MEDIA AND INFORMATION LITERACY: A 21ST CENTURY APPROACH TO WELLNESS
Webster University (UNITED STATES)
Today’s world is flush with information. We are consuming and creating information at a rapid pace, and it’s never been more difficult to determine what is real, meaningful, valid or true.
Concurrently, instances of anxiety, depression, obesity and diabetes are on the rise. In 2017 researchers from Harvard concluded that a subject’s likelihood of clinical depression could be predicted by an analysis of their Instagram posts (Reece, Danforth 2017). University of Pittsburgh researchers determined the quantity of social media platforms related to the subject’s likelihood of depression (Primack, Shensa, Escobar-Viera, Barrett, Sidani, Colditz and James 2017). Social media use can be shown to increase anxiety during breaking news events, echoing Gerbner’s “Mean World Syndrome” theory (Nowak, 2017).
Could teaching students to evaluate advertisements, analyze news formats, understand the media’s economic structure and their role within it affect their overall wellness?
I propose that the relationship between media consumption and well-being be studied more rigorously. In addition, I propose media and information literacy education be implemented to positively affect overall student wellness. Media and information literacy is a 21st Century Survival Skill – necessary to navigate the digital world in 2018
Numerous global examples of positive outcomes from media literacy efforts show promise. Media literacy education in Taiwan has been found to positively affect the food buying choices of students (Liao, Lai, Chang, Lee, 2017). Implementing media literacy strategies with adolescents in Hungary resulted in lower rates of tobacco use (Page, Piko, Balazs 2010).
This paper will examine the connection between media literacy education - the critical evaluation of media messages – and overall wellness. Can learning how the media function affect our physical, mental and emotional health? How do the media construct knowledge about our own health? How often do we self-reflect on our own lack of knowledge in understanding media when making health related life-style choices?
This paper will also argue for the need to create stronger research relationships between health awareness and media literacy efforts, which can boost one’s critical thinking defense against harmful media messages.
 Liao, Li-Ling, et al. “Effects of a Food Advertising Literacy Intervention on Taiwanese Children’s Food Purchasing Behaviors.” Health Education Research, vol. 31, no. 4, 2016, pp. 509–520., doi:10.1093/her/cyw025.
 Nowak, Peter. “The Rise of Mean World Syndrome in Social Media.” Globe and Mail, 6 Nov. 2014.
Page, Randy M, et al. “Media Literacy and Cigarette Smoking in Hungarian Adolescents.” Health Education Journal, vol. 70, no. 4, 2010, pp. 446–457., doi:10.1177/0017896910379692.
 Primack, Brian A., et al. “Use of Multiple Social Media Platforms and Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Nationally-Representative Study among U.S. Young Adults.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 69, 2017, pp. 1–9., doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.11.013.
 Reece, Andrew G, and Christopher M Danforth. “Erratum to: Instagram Photos Reveal Predictive Markers of Depression.” EPJ Data Science, vol. 6, no. 1, 2017, doi:10.1140/epjds/s13688-017-0118-4.