Examining Media Use and Influence

Starting with the sound of an alarm on my iPhone, invariably at 6:00am, 6:10, then every five minutes until 7:30 am, I begin my day with a repetitive snooze via my mobile device. As irritation surmounts due to more alarms going off I wonder to myself maybe I have a problem. Sleep fades from my eyes and alertness takes over, but vertical is not a position I want to be in, so like clockwork I type in my passcode and surf some of my favorite apps to further delay my interactions with the rest of the world. Feedly is my go to, followed by Tumblr (maybe George Takei posted something hilarious so I can begin my day with a laugh), maybe a little Words with Friends if it’s my move, if not, I’ll nudge my opponents Hey, I’m waiting here!

Another rogue alarm sounds…okay, I’m up.

To the shower I go with Pandora, usually my favorite Breaking Benjamin station, but sometimes Yanni, Dubstep, or if I’m feeling particularly brazen, Narcissistic Cannibal Radio. There may or may not be the occasional Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Adele, or other girl power music woven in the mix…<contorts face awkwardly as I stare up at the ceiling avoiding figurative eye contact> I exercise my shower singing skills to their max. Thankfully everyone has already left the house; their ears and sanity are saved. Another alarm sounds…How the? This needs to stop!!! End the madness! I hate technology right now! I rush to exit the shower and turn off every alarm ever set on my phone, I’ll turn them back on before I go to bed so the cycle will repeat…pfft. 

There’s one more song I want to hear before I blow-dry my hair and get to my day, so to YouTube I go. I love technology right now! With a snap I’ve forgotten already the self-created annoyance of perpetual alarm clocks because I have music on demand. With my morning routine complete, it’s time to make coffee and get to “work” (I’m currently a graduate student and stay-at-home mom). I find my designed spot in front of the computer—my coffee finds its designated spot on a mug warmer I got for Christmas that I can’t imagine ever living without—and with the tap of the spacebar the screen comes to life.

I should snapchat my coffee mug with some witty phrase before starting anything major. I don’t give into the distracting thought. Though something ridiculous like “Breakfast of Champions” seems fitting.

Email, homework tasks, personal projects, oh, I got a text let me respond, academic research, and job hunting occupy me for hours before I realize I haven’t eaten—perhaps I should set an alarm for that—and it’s almost time for the kids to get home from school.

On an average day, this is my exposure to new media. Once upon a time, over half a year ago, social media was included, as was an embarrassing amount of television consumption and candy crushing. Then, one day out of the blue I decided those forms of media communications were no longer palatable to my personal tastes and I made drastic changes. Most days I feel archaic, but am overall satisfied with my self-limited exposure to new media technologies…however, when Jarvis and affordable cleaning-lady robots become available on the market, I may fold.

I have a love hate relationship with media. (I’m starting to notice a pattern…) I love it when it entertains me and I hate it when it’s riddled with bureaucratic shenanigans. My empathetic nature usually can’t stomach much of what media, especially the news, has to offer. Even though I practice a lot of self-limitations, it does not make me impervious to indirect sources. For instance, I would have never known that NASA wanted to recruit candidates for a 70-day head-down tilt bed rest study were it not for my mom texting me a link to an article on Inquisitr. Then she told me they were paying $18,000 to participants and that I should look into it. The health nut and former massage therapist in me is saying, “Oh. My. The atrophy…not a chance!”

On days that I finally drop my hermit act—which could be misconstrued as bordering agoraphobic level extremes—and step out into the world to run vital errands, the radio becomes another means of inadvertent media bombardment. I usually get irritated quite quickly, so Pandora radio takes over. After two or three songs I’m reminded that I have the free app as ads and trailers play for different products.

As much as I would like to say media does not influence my perspective on world events, it does. In in many cases, without traveling directly to the source, media is the only means to obtain certain information one must digest in order to formulate a stance. Personally, the media coverage surrounding the devastating 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York played a great role in influencing my perspective. At the time I was a sophomore in high school and a captive audience; eyes glued to the tube with marginal media literacy skills. My perspective then and my perspective now are different in many respects, but both stemmed from the same source: Media.

When posed the question: Do you believe that the media has the power to tell you what to think about, but not what to think? My immediate response is I think it can inevitably do both. Media may not tell you directly what to think, but it can be a very powerful tool of persuasion, acting as breadcrumbs to a particular conclusion that the media set up like candy for Hansel and Gretel to their certain demise. Sweet, sugarcoated illusions.

The Role of the Media in the Construction of Public Belief and Social Change, a journal article written by Catherine Happer and Greg Philo (2013) published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology notes that media plays a central role in informing the populace about world events, and as such can shape beliefs, especially among individuals who lack knowledge or experience on the subject matter. A weatherman may report that there is a storm among storms blowing in from the East and to prepare accordingly. Many times I have seen pictures of store shelves emptied of food and supplies due to such impending threats, then the weather remains relatively normal. (In the end I guess it is better to be prepared than not, right?) The weatherman, generally viewed as a trustworthy source, can create and shape beliefs based on what and how he or she presents their report. The same can be said for news anchors and other forms of media.

The question remains are these positive or negative influences that help to shape beliefs? Well, they’re both. Just as violence in video games, television, and movies can be argued whether or not it has the capability to turn its viewers violent, exposure to such material can shape beliefs in regards to social acceptability, personal opinions, or in extreme cases, possible utilization of force. I feel most outside sources/stimuli have the potential to influence, but it is how each of us interprets the information that makes the influence positive or negative.

Perhaps the most notable information revolution began with the Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press. Authors Kovach and Rosenstiel of Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload (2010) discuss at length the component that led to an explosion of writing and reading, and ultimately a boost in practical thought, resulting in the transformation of Europe, the Renaissance, and Reformation (p. 15). Advancements such as the newspaper, radio, and television became means in which information could be disseminated and reach a sizable demographic. Similarly, the introduction of the Internet gave birth to a digital information revolution. As these informational routes have increased so has the power of media, having the control to inform, entertain, and influence on a global scale. With conceivably more individuals affected by media’s reach today than of fifty, thirty, or even ten years ago, our knowledge base has grown. Technological strides bridge access gaps and create new means to share and learn information while humanitarian advancements help us discern media with literacy and allow us to actively play a role in the creation of a global society.

 

References:

Happer, C., Philo, G. (2013). The Role of the Media in the Construction of Public Belief and Social Change. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 1(1). Retrieved from: http://jspp.psychopen.eu/article/view/96/37

Inquisitr. 2015). NASA will pay you thousands to stay in bed for 70 straight days. Retrieved from: http://www.inquisitr.com/1773119/nasa-will-pay-you-thousands-to-stay-in-bed-for-70-straight-days/

Kovach, B., and Rosenstiel, T.  (2010).  Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload.  New York: Bloomsbury.

 

 

 

 

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