3 Mediactive takeaways from Quinlyn’s grandma
Hello all! My name is Quinlyn and you might recognize me from one of my other blog posts or my teaching assistant bio for the Mediactive course. Over the past few months, I’ve been working with the News Co/Lab to produce content for and edit the MOOC. Naturally, I’ve also talked about this work with my family members, and they decided they wanted to get involved too!
We’re kicking off Week 1 with my grandmother, Mimi, who just turned 80 last month. She’s been interested in technology for years — she even owned one of the first personal computers. She chats with her family and friends on Facebook and is currently learning how to use Instagram to post pictures of her cooking and artwork.
She took two modules of the course (so far) and I sat down to chat with her about her takeaways.
1. Becoming aware of misinformation
“The first thing I realized was that my level of awareness about misinformation had gone up immediately,” she said. “And being given SIFT as a way to check the information I was reading gave me a way to deal with it.”
She also completed one of the main activities of the course, the 24-hour media diet. In this activity, you keep track of your media intake for 24 hours to determine what you engage with and why. She said, “Keeping a diary of my own media use helped me understand not only all the different media I use in 24 hours, but that media influences and affects my life every day.”
2. Rethinking the “Grandmother Situation”
In the course, we discuss something called the “Grandmother Situation” — older media users’ tendency to share bogus information without vetting it. Naturally, I was curious as to what my own grandmother would think about this.
“Older folks already feel somewhat intimidated by a lot of what goes on and should be educated before the fact so that they don’t feel that they’ve done something wrong. It’s more a matter of understanding [than posting incorrect information on purpose]. Social media especially is an ‘in your face’ kind of experience, and many older folks that I know can’t take or won’t take that kind of hit on what they sense is their personal space.
I think that most older people don’t have an interest in all the information on social media partly because there is so much that is either untrue or hyperbole. They also don’t think it adds anything to their life. But a lot of social media is not only entertaining, but broadens their world in a way that nothing else can.”
So, how can we help older people with social media?
“I think the battle is to get younger family members to encourage them to be on social media and to hang in there with their efforts until they can see the value of being in touch with their loved ones online.”
3. Exploring how trust in media has evolved
One of the biggest topics Mimi brought up was trust: “The practice of sharing media with others and making sure it’s completely true made sense as I have mostly trusted others to post true information.” I asked her to delve deeper into that — why do you trust others so readily?
“I think my generation lived in a more truthful society generally speaking. We were raised with Walter Cronkite who was the most trustworthy voice of our generation. We never really questioned what he or other top anchors were saying. We believed what our president told us in his speeches, and most politicians were afraid to lie in case they were caught in it and brought down.
All of that has changed, but our basis for dealing with most outside voices is still to believe what we’re reading.”
Education breeds confidence.
Why is it so important to educate older people about media literacy? Because it gives them freedom they need to navigate an often-confusing digital environment:
“The dichotomy between truth and deception is confusing and frustrating because it has to be dealt with every single time. So I believe that being educated about how to navigate all the information that [older people] have to deal with when joining social media would be extremely helpful. Feeling they have a grip on their experience helps them to move around more freely and share with more confidence.”
We hope that the Mediactive course can provide the confidence and support older people are looking for. If you or someone you love would like to sign up for Mediactive, you can do so (for free!) here.
Quinlyn Shaughnessy is a Mediactive teaching assistant with a love for all things media-related. She holds a BA in Mass Communication & Media Studies from ASU’s Cronkite School and can usually be found typing, reading or watching.