I get the question a lot. Why Media Awareness? It begs asking, why awareness at all? With revolutions in internet access and social media over the last decade, aren’t we all hyper aware of everything? The answer might surprise you.
We are definitely more connected, but often less intimately or passionately acquainted with the world around us. In fact sometimes, the barrage of information is a turn off. We just can’t hear one more story about victimization, suffering, and pain. Even someone else’s success can be off-putting. Studies show that heavy users of social media (and really, who isn’t a heavy user these days?) can experience depression, loss of motivation and lowered self-esteem. Why? Because what YOU think of ME matters.
Most of the kids we work with struggle with awareness, and that leads to less empathy. It leads to less confidence. Less ability to move forward on a positive path. It’s one thing to have seen someone shot dead in your front yard, or to have been handcuffed, strip searched and put into isolated confinement. It’s a very different thing to be able to view the story of your life from an outsider’s perspective; to have enough awareness to know that the things you have experienced have made a significant impact on the way you think, how you feel, and what choices you make.
Media is a powerful tool, and like any tool, it can be used for a variety of purposes. We want kids to understand media as a pathway for awareness. Being able to tell a story, create a video and learn that there is an audience for it, that’s empowering. And it empowers a young person to see themselves as a part of the larger picture. At the very least, it is reassuringly a confirmation, that despite how they feel, they are not alone. It’s greatest potential is to inspire the thing that can only come after awareness – action on behalf of others who have struggled in the way we have struggled. You might think awareness is something that can’t be taught; you either have it, or you don’t. But the reality is, we’re teaching awareness every day, in every program. And that creates a path for change at an individual level and on a grander scale.