The era of social media is only about 20 years old. But a Western Michigan University journalism professor says it's already changing our brains. Sue Ellen Christian writes about that in her new book, Everyday Media Literacy: An Analog Guide to Your Digital Life (Routledge, 2019).
"Research shows that we are being trained to be distracted. We are training our brains to flip from one thing to another. And all of these distractions make it hard for our brains to figure out what's relevant."
Christian also says people need to become more skeptical about what they read online.
"An astounding number of people share articles that they've never read. A headline is not the article. So, if you really cared enough about it to share it, read beyond the headline."
Going further, Christian says everyone should make an effort to break free of "confirmation bias" by seeking out news and viewpoints different from their own. She says one good way to do that is to visit a website called All Sides.
"It actually does the work for you. It says, 'Here's what the left-leaning media is saying about this particular topic; here's what the right-leaning media is saying about this particular topic."
Christian says "media literacy" skills are for everyone, not just younger people, and include thinking before posting on social media.
"It can really derail a career, a great start, because of a foolish post, or thinking, 'Of course people know me. Of course, they're going to understand the tone with which I meant this funny meme or this little quip.' Part of media literacy is understanding that not everybody interprets the message the way that you do."
Christian will talk about her book and issues involved with media literacy on Thursday, January 23, at 7 p.m. at This is a Bookstore on Oakland Drive in Kalamazoo.