How does the media affect our lives? Does it influence our thinking and behavior? What are the negative influences of media? Read on to find the answers.
You want to imitate an action sequence just because your favorite action hero looked ‘cool’ doing it. You want to wear the LBD just because you are a fan of Coco Chanel. You want to wear the shade of nail polish Lady Gaga wears for that frantic gaga look. You want to sport your favorite actors’ hairstyles and you want to walk like those ramp models do. You want to do everything that people from the glamor world do, you want to be like your favorite celebrity. Just like them, even you want to be in the news. Any publicity is good publicity, you begin to feel.
Your role models are people that the media exposes you to. You want to be someone, but not yourself! And now you say media does not influence you! Oh come on, it surely does! Mass media does affect the way in which masses think and act. It influences their behavior both positively and negatively. The positive effects are surely celebrated by one and all. But the negative effects are not conducive to a healthy society. Here, we will try to understand how media influences us negatively.
Media’s Negative Influence
When you try to imitate your role models from the glamor industry, do you give a thought to whether you are doing right or wrong? It is often seen that young girls and boys imitate celebrities blindly. The impact of media is such that the wrong, the controversial, and the bad is more talked about. Sometimes, little things are blown out of proportion thus changing the way they are perceived by the audience. Media highlights controversies and scandals in the lives of celebrities. The masses fall for this being-in-the-news and end up imitating celebrities without much thought. Those at a vulnerable age, especially children and teenagers, are highly influenced by anything that is put before them in a jazzy way. At that age, they are attracted to anything that’s flashy and anything that can make news.
The negatives in society are highlighted with the purpose of awakening people about them. For example, the negative effects of addiction are portrayed through advertisements. Newspapers, television and the Internet are used to convey social messages. But unfortunately sometimes, the message is misconstrued. The ‘awakening’ does not reach everyone or it reaches the masses in the wrong way. So there is a section positively influenced by the media while there are others who take the wrong message from it. Media influences them negatively. What is shown with an intent to ‘spread a message’ ends up becoming a bombardment of the bad, the ugly. The bad is overinflated and the good goes unnoticed. Depiction of the bad has a negative impact on kids not mature enough to interpret what they are being shown. It’s not just media to be blamed in this case. Parents and teachers have a big role to play in selecting what the young should see and what they should not.
To some extent, media is responsible for generating negative feelings among those exposed to it. An early exposure to bold or violent films, books publishing adult content and news portraying ugly social practices has a deep impact on young minds. If children are bombarded with fight sequences, stunt work, sex and rape scenes, suicides and murders through books or movies, they are bound to leave a scar on these impressionable minds. And not just children, the unpleasant can impact even an adult’s mind. Adults may have the maturity to distinguish between the good and the bad, but bombarding only the bad can affect anyone at least at the subconscious level. Haven’t you had experiences of a bad dream after watching a violent movie? Or of imagining something scary happening to you after watching a horror film? Or a sudden fear gripping your mind after reading about a murder in your city? The reality should be depicted but not so gaudily that it’ll have a lasting impact on people’s minds.
Media is held responsible for the change in eating habits of teenagers and the unhealthy lifestyle they are adopting. You ask me why? Well, because there are these junk food advertisements everywhere. There’s no one advertising the benefits of eating fresh fruit everyday, no one’s promoting drinking 8 glasses of water daily. The benefits of following a balanced diet are not being hyped anywhere. Media is exposing the masses to fast food products, canned food, fad diets, and energy drinks. This is leading teenagers to adopt unhealthy eating habits. No one’s propagating the importance of exercising to keep fit. But there are advertisements of expensive exercise equipment, and weight and fat loss programs. Watching TV or browsing the web late night is spoiling the sleeping habits of many.
The media in itself is so addictive that once glued to it, you tend to forget everything else. When you are not watching TV, you are surfing the Internet, when you are not on the web, you are reading newspapers, when you are not reading anything, you are listening to something. Thus, all the time, you are glued to some form of media. It is bombarding you with content, news, information, gossip, rumors – it is exposing you to everything it has, some things necessary, some not; some things important, some not, some things you want to ignore, some things you cannot. Media is everywhere, affecting every aspect of life.
The negative effects of media on children are manifested in terms of their changing mental setup and the declining quality of their lifestyle. Children should invest more time reading good books, studying, playing outdoors and exercising. Due to the oh-so-alluring media, most of their time is spent glued to the television, reading celebrity gossip, listening to something sensational or wandering aimlessly on the Internet. With a ‘world’ of information and entertainment waiting on the other side of a computer or TV screen, it’s not unnatural for anyone to spend hours exploring it; it’s addictive. This affects kids and teenagers the most, as they are exposed to things they might interpret wrongly or may not even understand at that age.
Women with petite bodies and girls with a barbie figure are always shown to be more popular or attractive while the overweight are portrayed as less popular, having less friends and being bullied. This leads to a notion that thin is sexy and fat is not. When this thought grips the minds of youngsters, they take to fad diets or turn to cosmetic surgeries to get that so-called perfect body. The craze for models or actors and actresses, makes teenagers want bodies and facial features like theirs. To get rid of a big nose or to get those big pouty lips, teenagers are ready to go under the knife.
Media has negative effects on the physical and psychological well-being of society. People spending hours in front of a television or surfing the Internet experience eye problems. Lack of physical activity leads to obesity problems. Media influences public opinion and impacts the choices that people make. The media does play a role in portraying thin as beautiful and fat as ugly. It has led to a general opinion that size-zero is the in thing and fat and chubby are out. This makes the overweight feel out of place. They are ready to starve themselves to lose weight. This can, and has led to increasing cases of anorexia. An inferiority complex and lowered confidence in people with not-so-perfect bodies can lead to eating disorders. In a survey done on fifth graders by the National Institute on Media and the Family, it was found that kids had become dissatisfied with their bodies after watching a video of a certain very popular artiste and a certain scene from a popular TV show (names omitted on purpose).
The media has, in its own way, changed people’s outlook towards life. Media is the interface through which millions look at the world outside. Media claims to depict the ‘today’, but not all types of media show only the truth. With the intent of stressing their point or for grabbing greater attention from the masses, media hypes or exaggerates things to a certain degree. Not everyone is able to filter that element. Most believe everything to be real, especially kids and teenagers.
Vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts – where did they come from? Fairies, superheroes, angels – where did they come from? It’s not only media to be blamed, as these characters belong to folklore. But media did play a role in propagating these characters and making them seem real. Aren’t there ghost and vampire stories that media claims as real? These characters enter our world through books and movies. There is no denying their amusement value or entertainment quotient. But isn’t it too much to blindly believe that they exist? Fiction is amusing only till the distinction between fact and fiction is clear. The reel entertains only till its difference from the real is understood. When the two worlds mix, life becomes difficult.
The media is so overwhelming that the masses end up believing everything it says/shows. Media sources are so many in number and all of them so convincingly make their point, that it is hard to distinguish between right and wrong. The media is constantly bombarding us with information. How far do we go to check its authenticity? How deep do we dig to get to the root of something that’s making news? How critically do we judge the reality of reality shows and the truth behind true stories? We don’t think, we believe. We don’t judge, we get influenced. And that’s how impactive media is.
While a certain amount of exposure to media is essential for introducing ourselves to the world outside, excessive exposure, uncontrolled access and belief without thought won’t lead us anywhere. They will only make the negative influence of media more obvious.
The solution to avoiding the negative influence of media lies in limiting media exposure and choosing what to watch. News sources often bombard you with the same negative stories over and over again, in order to increase the impact. Sometimes, small incidents or events in the lives of celebrities and politicians are hyped, in order to make them more sensational. Refrain from watching such programs or news. Instead, watch good programs that carry healthy content, engage in positive activities, and encourage others to do the same. As a responsible adult (parent or teacher), exercise control on the media exposure that kids and teenagers get.
Media portrayals give rise to stereotypes, affecting your mindset. Advertisements carry subliminal messages influencing buyers’ psychology, or carry direct messages that bear a negative influence. It’s not possible to insulate yourself completely from the effects of media, even if you limit the exposure. And there are so many things you see around you, without choosing to watch them. The only way to shield yourself from them, is to not allow them to influence you. Don’t take media portrayals by their word. Don’t believe in them without thinking. Use your judgment before following or falling for anything. Put things in perspective, and don’t let the media influence you to do the wrong things.