President-Elect’s Column: Poised for a Positive Path Forward

Susan J. Eddington, APR, MA, PhD
seddington@email.fielding.edu

I have confronted untold challenges throughout my long and varied career, and I have benefitted from countless opportunities. I am grateful for both. I spent years working in politics as a communications strategist, and I was elected to office in two states. However, I consider my election as president-elect of The Society for Media Psychology and Technology a special opportunity and challenge that I treasure and appreciate. I am fascinated by the work and consider the field my intellectual home. I recognize that I follow the path forged by others who are giants in our field. These are people whose work has moved the field and the division forward. I cherish the opportunity to do my part. I will do my best to earn the trust you have placed in me.

Every morning when I scour the various media sources that inform my day, I think of ways media psychologists could contribute to solving the most pressing issues of our times. There are primary issues that command my attention—the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation, systemic racism, and the mental health and well-being of the general populace.

One of the greatest challenges of our time is managing the global pandemic. Beginning with initial reports of the outbreak of Covid-19, there were conflicting stories about when the virus first arrived in the U.S.,  where the virus originated (Baker, 2020), and more significantly was it a real threat. There have been endless suggestions about appropriate treatment options. Some are reliable and reasonable while some have been absurd. Because the public was overwhelmed with information, the World Health Organization declared an infodemic, an instance when there is too much information during a pandemic, including misinformation and disinformation competing with evidence-based information (Saúde, 2020). We could help people in our various communities learn how to cope with information overload. By promoting media literacy, we could also help people to become more conscious media consumers which could have a positive impact on our democracy.

APA has taken an aggressive stance against systemic racism, beginning with an apology to people of color for the role psychologists have played in supporting policies that were harmful to their well-being. Certainly, not all psychologists are guilty. However, the organization recognized that too many psychologists used their practice and influence to support racist policies. Besides this historic statement, the organization made a commitment to dismantling systemic racism in the present and in the future (DeAngelis & Andoh, 2020). Among our members are those who have invested years addressing these issues by conducting research, as practitioners, or as clinicians. We have a breadth of knowledge and experience to share with the public.

A key issue outlined in my statement as a candidate for president-elect was heightening the visibility of our division and our members. As chair of the strategic planning committee, I look forward to presenting a full slate of projects and proposals to build on our previous successes and help our division grow in influence and stature. As a starting point, I have proposed that this year we conduct a symposium that focuses on media and information. There are scholars, practitioners, and engaged citizens committed to battling misinformation and disinformation, communicating science, encouraging media literacy, and studying the role of technology in a media-driven environment. I am confident we can produce an event that will serve as a platform for a full conference next year. Thank you to our president, Don Grant, for his support of this vision. The committee will develop the concept with input from our members.

The key to growing our division and heightening its visibility is having the financial wherewithal to promote our organization, co-host major events, sponsor members’ participation in events hosted by others, and establish a scholarship fund. Although dues provide the bulk of our income, webinars, a symposium, and an annual conference can help us to improve our financial standing. I look forward to our establishing a fun event that will fund scholarships from our division.

During the past two years, people around the world have struggled to adapt and cope with fear, isolation, uncertainty, and loss brought on by the pandemic. It is likely we will see the impact on mental health and emotional well-being long into the future. As media psychologists, we can play a significant role in helping people and communities confront and cope with the challenges they face. I look forward to what we will accomplish together as friends, colleagues, and a division in the spirit of togetherness.

References

Baker, M. (2020, May 15). When did the coronavirus arrive in the U.S.? Here’s a review of the evidence. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/15/coronovirus-first-case-snohomish antibodies

DeAngelis, T & Andoh, E. (2022, March). Confronting past wrongs and building an equitable future. Monitor on Psychology. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/03/special-report-wrongs-future

Saúde, O.P. (2020). Understanding the infodemic and misinformation in the fight against COVID-19. https://iris.paho.org/bitstream/handle/10665.2/52052/Factsheet-infodemic_eng.pdf?sequence=16

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