Does the Media Shape Who We Are?

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The Mass Media is an important feature of modern society; its development has undoubtedly been a core factor to rapid social and technological change and also to the rise in personal income and standard of life as well as the decline of some social traditions. Mass media can be defined as venues for messages that are created for consumption by large numbers of people. It is a term used to denote a section of the media specifically envisioned and designed to reach a very large audience such as the population of a nation state.

The degree to which the mass media has influenced society today has been (and still is) debated upon for decades. It can be argued that the mass media is used as “an instrument”, both more powerful and more flexible than anything in previous existence, for influencing people into certain modes of belief and understanding within society.

This essay will examine the extent to which the media influences us as a society. During the course of this essay I will touch upon media effects and uses in society and evaluate the different theories that have been established to see whether they can help to grasp a better understanding of the phenomenon that is the mass media and its effects.

First I must point out the essentialness of the audience. Without the audience there is no mass media and without audience response to the media then it has failed to fulfil its task. So bearing that in mind, I will be focusing on the effects produced by the media, notably the television and the press on the audience.

The effects on the audience

In recent years there have been many high profile cases in which the media has been named as one the main culprits of influence. The news and newspapers have an impact on the way we think and view certain situations. Although the news is supposed to provide a neutral source of information, it is in fact often biased because it is run by humans so naturally the stories covered will have a certain stance on it from the editor. For most people the news is the only source of information that they get therefore they are more inclined to believe and absorb everything that is said.

Often the mass media in particular written text such as the newspapers will use specific language to create a particular reaction from the audience. Take for instance the war on terrorism; distinct language is used for the opposite sides in order to enhance the image of the British, for example ‘British troops eliminated their opposition’ whereas to describe the other side, negative words would be used like ‘Saddam’s army killed or destroyed our troops.’

We must not, however, forget that the media’s aim is to get the highest ratings as possible therefore stories will be slightly altered or various pieces of information will be omitted in order to make the story seem more interesting. The reality is that negative storylines engage the viewer’s attention therefore such stories are more present in the media.

We now live in a society whereby people are very conscious of others around them and this I believe is down to the fact that the media always covers negative stories. For example, people are very wary of pedophiles to the extent where there’s been a significant rise in parents who will no longer let their children play on the streets or walk to the local shop by themselves. People seem to think that the problem of pedophilia has worsened over the years when in fact the actual statistics have not changed in the last thirty years. The only reason for this sudden outburst of fear of the pedophile is because of the amplified mass media coverage over certain cases.

Commercials also have a significant influence over the choices and decisions of its audience. They are a key example of how the media is used to extort or play on the desires of the audience. Companies will target various audiences such as teenagers and manipulate them by persuasive means because they are...
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