Media refers to the channels or tools used to store and transmit information or data to an audience for any purpose. For an ideal society to exist, as argued by George Mead, a form of communication must be developed to allow individuals to appreciate the attitudes, view points and positions of others, and also allow that individual to be understood as well. This human communication through artificial channels dates back to ancient cave paintings, drawn maps and writing. Media not only propagates ideas, but it seeks to influence others in a certain line of thinking and action. For example, many psychologists regard television as nothing more than a tin box generating visual stimuli while the rest of the world is constantly digesting and regurgitating its contents. Media is a key element in cultural socialization as a whole, looking at the way in which individuals grow up in a society in which media help shape our understanding of the world. Social development is when a society grows or changes and becomes more advanced. This is not referring not only to physical or infrastructural growth, but the development of individuals’ character in that society. This development continues throughout the entire life span of society. Character and social development also contribute towards a society or an individual becoming competent in their interaction with others, where the difference of the individual is what gives them value. Development is therefore dependant on their response to the stimuli one receives, especially from the environment they are in.
In the 21st century, the predominant form of stimuli which contributes in social and personal development is the media. Media has at its heart the power and ability of influence. Attitudes, mindsets and perceptions are shaped by what the people accept to be reality. Fashion trends, latest consumer products, current affairs and so on are propagated through the media. The print media, along with radio and television broadcasting have even become the means through which children and grownups learn on a variety of topics ranging from violence, racing through to playing sports such as golf. In the United States, it is reported that children nowadays spend 75% of their time in front of the television set, either playing video games or watching the latest programming. Through this we see that society has taken a back seat in the training and nurturing of children, leaving them to fall into the hands of the television set, the internet, radio and the print media. Information transmitted through mass media sources can and does influence societies and individuals.
Most researchers agree that the increasing presence and impact of mass communication will continue to play an important role in the formation of social and political consciousness and attitudes. More-so, this is becoming evident in the time we are living in now as the world is being referred to as ‘a global village.’ The past few years has witnessed an increase in how information is being gathered and disseminated, beyond cultural, social and political divides.
Behind the evolution of media are those with the financial muscle who are able to set the tone of what the people are fed. For example, as the media developed through the decades, all participants in the First World War (1914 – 1918) used the media as instruments of propaganda and used the new techniques of advertising and public relations to manipulate their citizens to follow war aims and to conform to their government’s policies. One of the pioneers of public relations Edward Bernays coined the expression the ‘engineering of consent’ to describe the importance of manipulating the public mind to support the status quo and advanced ways to do this that included government policies, using advertising and commercial interests and promoting social conformity. Even though advances in media technology, especially during the inter-war years...