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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at GCU chapter.

Now that we have access to an unlimited supply of information at the push of a button with the internet and social media, the topic of media literacy comes up again and again. Back in high school, it was the dreaded question that plagued humanities classes: “Can you explain why the curtains are blue?”

Is it ridiculous to assume the author merely liked the color? Well, a little bit. Our high school English teachers were trying to prepare us by forcing us to read between the lines. The content we consume is far less straightforward than it appears on the surface. The ability to critically engage with, analyze, and make informed decisions about the media messages we consume is crucial, especially in this upcoming election cycle as AI deepfakes and misinformation spread like wildfire.

Media literacy is more than just analyzing the small details and themes within a 100+ year-old novel, it’s also the ability to distinguish credible sources of information from misleading ones. On social media apps like TikTok and X, a surefire way to “blow up,” or gain views, is by posting incorrect information or things that will elicit a strong negative reaction from viewers.

This type of content, known as rage baiting or rage farming, is contingent on viewers not realizing that the creator is fully aware of what they’re putting out there. When watching a video or reading a post that leads you to think, “There’s no way the creator could possibly be this dumb!” Odds are, you’re correct.

Another type of rage farming happens when a creator posts information that is inaccurate or misleading. This is most often seen when content creators report on the news or political happenings, where they misconstrue how events happened or the severity.

An example of this kind of rage farming occurred this past summer when a screenshot of an article circulated online claiming that Jada Pinkett Smith, a renowned advocate for the condition of alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss, would be portraying Rapunzel in the live-action Disney movie and she would not wear a wig.

This post reached millions of people and had thousands upon thousands of outraged comments and reactions. Meanwhile, a simple 10-second Google search easily revealed that no credible news site commented on the issue beyond trashy, clickbait websites, nor had Disney released any news regarding a live-action Rapunzel.

Being skilled in media literacy is the ability to formulate your own opinions. In the case of the Jada Pinkett Smith story, the article was denouncing inclusivity in the modern age of movies, using their incredulous claims to attract more viewers to their polarizing thesis. Rather than allowing yourself to be pulled in by outlandish claims and unfounded opinions trying to influence you, it’s crucial to come to your own conclusions, even over a piece like this one urging you to act a certain way.

The unfortunate truth is that our parents were right: you can’t trust everything you see online. At least, not at face value. The easiest way to combat misinformation is by doing a bit of research on your own. If you see a post that makes you scratch your head, try googling the main concept to see if any credible sites have corroborated the claim. Formulating your own opinions based on legitimate research is sexy.

Dani is a senior at Grand Canyon University studying Professional Writing for New Media. When they aren't hunched over a computer screen typing away, they can often be found socializing with friends, explaining the latest celebrity news and drama ad nauseam or rewatching some of their favorite horror movies.