In the contemporary world, the average child is exposed to an approximate four thousand adverts yearly, thanks to the ever advancing technology (McCombs 65). First there was the telegraph which was later followed by radio broadcasting that was later to be declared obsolete by the coming of the newspapers. The newspapers, also referred to as print media, later welcomed the magazines that paved way for television and now we have the international network commonly referred to as the internet. In today’s world, almost all aspects of life depend to a great extent on information. The community relies heavily on information technology that is the mass media; especially the internet is used by many people to perform different functions. People are using the internet to go about their work, to access various forms of entertainment, to access educational material and to enhance the stability of personal relationships. It is no puzzle then, why today’s generation is referred to as the information age. This paper seeks to identify and explain the influence of mass media on society.
It is essential that we first understand the fundamental roles of the mass media before focusing on the effects it has on society. Fundamentally, the media serve four functions in the society. The first and most salient is the dissemination of information. This may take various forms. Information can be disseminated in the form of news, adverts, documentaries and other informative programs. The second role of mass media in society is entertainment. According to a child and even the young teenagers, the fundamental role of television is entertainment. Entertainment takes a significant fraction of the time at the average television in the world today (McCombs 71). Entertainment may well come in the form of music and different genres of movies. The third fundamental role of the mass media in the society is education. The media is informative in very many ways. The mass media provides information that is valid to the academician. For instance, through the journals published in the dailies and the weekly magazines are rich sources of academic knowledge.
The influences of the mass media on the world population are both negative and positive. We will look at the most conspicuous effects starting from the positive side. One of the most prominent and notable effects of mass media on the society is that it is a rich source of educational material (McCombs 75). In the world today, students do not undergo the torture of having to fumble through the pages of voluminous encyclopedias to get material that will help them go about their academic assignments and research tasks. All they need to do is visit the internet and use the various online libraries. From these libraries, they are proficient of accessing a broad range of soft copy books from which they can refer. Apart from the libraries, the students can use the peer reviewed academic papers found on the internet to conduct their researches.
The second positive effect is that people are now more informed than they were some decade or so ago. Research indicates that the most innovative changes in mass communication have taken place in the past half a century. In the generation of the current day, people get updated every minute. Any breaking news for instance reaches the local citizen minutes after the occurrence. With audio-visual media going global through such media houses as the BBC and CNN, an event occurring in America can be closely observed by a person in Israel. This has helped many people especially traders to make valid decisions after considering the political climates of various regions.
The third positive effect the mass media has had on the world population is that it has helped provide equal opportunities and economic circumstances to both the physically challenged groups and the physically strong. Five decades ago, the lame and other physically handicapped people could not fully determine their future since they could not access jobs owing to the fact that they could not travel to the workplace efficiently (McCombs 81). Today, the internet has eliminated such disparities since a physically handicapped person can work from home and keep contact with his employer through the virtual office that is becoming a common feature in the contemporary corporations. Freelance online jobs are a common feature in the world’s economies in the present era; hence, this has reduced the dependency that the disabled and unemployed people placed on the employed relations, again thanks to the mass media.
The second negative impact that mass media have had on the society is moral decay. The morals that used to exist among the members of society a few decades ago are no longer common as they used to be (McCombs 99). The mass media, especially the television and the internet, is to blame for this. These forms of mass media contain sexually explicit and morally lame content. The volumes of pornographic material on the internet are overwhelming. People are capable of accessing the adult sites whether or not they have attained majority age. This is because there is absolutely no method of proving the age of a user. This unlimited access has caused the children to explore their curiosity. The effects of such morally decayed behaviors are detrimental to the health and mental well-being of the children.
Internet addiction and drug abuse are part of the negative impacts of the internet. Internet addiction causes time wastage as the addict cannot plan his or her time well. Research has it that when an addict cannot access the internet, they suffer stress and depression. Studies have also indicated that internet addicts are poor academic performers as they have little time to attend to their studies. In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that from the foregoing, the mass media has many effects, both positive and negative. Whether or not the mass media are useful or detrimental to an individual depends to a great extent on the personal principles of the person. It also depends on the moral values such a user may be living by. The mass media can therefore be said to be equally as useful as it is dangerous.
McCombs, Maxwell. Setting the Agenda: The Mass Media and Public Opinion. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004