Media is pervasive and comes in various modes (e.g. audio, graphics, video, text) and is consumed by the public in many ways: for example, as movies, television programmes, magazines, newspapers, advertisements and on the internet as website information, blogs, posts, tweets and video clips. As popular culture and news, media has a powerful influence on how we see the world, and how we see ourselves.
Most media production (think magazines, books, movies, TV programmes, newspapers) is commercial, and therefore has a profit motive. Even in instances where there is no profit motive in generating content, such as in User-Generated Content (think Youtube clips and Facebook posts), the content distribution process is almost always associated with business objectives. Added to this commercial mix are marketing and advertising messages about products and services, created with media techniques, shown on media platforms, and designed to influence.
Social & Political Impact
Media also has social and political implications. Community organizations create media messages to get support for a social cause or to canvass for donations. Governments use media to promote certain ideals or policies, often to support nation-building goals. Other groups or activists use media to promote their views or to counter other perspectives. In cyber space especially, because of the open nature of the Internet platform, anyone and any group can create and broadcast messages for their own agenda.
In short, many organizations use the media to transmit messages for a specific purpose — to sell a product, to propagate a lifestyle, to get buy-in for a perspective and especially relevant in the digital world, to get "eyeballs" or users. In the process, they may employ different media techniques to influence and manipulate, or to emphasize certain values or stereotypes. Depending on the objective of the content creator, such subjective messaging can be transmitted either intentionally, accidentally, explicitly or implicitly.
Exercise Critical Thinking
Rather than be passive receivers of media information, we need to actively identify the agenda behind these messages, and to exercise critical thinking to better judge whether to believe a certain piece of information.
An important concept in media literacy is selective perception, a term used in psychology that describes the tendency in people to perceive and believe what they want to, while disregarding what they don't want to believe even if it is true. When evaluating media information, we should be aware of our in-built selective biases in order to be objective.