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Media Literacy is a term referring to a skill that allows a person to correctly interpret media messages and reflect on them. Online, media literacy, and particularly a lack of it, has been a subject of viral debates and memes, with users on social media frequently accusing others of having low media literacy over their interpretation of books, films, video games and other media.
The term "media literacy" was coined by John Culkin, a Jesuit priest and educator who studied film and sought to teach teachers to understand the function of media in culture to help young people become better learners, in the 1960s.
The modern definition of the term describes the ability to access and analyze media messages in various mediums and is understood as a set of competencies that are essential for work, life and citizenship.
Online Discourse and Use in Memes
Starting in the late 2020s, media illiteracy has been increasingly brought up in online debates, often to criticize fans of certain films, video games and other media over their incorrect interpretation of its message.
On September 5th, 2020, Twitter user @SorayaMcDonald made the earliest found viral joke about media literacy. The tweet (shown below) gained over 6,200 retweets and 37,700 likes in three years.
On November 20th, 2021, Twitter user @JUNIPER posted a thread about the average person having little media literacy, writing that "many people are unable to realize that you can present characters doing something bad without endorsing it." The first tweet in the thread gained over 27,600 retweets and 202,000 likes in two years (shown below).
More tweets bringing up the concept of media literacy and calling for the subject to be included in school curricula in the United States went viral in the early 2020s, with the term seeing a spike in prevalence in early 2023. For example, on February 18th, 2023, Twitter user @LongMacVampyr made a tweet about people thinking a promotional video for Avengers was not staged, with the tweet gaining over 7,000 retweets and 127,000 likes in two months (shown below, left). On April 9th, Twitter user @mouseabolition posted a tweet about Ryan Gosling starring as Ken in Barbie that gained over 3,400 retweets and 77,300 likes (shown below, right).
Wow Cool Robot
Wow Cool Robot refers to an exploitable drawing intended to satirize people who miss the subtext of certain pieces of media. The original features a person looking at a Gundam and saying "Wow, cool robot!" while he ignores the missile flying over his head labeled "War is bad."
 Center for Media Literacy – John Culkin, SJ: The Man Who Invented Media Literacy: 1928-1993
 Wikipedia – Media literacy
 Twitter – @SorayaMcDonald
 Twitter – @LongMacVampyr
 Twitter – @mouseabolition
Apr 13, 2023 at 04:36PM EDT
Apr 14, 2023 at 12:15PM EDT
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