DON’T UNDERESTIMATE MEDIA LITERACY
AVIDEO that went viral recently showed a man driving a white Toyota Camry honking continuously because his vehicle was blocked by other cars parked outside a mosque.
A group later confronted the driver, hitting and kicking his vehicle. One person was repeatedly hitting the driver with a red traffic cone while others called for calm. The incident was shocking and evident of society’s low level of tolerance.
This issue has been debated on social media and continues to garner numerous comments from Netizens who questioned the concept of unity and condemned politicians.
This is not the first time such an incident has happened and gone viral. Some incidents were misinterpreted by society in the absence of validation and clarification.
Two important factors play a significant role in this issue: first, the manner in which news organisations opt to deliver their stories and, second, when the news is enhanced with the use of social media, the impact is higher to promote hatred against politicians and political parties, while also posing a threat to race and religion.
This case clearly shows the power of social media to convey, disseminate and allow an issue to go “viral”. Society should be media-literate. Media literacy refers to the ability to access, understand, analyse and assess the content of a message or information. It is also closely connected to maturity in handling various media platforms. Maturity is needed in each individual to sieve through the information to gauge its accuracy.
Before we take in any news item or issue, it is highly recommended that we track the sources of the information as well as the agenda behind it. A good level of media literacy can assist society in comparing news items and issues by referring to valid sources before making assumptions or being judgmental, especially on sensitive and political matters.
There is no doubt that the media and information and communications technology move quickly alongside a variety of social media platforms, which also allow for the availability of very distinct contents to be shared among Netizens.
However, the complexity of the contemporary media environment is becoming more difficult to assess due to the freedom of expression through social media. Social media is also an instrument to deceive the people, for instance, a handful of people who thought that they had become “poor ” due to rising prices of cooking oil, as seen in the recent issue that went viral and hit us by storm on social media. People no longer solely rely on mainstream media but favour social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
We cannot underestimate the fact that the revolution or the rise of Arab Spring in the Middle Eastern countries are mainly due to the rising wave and influence of social media. The speed with which information is obtained on social media, including its “sensationalism”, is hard to resist and needs to be addressed accordingly.
Social media is beneficial if used wisely. This is where media literacy plays a role so that people will have the knowledge to differentiate between good and bad information.
The need to identify whether it is primary, secondary or tertiary source should assist people in handling social media. This ability to track down the sources of information could prevent people from blindly believing a piece of news, and worse, sharing it.
DR SARA CHINNASAMY
Political analyst/social media scholar, UiTM Shah Alam, Selangor