Mass Media and its Influence on American Culture:
What is the first thing most Americans do when they wake up in the morning, when they get out of their car, or when they are done with work? They check their cell phones. Currently communication and media have a strong hold over our everyday lives, we search for answers in the media, looking to form opinions and learn about what in the world is affecting us personally. Through the media we decide what places we are going to go, our political parties, what is in style, and many other things that seem to be crucial factors. Mass media has developed drastically over the last century, and each change has influenced American culture. This paper will discuss both the changes and effects, and how we use the media in our everyday lives in the following three sections:
- What were the major developments in Mass Media over the last century?
- How have these developments affected American Culture?
- What is Media Convergence and Media Literacy and how do they affect everyday life?
Understanding media and the role it plays in society is key to forming educated opinions and having control over the media’s influence and the information it presents.
What were the major developments in Mass Media over the last century?
Media has been changing drastically since its inception. While print was the main form of media for the longest time, when radio and television became major forms of media they brought something with them that words could not do. People who were tuning in to the radio and watching television were now exposed to marketing campaigns, visual violence, sexuality, suffering and relief, and the start of celebrity idolization (Curtis, 2012).
As technology expanded and matured, the electronic age began. Since that time mass media has multiplied exponentially, information can be accessed faster and faster, more and more information could be circulated and accessed. As well as information circulating, marketing and ads were now able to reach more people, and target audiences based on individuals’ internet use. The internet influences the growth and spread of media, and eventually gave the power of media transfer to the people, now publishers and stations are no longer in control of the media and its information. Though the information may be started by a journalist, government official, or news associate, people can access the information, add his or her input, and spread his or her view on the topic to others. The individuals who rely on the media, are creating it themselves through websites, blogs, social media sites like facebook and twitter, through cell and smart phones, and endless other forms of content sharing (“Effects of mass,” 2013).
New sources of mass media, like social networking sites and blogs are considered emerging media, because they are not from trained journalists or publishers, but the people themselves, and this development has changed media drastically in the last 10 years. Though people prefer traditional media and feel it is more valid, this does not mean information from emerging sources is not credible, it just takes more research to prove so (Deliso, 2006).
How have these developments influenced American Culture?
Obviously as the ways of accessing media have evolved, so has the way it affects the individuals who have access to it. When radio and television news first became popular, most used that and the newspaper as their primary sources of information, and did not question where that information came from, or if it was valid or not. As people have begun to receive more and more information from different sources, and see that there are more points of view and opinions on the same information, this is shown in both traditional and emerging media. This new source of information is a huge effect on not only American culture, but the entire world. Media can influence the opinions of people in severe ways, both good and bad, for example government influence on media can sway the opinions of the people exposed to that specific media.
As the media plays such an influential role in the lives of most Americans, we need to ask ourselves, “Are we in control of the media, or is the media in control of us?” Media’s drastic growth has lead society to become more aware of what is going on socially, economically, etc. However, as more and more information is presented to us we are more susceptible to biased information that is underhandedly attempting to sway opinions to parallel that of the biased (Wendt & Spohn).
As people become more aware about what is truly going on, and taking about it through emerging media sources and exposing themselves to many different sources of traditional media, the individual is able to find the truth and form his or her own educated opinion, and American culture holds this as a very important factor in the people’s everyday lives. We feel as if we are not droids controlled by the government, but people in control of our country, and emerging media has made this so.
What is Media Convergence and Media Literacy and how do they affect everyday life?
Bias in media happens when the writer is influenced by a specific source, this is often a political party or government source (Wendt & Spohn). However, this can also happen when one company monopolizes the media source, for example newspapers owned by the same company or publisher, this allows them to employ fewer people and save money while publishing more media and spreading the opinion of the publisher (“Effects of mass,” 2013). This can inhibit the growth of information if all sources are fueled by the same idea, luckily with emerging media people have become more aware that something said by one company or news source is not necessarily the truth. This effects our everyday lives by influencing the media that influences us, pushing us to succumb to ideas that are not our own. Our job as people and citizens is to make ourselves aware of the truth.
The awareness of this and ability to filter information from the media is called “media literacy”. Being media literate allows a person to create his or her own opinion by taking information from media sources, filtering that information, and producing his own idea, based upon what he has learned and applied (“A few words,” 2012).
Mass media is a very important factor in the growth of society, and for the most part, it is good for individuals to indulge themselves in the information that is circulating. If we as individuals use caution, critical thinking, and expose ourselves to many types of media, becoming media literate, we can use mass media as a tool to enhance our lives and culture every day.
A few words about “media literacy”. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.cmp.ucr.edu/education/programs/digitalstudio/studio_programs/vidkids/medialit.html
Curtis, A. R. (2012). Mass media influence on society. (Master’s thesis, University of North Carolina at Pembroke)Retrieved from http://www.uncp.edu/home/acurtis/Courses/ResourcesForCourses/PDFs/Mass_Media_Influence_on_Society.pdf
Deliso, M. (2006, October 02). Traditional media more trustworthy than emerging. Ad age: Media news. Retrieved from http://adage.com/article/media/traditional-media trustworthy-emerging/112254/
[Web log message]. (2013). Effects of mass media on American culture. Retrieved from http://doctordialogue.hubpages.com/hub/Effects-of-Mass-Media-on-American-Culture
Wendt , T., & Spohn , A. (n.d.). The role of mass media in modern american culture . Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/americanpoliticalparanoia/the-role-of-mass-media-in-american-political-culture