How do we navigate a world in which we’re saturated with media?
We do this by keeping God at the center of all things first, and taking extra time to discern what we are consuming and what we are sharing with others.
This week in the Review, Sister Nancy Usselmann, a Daughter of St. Paul and a media literacy education specialist, said that we must bring Gospel values and the example of Jesus into everything that we consume through media — whether that’s a news publication, social media or everyday communication with others. Keeping the faith perspective at the forefront is part of what she called “media mindfulness.”
We must take a multi-step approach and listen, reflect, dialogue and act — all of which help us to go deeper as we ask critical questions of our experiences with media.
It seems that many of us find ourselves in conflict with one another, especially on social media. But we often find that the conflict originates in our own hearts. We need to look for resolution there first. We must remember that God is the ultimate author of our lives, and that no two people are the same. We come to the truth that God writes upon our hearts in different times and in different ways.
In a letter to members of the Catholic Press Association, Pope Francis wrote that “all communication has its ultimate source in the life of the triune God, who shares with us the richness of His divine life and calls us in turn to communicate that treasure to others by our unity in the service of his truth.”
He wrote that we need media that are capable of “building bridges, defending life and breaking down the walls, visible and invisible, that prevent sincere dialogue and truthful communication between individuals and communities. We need media that can help people, especially the young, to distinguish good from evil, to develop sound judgments based on a clear and unbiased presentation of the facts, and to understand the importance of working for justice, social concord and respect for our common home.”
Julie Smith, a faculty member at Webster University in St. Louis and an expert and author on the topic of media literacy, said that being media literate means being critical consumers of media. “It’s not about hating the media — it’s about recognizing that since we spend so much time consuming media messages, they warrant thoughtful discussion and reflection,” she wrote in this week’s edition.
In our consumption of media, including social media, we tend to congregate with others who think, feel, vote and believe the same way we do, Smith noted. And, we are less likely to check messages for authenticity if they affirm our already-held beliefs.
“Just as we listen for God’s voice to discern His will for us, we must carefully listen to the messages the media tell us to discern their impact on us,” Smith wrote.
By being more discerning in our consumption of media and communications, we are not only doing ourselves a favor, but ultimately we stay grounded in the fact that all truth comes from God, the ultimate communicator.