Social media literacy should be mandatory in UG curriculum

Prof (Dr) Mahul Brahma

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Gone are the days when literacy, the ability to read and write, was the only requirement in a civil society. Financial literacy, as well as technological literacy, have made their way into this world as basic needs. Small wonder that programs such as design thinking and venture ideation have made their way as part of the undergraduate curriculum in higher education institutes. 

In a world of information overload, there is a compulsion to react and keep reacting. The pace with which you are compelled to surf through the sea of information and data makes it easy to become a victim of reactions alone. In my seventh book Mostly Missing: Be Silly Be Slow I have dealt with this missing piece in our lives in detail. There is just no time to reflect, to become an original thinker. There is no time to take it slow and ponder – are we playing a pawn in a game designed to manipulate us, serving someone else’s agenda? 

Media Literacy is classically known as the “ability to analyze media messages” which is not only associated with interpreting the message but also helps the audience to take informed decisions on whether they should share the message or not with others. Fake news has become a serious concern and the situation worsens with people forwarding anything and everything on social media without even understanding the content most of the time.

This is where social media literacy plays a major role in informing people and making them understand how they should perceive a message. It is often noted by researchers that due to a lack of understanding people often share their personal details with hacking sites. On the other hand, there are some other groups of people who tend to share every forwarded message on WhatsApp, often leading to the spread of fake news. 

Media Literacy is mandatory for UG and PG students in the Media and Communication stream. It is high time that the programme is made mandatory for all first-year students of UG courses irrespective of the discipline. 

Along with Design Thinking, Venture Ideation and Entrepreneurship as a part of the New Education Policy (NEP 2020), Media Literacy should be introduced as a compulsory one credit course. This will help the students to understand and analyze media content - both written and visual - more effectively thereby making them more responsible while sharing forwarded messages. 

The programme is essential as it helps people understand the information that they are being bombarded with in real time. With numerous sources of information moment, Media Literacy can help people identify dependable sources and sludge through unwanted or unreliable sources of information. It can help people understand impulses in the media and how they may affect their perception of an event or issue.

By recognising those impulses, we can make opinions on how to respond to these occasionally emotive motifs rationally. Media Literacy can also be used to learn about new ideas, societies, and perspectives that may not have been preliminarily considered. Understanding media may help students do better at the academy or work because it will make it easier for them to analyse the recent trends in news related to their domain. It might also help people decide what they want to learn further about to fill in the gaps in knowledge the traditional media may have left out. 

Hence, along with the new progressive practises proposed by the New Education Policy, it is also important to recognise and implement a mandatory credit course on Media Literacy for all undergraduate students in the first year of their college. 

(With inputs from Ipsita Banerjee)

*Mahul Brahma is a Professor and Dean at Adamas University and Fellow, Bath Spa University, UK. He authored seven books including The Luxe Trilogy and The Mythic Value of Luxury.

**Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

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