Mass Media’s Influence on Society

The primary objectives of mass media are to offer information, advertisement, and entertainment. Relative to this, I will talk about the perceived and recognized influence and effect that mass media has in the society in general.  Moreover, I will explore the truth to the statement that individuals are more influenced by mass media than they think.

It is a fact that nowadays, people cannot live without mass media because together with the aid of technological improvements, transmitting and conveying messages to the masses is becoming easier. For instance, we are being showered with lots of information, advertising, and other sort of materials by the various kinds of mass media, which have influence in our daily life styles.

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As maintained by Curran & Gurevitch (2000) the issue of media’s influence or impact on society and its cultural context has frequently been deliberated upon from principal theorists to anybody with any kind of media relations. Personally, I believe that mass media does affect society, but by means of employing more varied and slight impact. Meanwhile, a number of theorists propose that it is even an issue of society shaping the media and not the more extensive and supposed report.

According to Eldridge et al. (1997), media is considered to be a main piece within society that is frequently associated with the concept of social influence. Bandura (1994) agrees that society acknowledges and recognizes the view or thought of being influenced as an “external force,” which is the media, associating itself or linking with a personal action or point of view of the receiver.

Agenda-setting function of modern mass media
According to Stuart Hall, due to the fact that some of the media produce material, which frequently is serious, impartial, and good, they are accorded a high degree of respect and authority (Kosicki, 1993). However, in practice the ethic of mass media is closely associated to that of the standardized enterprise, offering a critical support for the existing order. Nevertheless, independence is not a mere cover; it is fundamental to the manner by which ideology and power are mediated in our society. The public is enticed with good TV, radio, and newspapers into an approval and recognition of the misleading, the biased, and the status quo. Kosicki (1993) asserts that the media are not, consistent with this approach, crude agents of propaganda since they systematize public understanding. Nonetheless, the general interpretations they give ultimately are those, which are most favored by, and least demanding to, those people with economic power.

The long-term outcomes of this are important in cooperation with the ongoing awareness of ownership and control of the media, bringing about accusations of a “media elite”’ having a type of “cultural dictatorship” (Mills, 1956).

Role of Mass Media in Power Struggle in Society
Mills (1956) wrote in his book “The Power Elite” that the powers of ordinary men are restricted by the daily words in which they live, nevertheless even in these rounds of family, neighborhood, and job they frequently seem motivated by forces they can neither recognize nor manage. Mills (1956) said that a power elite survives in a society that is composed of three spheres. He added that these spheres are divided into political, economy, and military, with the same group of individuals interchanging between the three. This big group of elite is at the top coming up with all the decisions, whereas the masses are at the bottom, ignorant of the process that shapes public opinion. Masses within this viewpoint of society are considered immaterial and do not possess any kind of influence. According to this belief, the media works as an entertainment source, keeping the masses entertained whereas the elite is taking care of all the significant matters. This way, it hides the reality and truth of the world from the masses.

Furthermore, Mills (1956) rationalized what the media does for the masses as they divert him and complicate his opportunity to be aware of himself or his world, by means of fixing his attention upon artificial frenzies that are circled within the program structure, typically by violent action or by what is dubbed as humor. This helps elucidate how the mass media directs, attempts to manage, and influence the masses. In his book, Mills (1956) explains the influence of mass media as a kind of psychological illiteracy to the degree that we frequently do not believe what we see before us until we hear about it on the radio or we read about it in the paper. The masses’ standards of reality and standards of credulity, have a tendency to be set by these media instead of by ‘the masses’ own fragmentary experience (Mills, 1956). Mass media’s function helps avert the questioning of the elite. Mills (1956) added that schools, churches, and families become accustomed to modern life; governments, corporations and armies shape it; and, as they do so, they turn these lesser establishments into means for their ends.

Meanwhile, Schudson (1978) supposed that society was grounded in the view of society, with the middle class developing and dominating. Media’s relationship with its audience helped nourish them, but it did not construct the worldview. The media cannot be established to have several effects and influences on society, and the ones that subsist have to do with advertising as a cultural body. Schudson (1978) said that advertising functions more as a means of celebrating products and buying. It operates to prompt and refocus as it orients individuals to the world and let them know that others share similar opinios. Moreover, advertising reminds people about things in society and strengthens certain social trends. The cultural symbols and trends and make us conscious while at the same time reminding us of what we already know.

Eldridge, J. et al. (1997) states that television is described as the broadcast of visual images of stationary and moving objects, usually with accompanying sound, as electromagnetic waves and the reconversion of acquired waves into visual images. As we all know, television has of a great influence in today’s world because it transmits images and as one has almost certainly heard of the saying – One picture worth’s more than thousands of words – this is a way in which TV has a major influence in the viewers.

Moreover, it is an extensively held idea that the electronic mass media, predominantly television, exercises growing intellectual, social, and emotional influences and impacts on people (Trenaman ; McQuail, 1961). According to Pico Iyer, author and essayist for Time Magazine in his article during the May 14, 1990 issue of Time, “TV consumes us much more than we do it”, he talks about the incapacity of children who have grown goggled-eyed around the electronic alter (specifically, TV) to consider that anything is valid unless it comes with a laugh track.  Moreover, they also control their emotions during commercial breaks and expect to cure their sorrow with a PAUSE button.

According to Bandura (1994), Mostly in the consumer habits of the public, advertising is almost certainly one the most powerful item concerning mass media. Curran ; Gurevitch (2000) said that every the average American sees more than 38,000 TV commercial. If we multiply that amount to 20 seconds, which are more or less the average commercial lasts will give us an outcome of 760.000 second an average American sees of commercial advertising products. So, how does this influence our consuming habits? For example, the fast food industry is a great case in point of the influence and impact of advertising in people’s consuming habits.

Advertisements can greatly influence people.  For instance in the issue of consumer behavior, the problem is the advertisement, marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods.  According to critics, these advertisements are not only seen on television, but more and more on the Internet, cell phones, and video games (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania). A lot of nutritionists assert there is sufficient evidence connecting advertising to childhood obesity.

In addition, we are now faced with worldwide problem of avoidance of physical exercise, which is sometimes portrayed in advertisements. Literally speaking, people just don’t move their bodies sufficiently. Some examples of these sedentary activities are refusal to walk and watching four hours of television each night. It seems that the public is not exceedingly interested in taking care of their own health, and would prefer to turn it over to medical professionals and pharmaceuticals than do their own thinking.

To solve this problem, the commercial sector should market healthier foods in the same intensity as that of the less-healthy foods.  Similar strategies should be employed to market better foods, as well as advertisements.  As stressed by Sonya Grier in the article “Food Fight: Obesity Raises Difficult Marketing Questions” in the website of Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, there has to be a concerted effort across fields and across disciplines in achieving this goal.  Moreover, the way that food and physical inactivity are marketed, particularly to children, should be changed so that physical activity increases and nutrition improves.  In schools, learning regarding energy balance must be a required part of the curriculum in the elementary and secondary levels.  Furthermore, it indispensable to give children the chance for a considerable amount of physical activity when they are in school and to offer them opportunities to make healthy food options.

Conceivably, the greatest opportunity and the greatest challenge to address the problem of consumer behavior and obesity are in reshaping the socio-cultural environment to make physical activity and healthy eating behaviors more normative as portrayed in advertisements and in television (Hill, Wyatt and Peters).

Gerbner, G., et al. (1994) claimed that TV characters are frequently acknowledged as heroes, because of the obtaining of respect and various other rewards by means of their actions, they are particularly possible to be copied.

Furthermore, the actions of TV characters might likewise serve as a sign to violent behavior, by way of stimulation, uninhibitedness, and desensitization. For instance, a violent scene in a horror movie could affect the mind of young children to imitate the violence that they have viewed.

In addition, it has been noticed that obviously belligerent individuals might just desire and choose to view more violent programs than of any other kinds of films. Gerbner, G., et al. (1994) discovered that aggressive-prone kids are possible to turn out to be even more violent after watching a violent program in TV.

Meanwhile, propaganda could likewise be achieved by means of television. For instance, the television coverage of the speeches of Bush regarding War on Terrorism explains that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. About year and a half shortly no weapons of mass destruction have been discovered. Nevertheless, the American citizens were convinced regarding the unconfirmed information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and were prepared to sue it against America. Hence, this is another example of the influence of TV on the viewers.

Curran & Gurevitch (2000) asserted that newspapers are usually daily or weekly publication that includes news and opinion about current events, featuring advertising, and articles. Due to the fact that there are now approximately 9000 daily newspapers around the world, this shows that newspapers reach a wide audience worldwide, which is why newspaper is another powerful kind of mass media (Curran & Gurevitch, 2000).

I agree with the authors that newspapers have remarkable influence in society because they can simply affect and change people’s emotions supportive or not supportive of an issue. This is for the reason that we as readers have a propensity to believe everything that is written in the newspaper although it may possibly be the wrong information. Sometimes, newspapers give the wrong impression about information that goes to the public, which instantly influences and encourages the public to react even if they don’t know that the same media is influencing them to do act that way.

Furthermore, newspapers can be very biased regarding a story. Even though a reporter has the tendency of being impartial regarding a current event, at times it is not always likely to be that way. For example, in the newspaper coverage of the Iraqi war, the American Press influenced the readers to unleash feeling of patriotism for their army, which cause feeling of discrimination and unfairness against Middle Eastern looking people

Then, the construction of the news is another means in which the mass media can have an influence or impact over the masses (Eldridge et al., 1997). By means of the placement of certain aspects of, for instance, a news feature or the selective process made by editors it upholds the concept of media influence constantly. Print and television based news, due mainly to their fascination with crime and violence perhaps has a negative influence upon our societal behavior. On the other hand, I personally do not totally agree with this as I consider that normally news does not lie, apart from it does not enlighten the audience about the whole truth by means of omitting the less interesting and dramatic parts. Therefore, the mass media’s influence through the news is that it affects the public both consciously and subconsciously, and in some cases sends us about our lives needlessly fearing the isolated dangers that we see extremely portrayed in the news.

The Internet Age
The Internet, also dubbed as the World Wide Web (WWW) contains of a web of computers working together and connecting to each other like a spider web, and it permits the individual to research all kinds of material on their computer and learn more and the topic or issue they are after (Finkelhor, et al., 2000).  This is considered to be the newest kind of mass media because it reaches worldwide.  For instance, if one has a webpage made in Thailand somebody in Colombia can view it. That is how remarkable Internet is, distances become shorter and shorter.

However, one of the major problems is that Internet is that it is very addictive.  This means that games pressure kids to spend hours and hours sitting down in front of the screen basically wasting time (Finkelhor, et al., 2000). This has a consequence on less kids developing social skills, consequently it connects to the depression problem that most teenagers are suffering from in the 20th century.

The Internet has increased dramatically the availability of sexually explicit content. Computer and Internet use is diffusing more rapidly than any previous technology; as of the end of 1999, more than half (56%) of all adults in the United States were online. It is expected that by 2010 most U.S. homes with children will have access to the Internet (Finkenhor, et al., 2000).

The word sex is the most popular search term used on the Internet today (Finhelkor et al., 2000). The Internet may have both positive and negative effects on sexual health. According to one national survey of young people (10-17 years old) who regularly used the Internet, one out of four said he or she had encountered unwanted pornography in the past year, and one out of five had been exposed to unwanted sexual solicitations or approaches (Finkelhor et al., 2000).

In the case of radio, there was a study, which documented media-social relations and the influence that the radio had over the masses. This is an example of the “Hypodermic Needle Model”, a theory that claims that the media are leading instruments of influence, able to introduce concepts and behaviors directly into quite static audiences of remote individuals (Bandura, 1994). Moreover, it could likewise be known as revealing the behavioral changes that can be derived from even a single media output but the fundamental case in point of media influence that experts have studied by means of fieldwork or experiments as well.

Long-term Effects of Mass Media

While in the short term individuals can be expected to evaluate biased information in accordance with their existing beliefs, in the long term the cultural influence of the media on the average beliefs of individuals may be significant. This operates through a process of using the symbolic materials available to us in society and from our interaction with others to formulate a sense of self-identity (which then impinges further on our self-identity through its effects on our interaction with others and our interpretation of the symbolic materials). New encounters and experiences mean the self-image is constantly re-constructed, and the media here is a crucial source of symbolic material of everything in the world outside the private circle: it mediates Habermas’ public sphere to us, and distortions in that window on the world will impinge on how we perceive the world, how we interact in our private sphere and how we interact with the public sphere (Bandura, 1994). It is because of this that many sociologists view the media as negatively affecting the individual’s autonomy. However, others have attempted to demonstrate that the media provides an invaluable source of multi-cultural information which enriches one’s perception of the world (by enlarging our window of perception on the world) and of life, allows for a well-balanced opinion, and that the interpretation of symbolic interaction is largely dependent on cultural and socio-economic circumstances (Roberts, 2000).

In conclusion, I can say that mass media does have an effect of society for the simple reason that is has become part of our daily routine. Thus, as media become part of our daily life, I can say that it has a unconscious effect in our habits, like the shopping habits that people has these days, if they something on television, the Internet or the newspapers there is a big possibility that they will consume it. Moreover, media also influences the way society acts because if the media said that something is wrong, society believes it.

However, I still believe that it depends upon an individual if he/she allows that he/she will be a slave to their passions and hence they will embrace and follow everthing that the media portrays or dictates them to follow.