Influence of the media on society
Over the last century, the media has undergone radical growth especially with the breakthrough developments made in technology. Since the establishment of the print media in the 1900s, the media has been growing exponentially in coverage and innovation. These developments have seen the transition from telegraph to radio, then television and finally the current media explosive age of the internet. The current age is the information age where the current society has an efficient, fast and unlimited access to a large pool of data through computers and the internet. Information drives the society forward and promotes the advancement in various areas of the modern society. Therefore, media forms an essential part of the society. The media has immense influence on the society’s perception of reality.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, media refers to means and tools of communication targeted to reach many people. The main functions of media with respect to the society are to provide information, to entertain and to educate. Humans make their decisions and model their opinions unconsciously based on information acquired from the media. The media is the link between the society and the information pool (Lauren). Therefore, the media through the provision of information sculptures the society by influencing the opinion and perspective of reality of the society. The media is a powerful tool in engineering structures of the society.
Many scientists have come up with theories that explain various mechanisms of how the media influences the society. These include the Catharsis theory, aggressive cues theory, observational learning theory, reinforcement theory and cultivation theory. The central idea from these theories is the nature of the stimuli that one is exposed to day-by-day mold their behavior and opinion. This means that the media can be used as a tool for influencing politics, purchasing trends and social behaviors. In order to do this, the media decides on which information to present to the society and how to present it. It assumes the role of a gatekeeper (Zafar, 1). By presenting information through biased lens, the media presents the version of reality that is favorable to its interests (Curtis, 2).
The influence of media in the society is dependent on the availability of a particular media and the coverage of the media (Curtis, 2). The owners of the media companies control the content of the information presented by the media. The main aim of the media companies is to make profits and to stand out among competitors. In order to make profits, the media companies strive to acquire immense viewership to guarantee the advertisers that their intended advertisement will reach a wide audience. To get a sizeable number of viewers, the media has to provide the popular opinion in order to acquire following from the public (Lauren). For instance, following the terrorist attacks on the American soil in 2001, the media was instrumental in swaying the public opinion in favor of the American government involvement in flushing out terrorists in Pakistan (Zafar, 2-3). The other side of the story, concerning thousands of innocent lives lost through the involvement of the US government in Pakistan, was less popular.
Media bias is not a bad thing. In order to achieve a set of social objectives, for example, invoke patriotism, there is a need to present the information that is relevant to the cause through efficient media gate-keeping practices and strategies. However, there is a limit to the level of bias. Undesirable bias arises when the media misrepresents facts for selfish purposes. In other words, it is a question of omission against commission. Responsible media practice presents facts to the society and withholds certain information to avoid polarizing the public towards the negative. In addition, responsible media avoids misrepresenting facts by making up facts for the purposes of propaganda.
In conclusion, the media is a powerful social tool. Most people in the modern world base their opinions on the facts presented by the media. It is through the realization of this fact that responsible media practice can be realized. Rather than telling the society what to think, the media provides selective information and facts. Through the interaction with the selective factual stimuli, the society acquires concrete opinions of the reality. However, this bias should not be extended to fabrication of falsehoods as this would be considered too far.
Curtis, Anthon R. Mass Media Influence in Society. Pembroke: University of North Carolina, n.d.
Lauren W. Media Influence on Society. Messages curate at http://www.citelighter.com/film-media/film-media/knowledgecards/media-influence-on-society
Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster online dictionary. 2014. 11 October 2014 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/media>.
Mughal, M A. Mass Media And Its Influence On Society. 18 January 2011. 11 October 2014 <http://www.opinion-maker.org/2011/01/mass-media-and-its-influence-on-society/>.
newswriting.org. "Mass Media and Society." 2014. A newswriting.org Web site. 11 October 2014 <http://www.newswriting.org/100/100xeffects.pdf>.
Zafar Ali, Mirza Jan, Noshina Saleem. Portrayal Of Pakistan By U.S. Leading News Magazines. Department of Mass Communication, Gomal University, D.I.Khan, Pakistan., 2013.