How Digital Media is Evolving Literacy

It’s safe to say that, in 2014, we are living in a digital world. I really don’t need stats to prove that, but if you’re into that sort of thing: 

On Mobile, Tweets and Pins Thrive: Consumer Social Sharing Trends 2014 - #infographic #socialmedia

A Day in the Life of the Modern Smartphone User #Infographic

Now, with all of us actively engaging on some digital platform…what does that mean for literacy? How does this affect the way we read? This is an age-old question I’ve been posing since the birth of the digital world (which happened to be somewhere around the same time of my actual birth). I am a bibliophile; I’ve been reading since I could speak. Reading is a cathartic way to learn about yourself and the world around and outside of you. 

I can count on one hand the amount of people I know who enjoy reading let alone who can read above a proficient level. This is something that often terrifies me for two reasons:

1. Because, hello, reading is amazing, everyone should love it!

2. The level of literacy affects your life more than you think it does

The Most Powerful Weapon In The World Is The One 775 Million People Don’t Know How To Use

So with people barely bothering to pick up physical books or newspapers anymore, the Digital World has become a threat to Literacy which is an overall threat to humanity’s well-being and, therefore, we should cancel the internet, right? Wrong! 

Each day we are sharing an opinion on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, watching a video on YouTube or Vine, writing about our feelings on Tumblr and all of the other forms of digital media that exist. We are reading. These every day habitual activities are improving our analytic and critical thinking skills without us even realizing it. Not only are we sharing our opinion, but we are analyzing information being presented to us which is the very definition of reading/comprehension, just not in the traditional form of turning a page. 

Traditionally, literacy is more than the ability to read the word on the page, it is one’s ability to comprehend and analyze the message, but even that definition is evolving. In the article, Media Literacy: Media Literacy: A National Priority for a Changing World, authors Elizabeth Thoman and Jessa Jolls define literacy as not only being able to comprehend and analyze the message being presented, but to develop your own thoughts about what you’ve read.

“What is important is not so much the message itself as how we make sense of the message and by extension, of the mediated world around us” – Thoman, Jolls

Reading is no longer a stationary sport (or punishment, according to some people), it has now fully integrated itself into our everyday digital lives.  Thoman and  Jolls discuss this diversity when they highlight author Douglas Rushkoff’s idea that these new forms of reading are through a multitude of screens ” which they [screen-agers (those born into the digital world)] both access and manipulate in a constantly evolving stream of shared definition”.

You don’t even have to pick up a book to read! Now, while bibliophiles like me will always enjoy the feel of turning pages, this is great news for those who have viewed reading as “torturous,” “difficult,” and “boring” (not my words). So the next time someone tells you that you should get off the internet and pick up a book, tell them, “I am reading by consuming information being presented to me in a multimedia format and analyzing the messages to develop my own critical and analytic thinking skills” … or you can just refer them to this blog post. 

Read more of Elizabeth Thoman and Joll’s views on Media Literacy and it’s importance here

What are your thoughts on digital media’s impact on literacy?


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