It’s 6:15 a.m. when I am awakened by the tone of my iPhone. My day begins with a quick e-mail check on my phone, where emails from six different accounts are collected. I check my phone calendar for daily appointments. Before I dress for my day, I also check the local weather forecast to help guide my early decisions. This is the start of a long day where technology is woven into each part.
These communication technologies that have integrated media into our daily lives are part of a long string of advancements with similar impact. The development of the printing press in 1450 resulted in increased literacy, followed by newspapers in in the 1600s that empowered people through shared information and transformed public opinion (Kovach & Rosensteil, 2010). The expansion of the telegraph was the first step to distribute this information in real time (Kovach & Rosensteil, 2010). New media follows this same path, shaping public opinion, but also has enabled individuals to share ideas instantly rather than relying on messaging from corporate news outlets. It may even increase media literacy as consumers become more aware of inaccurate information being distributed. I recognize that the media is a powerful influence on people, and as a 21st-century media participant, I don’t take this responsibility lightly.
I approach media with intention. To be informed, I check local news sites at breakfast to learn of any recent developments. On my way to work, I listen to music or National Public Radio, depending on my mood. I rarely watch TV, which used to leave me feeling depressed and as if I had lost big chunks of time. I found that I was happier when I didn’t turn on the TV to pass time, but rather purposely watched something specific, which I do several times per month. Netflix and podcasts are wonderful things because I can watch or listen to a favorite show at a time that is convenient for me.
I scroll through my Facebook news feed several times a day—mostly as a way to connect with family and friends, but also to spark new ideas. I might come across a new recipe or be enlightened by an opinion on a current issue. Media plays a role in influencing my perspective, but as a person who asks lots of questions, no one source is ever enough for me. Whether I discover an interesting news story from a coworker, a radio broadcast, or a friend’s Facebook post, I dig deeper by using the Internet to search for more information and to substantiate what I have learned.
As a big believer in experiential learning, I’ve always enjoyed traveling to new places—local and abroad—to expose myself to different cultures, which has enhanced my life by offering me new perspectives. In this regard, new media has widened my world even further, and personal stories impact me the most. Through podcasts, such as The Moth and This American Life, and citizen journalist news sites, such as Global Voices and Humans of New York, I’ve absorbed narratives about people that are very different from myself, and learned from their experiences. The stories—even when sad—are meaningful and have a positive impact. Something can always be learned, and awareness is the first step in solving problems in the world—both big and small. Media and my personal experiences together shape my beliefs, which continue to evolve.
As a glass-half-full type, I work diligently to try to make my role in media a positive and insightful one. I do not have grand ambitions to change the world, but if I help only a few people to think differently—stepping back to look at a new perspective or being more aware of an issue—then it is worth the effort.
Global Voices. [Website]. Retrieved from https://globalvoices.org/
Humans of New York. [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.humansofnewyork.com/
Kovach, B., & Rosensteil, T. (2010). Blur: How to know what’s true in the age of information overload. NY: Bloomsbury USA.
The Moth. [Website]. Retrieved from http://themoth.org/stories
This American Life. [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.thisamericanlife.org/