A Reflection on the Media's Influence on Society
By: Alicia Munian
Our ability to communicate, share perspectives of the world, and debate with one another has increased exponentially over the past few years. Our "public sphere" has become wider than it has ever been before. Humans have adapted remarkably fast to this defining era of virtualized information. We are constantly bombarded with an influx of information, with the mainstream media being the center. Mainstream media has become an integral part of human society. This directly affects our understanding of reality--it is our way of interacting with other humans through visual means. The media has created a complex, and in many ways, a “brainwashing” layer to society.
The media has created realms of influences that have an immense impact on culture and society. In both the entertainment and news realm, the media hones power over what each individual person is exposed to. Although the person chooses the channel that they watch, they do not choose the content on that particular channel. This influence defines the ways that individuals think and feel, without them truly being conscious of it. Individuals are led to believe that they are truly the ones in power, making subjective decisions, but the media maintains a major role in influencing these decisions. Mass media has served as a ground of facilitation for the discourse of information in the public sphere.
Politics and the media exist in an interesting duality--they both feed into one another to perpetuate power. During 9/11, images of the twin towers falling were immediately circulated throughout the media. Shock and horror filled the hearts of the American people. Whether this attack was actually done by the terror agency or not, it was clear what message that the media wanted to portray—it was time to strike back and get revenge against these media-proclaimed terrorists. This portrayal directly influenced America’s public opinion on whether America should enter into another war. The repetition of an enemy gave the public an outlet for their anger and a way to resolve their issues. Although images blaming individuals from the Middle East for these attacks, things that were not shared in the media included the “collateral damage” from America’s airstrikes—the thousands of innocent lives lost from the Middle East. This media bias protects the American people from the guilt that they would feel from realizing the reality to their actions. Without this perpetuation of a ‘bad guy,’ the American people at the time, probably would not have been as focused on getting revenge, but rather, more focused on rebuilding our nation, and uniting as one. Although this is true, our culture of blame usually begs for a target for everyone to face their negative energy towards, so someone along the line, maybe even the government, would have been blamed.
This new era of mass communication has created a societal hegemony—where the media is at the top. The media is controlled by a select few billion dollar companies, they are the ones who determine what is favorable and within their interest to be displayed. This theme has been seen throughout history, the power truly lies within the rich. The way that the media portrays certain themes and symbols, will be acted out as such in society. The emphasis that they place on certain things, although insignificant to the actual reality of the world, maintains influence in individual’s self-identities and life. Trying to fit into the cultures portrayed in the media severely limits each individual’s autonomy. Everyone wants to be accepted, and fit into the groups that they identify themselves with. The media often creates the idealize role of different groups of people, and then individuals strive to fit into these set groups. This causes others to conform to buying certain clothing, presenting themselves in a certain manner, and doing whatever may fit into that group.
Throughout human history, the one thing that we all inevitably face from the moment we are born is our death. In a way, the media has immortalized human beings, placing a larger meaning in our everyday actions. Thousands of people can see a post on Facebook, a photo on Instagram can last indefinitely, beyond our own existence, to be shared without others. This has severely altered human’s understanding of reality. With the new implications of this reality, people have become obsessed with documenting and sharing every interesting aspect of their daily lives. The lust of existing in an eternal sphere of reality, to be shared with other people for an indefinite period of time is tempting to many individuals in our society. Although this is true, in some ways, this same concept takes away from the experience of living in the moment. Before media, a good moment was gone in an instant, and thus we must live in the joy of each moment. Now, we have the ability to share an eternalize each moment, which is both beautiful and overwhelming at the same time. In some ways, we lose a bit of each moment, through the act of trying to eternalize each moment. Our perception of reality is distorted through the lens of the camera, the influx of endless information.
In many ways, the lack of consciousness for the influence of the media in society is damning for humanity—we are floating on a set path that is predetermined by the media, and many people, blissfully unaware. Even as other people open their minds and become aware of the fact that so many aspects of their lives are controlled by the media, if they try to share this information with others, they are often not believed or understood. With the perpetuation of the media’s agenda and themes, humans slowly lose their autonomy to this unrealized hegemonic power.