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Sunday, July 22, 2007

The media shape us into the people we are

This essay won one of the second prizes in the English essay contest sponsored by the International Herald Tribune/ The Asahi Shimbun, awarded last July 9. There were 670 essays submitted.

Editor’s note: Essayist Katrina Nessa Abad, an English major at the University of the Philippines Diliman, is currently enrolled in a cross-exchange student program with Nagasaki University, Japan.

As a member of this fast-paced generation, I know that I am highly dependent on the media for mostly everything I love to do. I am just an average person with simple needs, but even so, the media has become such a big part of my life.

One of the usual ways I use the media is to learn new things. I read the newspapers every day to keep myself updated on news and current events. I am a foreign student living in Japan, so it is really handy for me that one of my country’s leading newspapers has an online edition that I can access every day.

I know it is important that I keep abreast of the daily dramas unfolding in the Philippines—a beautiful, dynamic, but volatile country inhabited by highly emotional people. I also like to read international newspapers and magazines, especially because these have special features on topics ranging from science to culture and the arts, to the weirdest or coolest stuff that’s probably not useful to remember but fun to file away in my brain.

Apart from information and entertainment, I also read newspapers and magazines because it helps me to hone my skills. I do not just learn new ideas; I also learn new words, enabling me to expand my vocabulary. But more importantly, I think that reading newspapers, in particular, helps me to improve my critical thinking skills. I consciously try to practice contextualizing and objectifying what was reported in the papers to help me formulate or reformulate my analyses and make sense of what is happening in the world around me.

Every day, too, I use the media as my source of entertainment. I love to read books, watch movies and listen to the radio. That’s probably normal for a lot of other people, but I recall these now with fond memories of my parents back home. I remember that for the longest time, my father refused to have more than one television set in the house because he wanted the entire family to enjoy watching shows together. And my mother, who is a librarian, raised my brother, my sister and me to read like there was no tomorrow.

She started us off with those hardbound children’s encyclopedias, and then afterward she subscribed to magazines in our names (getting mail at the age of 10 was so cool). I remember that regular visits to the local bookstore felt like such a special treat in those days.

She just now finished sewing a cloth “book” for her first grandchild; she says we don’t remember, but that she did the same for us kids when we were babies so that we could freely play with pages that would not tear.

Today, with the Internet as a more advanced form of the media, I can play around with lots of things and also express myself. For example, I can both watch and upload videos of my own to show to others. On a Web site I own and maintain, I regularly post pictures that I take here in Japan to share with my family back home.

Likewise, I can check out what is new in the lives of my loved ones when I view their websites. I also have three separate online journals, more popularly known as blogs (from the term Web log). One of them chronicles my adventures in Japan, and another, more private one, holds all my secrets and my views on life.

There is more to the media than meets the eye. I probably use it in ways I am not even aware of. That is because the media is continually undergoing innovations and being revolutionized to cater to the growing needs of the masses, and its boundaries are being pushed back constantly.

Ten years ago, nobody would have imagined that the news headlines would be delivered to their fingertips, but now news alerts and even weather bulletins are accessed via mobile phones.

The main point is that by maximizing the many ways in which I can use the media, I believe that I can lead a fuller life—it supplements my education, it provides entertainment, it helps me touch base with family and friends and it allows me to creatively express myself.

The truth is, the impact of the media on my life is so great, it has helped shape me into the kind of person that I am today.

Katrina Nessa Abad is a senior majoring in English at the University of the Philippines and now studying Japanese and Japanese culture at Nagasaki University.

SECOND PRIZE/ Katrina Nessa Abad
Special to the Asahi Shimbun