a fan of creators like Filthy Frank due to the borderline transgressive nature of their works, I cannot help myself from holding their rebellious intent in high esteem.
Obviously, you don’t have to turn future generations into internet addicts. Schools can simply start teaching basic communication and media skills.
The problem is I don’t know which specific skills that should be taught and how they can be integrated into existing curricula. I am also unsure about the necessity of theoretical media studies in this case.
Oh, and I doubt many will acknowledge the importance of media literacy. Persuasion is also an issue.
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