Home » Uncategorized » What is Digital & Social Media Literacy?

What is Digital & Social Media Literacy?

What is media literacy?  The simplest definition offered by the Center for Media Literacy is that media literacy is “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms.”

Thus, digital and social media literacy encompasses the  basic definition of media but applied to digital and social media forms.  But it is also more complex than that.

A great post from the fine folks of Edelman Digital asks if media literacy, digital literacy and social media literacy intersects?  The author, Katlen Tillman (@katlen on Twitter), makes a good point about how all forms of media literacy, to varying degrees, aim to teach media consumers how to “manage the complexities” of a crowded (digital/social/traditional) media environment.

To my mind, not all forms of media consumption are created equally.   For example, skimming through a book is different from actively reading it (processing the information, being engaged with the text, perhaps writing comments or questioning a passage or idea).

Media literacy  would be more akin to the latter.

Managing the complexities is a nice way to frame what media literacy is all about. In the course, we plan to cover a lot of ground in just two short weeks.  The objective of the course is for students to gain the ability to access, analyze and engage in critical thinking about the array of messages they receive and send, while developing core competencies in digital and social media.

Students will analyze, evaluate, create and critically assess messages in a wide variety of digital and social media modes, genres and forms, develop a basic understanding of emerging digital technologies and explore the effects these technologies have on users, organizations, business and society.

So, why digital and social media literacy?

For starters, I agree with Howard Rheingold’s assessment that “it’s time for social media literacy to enter mainstream education.”  This course and blog aim to contribute a small part toward that objective.  Rheingold argues that “if you want to keep up, don’t try to keep up with the technologies, [instead] keep up with the literacies that the technologies make possible.”

To that end, JD Lasica of socialmedia.biz has an excellent list of 7 tips for online media literacy.

One book author makes the argument for “conscious consumption” to maintain a “healthy information diet,” as chronicled in an article in The Atlantic.

Meanwhile, in a TED talk, Pew Internet & American Life Project director Lee Rainie talks about how what he calls “networked individuals” are using social networks to make sense of the world around them (I’m not going to provide a link- “google it” and find yourself- a very digital and social media literacy mission).

With news that social media is more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol, it’s not hard to see why social media literacy may be needed.  Plenty of bright people have written and spoken about what digital and social media literacy is and made the case for why it is needed.

What do you think?  What does digital and social media literacy mean to you?



  1. cassietrimb says:

    In my opinion social media literacy is being able to interpret and evaluate media. It is being able to dig deeper and find meaning and messages in media that you may have not noticed before. It involves critical thinking and finding a variety of ways that one may process a piece of media. It is not only looking deeper into media but investigating the effect media has on society.

  2. Lexi Officer says:

    Digital and social media literacy is the ability to create online information where people can connect through online communities to share their ideas and aspects of different topics. People are able to dig deeper into social media to view things differently than they would have on a normal basis. Ideas are shared through blogs and online sources to express who they are and their outlook on life. It can be used for businesses or personal life.

  3. allydigiacomo says:

    In my opinion social media literacy is how one is influenced by their peers around them by using websites, blogs, pictures, etc. It allows people to come together and share a similarity with another wise dissimilar item. Digital and social media is used for a variety of different things in order to promote oneself and/or a brand. All around us social and digital media is booming and becoming a part of our everyday lives.

  4. NIK HOWLETT says:

    If everybody is using social media, and it really is as addicting as noted, we all need to know how to interpret it. This is media literacy in the sense that we, in a literal sense, need to be able to interpret, analyze, and create the media ourselves, or else it would serve no purpose. From the sociology class, we learn that every facet of society exists for a purpose and it would disappear if it wasn’t being used. It makes complete sense.
    To understand the social media, but applied to digital forms such as that of the internet, television and other digital media is social and digital media literacy.

  5. Erica Nori says:

    Digital and social media literacy is the ability to analyze and fully comprehend media online and offline. Social media literacy allows internet users to get the full experience out of an article or website, and to share parts of their lives they may not be able to to a large audience of people. As social media becomes more and more popular, more and more people are going to be addicted, and without social media literacy, user won’t be able to get the full experience.

  6. James Moy says:

    I view social media literacy as the ability to assemble a coherent picture of an aspect of society based on individual accounts. While a single tweet or status update may only hold significance to an individual’s friends or family, analyzing trends across demographics has the potential to reveal much deeper truths which are relevant to everyone. The manner in which people network online makes analyzing these demographics easier than ever before, which could prove invaluable for both commercial and research interests.
    Granted, most of us don’t log on to facebook with the intention of monitoring large-scale societal shifts. But I believe our social media literacy manifests itself every time we make a connection between two or more pieces of information, consciously or unconsciously.

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