Violence in the Media and how it Affects Society
The effect of media is profound and far-reaching. All over the world, the media influences our values and intrudes upon our deep-seated ideologies and beliefs. Indeed the media has been a powerful force in influencing people’s perceptions, and more importantly, their behavior as well. Business, politicians, and showbiz personalities pay huge sums of money to media firms in order create an image or change an existing one. Politics in particular, has been making use of the media to generate public support for their campaigns and support for certain policies and legislations.
Indeed, the power of the media to affect our behavior has long been proven. Among the most pressing issues about media nowadays is how the proliferation of media violence can affect society. People have long believed that constant and chronic exposure to violence through various forms of mass media can erode the values of an individual, especially if the person does not have a strong system of moral support. (Croteau & Hoynes 23) However while it is easy to say that violence in media has an adverse effect in society, there are scholars who argue that it is not media per se that causes the negative effects, rather it is a complex interplay of many elements in society, and media is but one element in the issue. (Freedman 54) Media violence and its effect on society cannot be separated from these other factors and therefore, media alone cannot be held responsible for violence in society. As such, this paper intends to understand media violence and its effects on society by understanding the issues that underlie the argument.
Violent behavior has long been a source of confusion among sociologists, psychologists and society in general. While there have been many extensive researches that have attempted to study, understand, and explain criminal acts, none thus far has been found to satisfactorily explain all the complex processes and the interplay of factors that pushes an individual to commit violence. Among these theories, the most widely-accepted is the constitutive criminology. According to this theory, violent behavior is the result of the complex interplay between man and the social structures that he interacts with on a regular basis. (Sanders & Ferrell 146) As such, perpetrators of violence cannot be analyzed separately from the social processes that they interact with.
Following this theory, it is easy to understand why media has often been implicated in the increase of aggressive or violent behavior. Media has been growing more powerful and omniscient by the minute. In particular the Internet, has amplified the power of the media to effect change and influence society’s behavior. The effects of these technological advances have been discussed by Croteau and Hoynes, “The increase in media options in recent years has even led to an increase in ‘multi-tasking’- using more than one form of media at a time.” (5) With the ubiquitous media surrounding us in all aspects of our lives, it is easy to realize that the media is a big and indispensable part of contemporary life. Indeed the media has become the most dominant and powerful force in our modern world, displacing religious and educational institutions as the primary molder of our individual and collective ideologies. (Croteau and Hoynes 6) And if media can be used to influence buying, voting, and other forms of behavior, it follows that is also affects violence and aggressiveness among people. How media influences people may be explained by Bandura’s social learning theory. According to Bandura (1977), the need to be accepted and conform to society is the main driving force for an individual’s actions. If media then creates the image of what is acceptable and popular, then it is only logical that society acts in accordance to this media-created image.
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