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Mass media creates many opportunities and provides many leisure activities, along with the ability to express oneself, but American society has gotten caught up in the greed and desire for money that is creating a society whose priorities and values are not set in place. With only a desire for attracting views, companies take any measure to grab the attention of other regardless of the influence it will have on society. Social media has created many issues, but a notable example being a belief system that diminishes consequences. The excessive use of the television also creates issues regarding critical thinking styles that will continue on through generations. Along with these issues include how society communicates by using mediated conversation which diminishes emotion from a conversation.
Introduction Media has been around in various forms for centuries, but with the emergence and interest in mass media, has the American society let it take control of their lives? Mass media began in the form on newspapers and magazines and has transformed into televisions, cellphones, and applications, creating a whole new form of communication that society was not prepared to take control of. Mass media has increased remarkably in the past century and is causing American values and the development of society to decline. Although media creates a plethora of resources that are made easily available to the public, it brings upon society many issues in which the public does not know how to respond.
The values of the American society are influenced by many factors including location, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and even people’s personalities. The most notable influence today, mass media, is molding numerous values brought by many cultures around the world into one. With so many views, considerations, and scenarios, it has become easier to answer each with a black and white minded solution. A talk show, which discusses various relatable issues, takes a black and white approach in solving all its issues: To attract viewers, these shows focus on the bizarre and promote a distorted view of what it means to be ‘normal.’ They offer unrealistically simple solutions to complex problems, dispense dangerous advice and ignore the off-camera consequences for guests who have been encouraged to ‘courageously’ reveal deeply personal aspects of their lives. With so many viewers, these talk shows will say anything that panders to their customers, or they will attempt to find a medium in which all parties can relate in order to keep views high and create a profit. Rather than focusing on influencing their viewers’ behavior for the better, talk shows will indulge in what their viewers want to hear: a short term resolution to their dilemmas, overlooking the long-term goal. Moreover, all television shows, movies, and radios depend on viewers to make their money, therefore, they take any measure to attract the attention of the general public. All these shows overestimate the influence they have on millions. With this in mind, according to Krantz- Kent (2018), “In the 2013–17 period, the U.S. civilian non-institutional population ages 15 and older spent an average of 2 hours 46 minutes per day watching TV.” A small amount of time spent on television may be used for entertainment and humor, but if done so excessively, children become influenced by the actions they view on TV.
To attract the attention of these consumers it is often done by sex or violence related advertisements, which devalue the issue of both, creating a form of beliefs about sex and violence that typically hold false off the television. If the programs are providing television for the purpose of gaining views and making a profit rather than the benefit of providing television whose purpose is to educate, there is no doubt that these characters on the TV are influencing a tolerance for such unjust actions and values to the public while playing a major role in the development of society’s morals. While there is television that does protect against sex, violence, and drugs, almost anything can be made available to anyone, making children of all ages susceptible to such. With so many children stuck on the television, it is difficult for parents to control what they view, regardless of how hard they try, meaning that the means of teaching children morals are in the hands of those behind the television screen.
Today’s media focuses on the ideology that if you want something badly enough, go and get it; however, the media overlooks consequences when it comes to making oneself “happy.” With this being a common ideology, chaos follows due to a desire for short-term happiness and an over-looking of long-term consequences. This ideology emerges out of a lack of religion; “only 43% of Americans identify as white and Christian, and only 30% as white and Protestant. In 1976, roughly eight in ten (81%) Americans identified as white and identified with a Christian denomination, and a majority (55%) were white Protestants”. Without religions there is a lack of moral order, leaving it all to the decision of the individual. If American society starts looking at the long-term consequences that television does not envision, rather than being blindsided by the desires it offers, then society’s values would not be in jeopardy. Unfortunately, that is not the case. For example, social media was designed for the purpose of sharing our photos, beliefs, and experiences with the world. Social media can be a place where strangers often influence others. There are so many opinions shared, that most people, whose values are undecided, are influenced by the opinions that benefit themselves most, such as doing what pleases them short-term. Brain Development Moving forward, media has impaired human cognitive abilities, causing the attention span of the average person to decrease substantially.
According to McSpadden (2015), the attention span of the average person is down to eight seconds. An attention span is the amount of time a person is able to put their full attention onto something. This has reduced tremendously creating difficulties studying and carrying out other tasks. For example, “students today… struggle with reading and writing assignments, exhibit less creativity, are easily bored and distracted, lack perseverance, give up easily and have difficulty remembering instructions and thinking through problems”. This drop in attention span creates issues that may seem subtle in an individual, but with the widespread drop, society takes a step back in student’s learning abilities. This attention span is the effect of watching an excessive amount of TV: Since reading and watching television make very different demands on the brain, extensive television viewing could ‘reduce stimulation to left-hemisphere systems critical for development of language, reading, and analytical skills… may affect mental ability and attention by diminishing mental traffic between hemispheres… and may discourage development of ‘executive’ systems that regulate attention, organization and motivation. This change in how society is formatting its thinking is not only hurting its own generation, but all the generations that follow in two ways. The first is that it is creating a society whose main leisure activity is watching TV, which provides few benefits compared to reading a book or similar leisure activities which have been diminishing due to the television, telephone applications, and other widespread media. This leisure activity, being a part of everyday life for most people, will carry down for generations, losing the value of other non-electronic leisure activities. The second way in which watching an excessive amount of TV harms societal structure is due to the change in critical thinking which will pass onto offspring changing how future generations operate information, losing the desire of reading and other activities.
Due to media, the way society communicates has changed in tremendous manners. Mass media has devalued communication. It has gone from a majority of face-to-face communication to a majority of mediated conversation. Mediated communication comes in forms of texting, commenting, writing a letter, or sending an email. Face-to-face communication holds a richness which cannot be seen in mediated conversation. All the feelings and meaning is lost in mediated communication, as stated by Adler, R. B., & Rodman, G. (2017), “Social scientists use the term richness to describe the abundance of nonverbal cues that add clarity to a verbal message.” The loss of these qualities in mediated conversation allow people to feel more comfortable about saying things they typically would not have if they had been face-to-face. For example, if someone had accidentally made a mistake, it would be easier to show anger through a text message rather than in person due to a lack of emotion on the opposite end of the conversation. Although this does, of course, vary from situation to situation, it remains evident that the effects of mediated communication carry negative aspects. With the excessive use of mediated communication, it becomes more difficult for children and teenagers to respond when strong emotion is portrayed. Along with that, mediated communication can be done so quickly and effortlessly, that it loses its value significantly. With this new form of communication changing the way society communicates, it is also changing the personal relationships they have with close friends, family, and significant others by the way they support each other, show honesty and deception, express and understand emotion, and an abundance of similar actions. It is changing the nature of communication completely, creating a whole new culture or society of communicating.
The negative effects of media have not only been studied, but majority of the population believe that the values of the American society have declined as well. According to Balan (2011), “74 percent of Americans believe the nation’s moral values have declined over the past twenty years, and large majorities hold the media responsible for contributing to that decline.” This shows that Americans have a grasp on the issue, however how will they find a solution? Along with that, many hold Hollywood responsible as its productions create the culture of America. Again Balan (2011) shows that, “The media are undermining America’s sense of personal responsibility. The more a person watches television, the less likely he will be to accept responsibility for his own life and for his obligations to the people around him.” Mass media has allowed for this to happen as it shows there are various factors that influence numerous situations, that it becomes very easy to place the blame on an outside source removing blame from oneself in order to eliminate guilt. That guilt makes one learn from their mistakes, but if lost due to deferring guilt, then one will get stuck in the same place, never taking responsibility for their mistakes.
American society has lost control of its values and culture. It has become a society whose priorities and values are not set in place. Companies whose only desire is money, create a corrupt system of influence on its viewers creating a loss of values while exposing children to harmful television. As social media diminishes consequences and a lack of religious belief emerges, it allows for the ideology that people in society are able to do whatever it is they please. Due to an excessive use of television in today’s generation, children are developing a new form of thinking proving less effective. How society communicates, plays a large role in our culture, as emotion is being diminished through mediated forms of communication. Due to a variety a reasons regarding mass media, American values have been declining and will continue to decline, unless something is done to take control.
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