This article discusses some aspects of the influence of the media materials and problems on youth.
Key words:mass media, internet, communication, effects, influence.
What role does mass media play? Legislatures, media executives, local school officials, and sociologists have all debated this controversial question. Media plays an extensive role in an individual’s daily life. You are surrounded in a world built just for you by the media. With the advent of advanced technology, there has been a drastic shift from the telegraph, and then the radio, newspapers, magazines and now to the most widely used- the internet.
Our daily activities depend heavily on the information that is provided to each one, and the way that is communicated to them, be it entertainment, hard or soft news, personal relationships, travelling, or even healthcare.
The influence of the mass media operates with the mission of providing one with more information than they might have expected.
This could relate to the decisions made at the workplace which may be based on the information that come from television, newspapers, the internet, friends, family or any other related individual. The mass media works is like a pull factor- it just drags you into its world, and makes you believe that whatever you do, you see and you hear is true, and the most trustable. They come to you, not just to provide information, but also to lead you into their world, which ultimately makes you realize that most of the decisions, values and beliefs are based on what we know for a fact, our assumptions and our own experience.
Whether you like it or not, the influence and reach of mass media is incalculable and ubiquitous. Everyone is exposed to it, and it affects how we feel about everything, including products, people, events, and even ourselves, and influences our sense of what is and isn’t important. Whereas media used used to appeal to a smaller portion of the population, regardless of income, location, and background, there is now something for everyone, with every segment of viewer being catered to in all conceivable ways. Mass media is often used to benefit someone, and if you have a business and think you could benefit from the media by gaining exposure.
Our discussion, in which we will focus on three sociological perspectives of the role and influence of mass media.
- Limited-Effects Theory: Coming about in the 1940s and 50s, this theory claims that more well-informed, experienced, intelligent people already have an opinion, and as a result, are minimally influenced by the media. Conversely, those who are less informed are more likely to be influenced by the media. One major issue with this theory is the fact that, in the 40s and 50s, media was nowhere near as widespread as it is these days. Also, it fails to take into account the fact that the media frames and limits the debating of issues, thus influencing the conclusions that people draw, and doing so in a covert manner.
- Class-Dominant Theory: This theory is especially relevant today, where a small fraction of the elite class controls most of the media outlets. With media conglomerates merging, and billionaires like Rupert Murdoch overseeing many media outlets, the class-dominant theory claims that these corporations, and the people that run them, dictate what goes out over the airwaves, and onto computers and papers, and as a result, are easily able to restrict what we as consumers know, and in the process, benefit themselves and their interests. Because most media outlets run on advertising dollars, this theory claims that they will do what it takes to keep any kind of negative stories or harmful impressions of corporate culture from being exposed.
- Culturalist Theory: This final theory is a combination of the other two, and states that people are influenced by the media as much as they allow themselves to be, creating their own meanings out of the messages the media offers them. Furthermore, their own experiences and knowledge influence how they take in these messages, with their age, income, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. coloring how they process media, and how they create it, as well.
Media is basically dominated by five major companies. They are Time Warner, VIACOM, Vivendi Universal, Walt Disney, and News Corp. These companies own 95 % of all the media we get every day. They cover up the major entertainment parks, entertainment movie studios, television and radio broadcast networks and programming, video news and sports entertainment. With different opinions and beliefs shaped by people depending on the various elements that are provided by these media companies, it is important to keep a check on how they might bring a positive or a negative impact into young people’s life.
Young people are at a stage of life where they want to enjoy what they do, but in the right manners and ways available and provided to them. Advertising is one of the most fundamental ways, where buyers are brought into buying what they are shown to be good, with their decisions based on what they saw on television, newspapers or on billboards. For instance, a celebrity star who is a famous football player might make an image in the minds of the young people whose favorite sport is football. A positive influence might mean your health will improve because playing sports is considered a good way of daily exercising, and is a good way to mingle with peers. But as a negative influence, young people might be dragged into the adverts, where their favorite celebrity stars are seen smoking cigars, different images of violence and exposure to thousands of junk food advertisements.
Young people are at a stage of life where they want to enjoy what they do, but in the right manners and ways available and provided to them. With the mass media, there is a creation of an ideal image of handsome men and a gorgeous woman, which shows the factors of a successful person. This method of advertisement is an unconscious way of telling the viewers that if they don’t become like them, they would not be cool or look so pretty. The media gives them a little warning which has a major impact- “It is time to buy what makes you look good, and soon you will look like one of your favorite star celebrities.”
Theorists emphasize that audiences choose what to watch among a wide range of options, choose how much to watch, and may choose the mute button or the VCR remote over the programming selected by the network or cable station. Studies of mass media done by sociologists parallel text‐reading and interpretation research completed by linguists (people who study language). Both groups of researchers find that when people approach material, whether written text or media images and messages, they interpret that material based on their own knowledge and experience. Thus, when researchers ask different groups to explain the meaning of a particular song or video, the groups produce widely divergent interpretations based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, and religious background.
Media is a one-faced communication provider. It tells you what is there, and it pulls you into its grip, but it does not suggest you or tell you what problems you may face later with it. For instance, you may want to become super-anorexic now, and you may succeed too, but later the eating disorders might ruin your life… You might purchase a beauty product which is exactly the same to what your favorite celebrity uses it. With so much engrossment into advertisements, you later start facing skin problems or rashes that you realize are going to exist forever. Whilst watching violence on television, it may be entertaining at first, but what if the next day you see your kid carrying a gun at school- which according to him is “just for fun!!” Media succeeds in creating a current successful impact on its viewers, but it does not provide sufficient information about the after effects of such a success.
People need news/information for various reasons, on one hand it can be used to socialize and on the other to make decisions and formulate opinions. Entertainment would be the other function of the mass media where it is mostly used by the masses to amuse them in present day hectic environment. Educating the masses about their rights, moral, social and religious obligations is another important function of mass media, which needs no emphasis.
In present era of globalization, majority of people in the society depends on information and communication to remain connected with the world and do our daily activities like work, entertainment, health care, education, socialization, travelling and anything else that we have to do.
A common urban person usually wakes up in the morning checks the tv news or newspaper, goes to work, makes a few phone calls, eats with their family or peers when possible and makes his decisions based on the information that he has either from their co workers, Tv news, friends, family, financial reports, etc. we need to be conscious of the reality that most of our decisions, beliefs and values are based on what we know for a fact, our assumptions and our own experience. In our work we usually know what we have to do, based on our experience and studies, however on our routine life and house hold chores we mostly rely on the mass media to get the current news and facts about what is important and what we should be aware of.
We have put our trust on the media as an authority to give us news, entertainment and education. However, the influence of mass media on our kids, teenagers and society is so big that we should know how it really works. The media makes billions of dollars with the advertising they sell and that we are exposed to, every single moment. We buy what we are told to buy by the media. After seeing thousands of advertising’s we make our buying decisions based on what we saw on tv, newspapers or magazines. These are the effects of mass media especially in teenagers, they buy what they see on tv, what their favorite celebrity advertise and what is acceptable by society based on the fashion that the media has imposed on them.
There are some positive and negative influences in young people of our society due to these ad campaigns in the media. Here is a positive influence example, if there is a quiz show on education that is getting a lot of attention by the media and gains popularity among your friends and society, you will more likely want to actively participate and watch these quiz shows. These activities are good for the society and will promote literary activities in the youth. However a negative influence in teenagers is the use of guns and ammunition by celebrity movie stars, the constant exposure of which would seduce the teen to replicate the same behavior in the real life.
When we watch tv or a action movie we usually see many images of violence and people hurting others. The problem with this is that it can become traumatic especially in our children as they see it more and more. Our kids that are starting to grow and are shaping their personality values and beliefs can become aggressive or they can lose a sense of distinction between reality and fiction. Another problem is that real war is used as a form of entertainment by the media, we should make our kids and teen aware that war is not a form of entertainment and that there is no win or lose like in video games, in real war everyone lose.
Teens, youngsters are in a stage of life where they want to be accepted by their peers, they want to be loved and be successful. The media creates the ideal image of beautiful men and women with all the ingredients of a successful person, you can see it in movies and tv. It’s a subliminal way to persuade the masses that if you want to be successful and look like them then you have to buy that particular brand or product. Another negative influence in teenagers, especially in the USA, that has grown over the last years is obesity. There are millions of adolescents fighting obesity, but at the same time they are exposed to thousands of advertisements of junk food, while the ideal image of a successful person is told to be thin and wealthy.
The media has a huge impact on society in shaping the public opinion of the masses. They can form or modify the public opinion in different ways depending of what is the objective. For example, Pakistani media influenced the public opinion against the Taliban in Swat by repeated telecast of a video clip showing whipping of a woman by a Taliban.
Before that the public opinion over the military action against the Taliban in Swat was divided, but repeated telecast of this short video clip changed the public opinion over night in the favor of the government to take action. Other ways to influence are with polls and trends, especially in political campaigns. The candidates that can pay for more tv and media exposure have more influence on public opinion and thus can receive more votes.
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