The Media Made Me Do It

Episode One

Autumn leaves fall from the trees, seeking the last vestige of warmth from the ground. The crisp morning air signals the change of season. You rummage for your jeans, deciding that they will be the most suitable option for the day. One leg in-

Hold on, I don’t remember them being this tight?

Coming to the conclusion that your trusted Calvins must have shrunk in the dryer, you decide to weigh yourself…just in case. The scales creep up higher and higher, at least five kilos heavier than the last.

That’s not possible, the scales must be broken. That or they are lying to me.

 You turn around and you are faced with your motionless reflection, jeans in hand.

Maybe I have put on a little…

 Let’s take a moment to conceive the possibility that the constant consumption of foods high in saturated fats, preservatives and an endless list of additives are the culprits of this sudden weight increase. No, that would be too difficult. Let’s not hold ourselves accountable but let’s take the convenient route and blame the media.

Episode 2

You are in the kitchen preparing what you hope to be a delicious meal. Above the clutter of pots and pans you hear endless screams and cries coming from the living room. Rushing towards the commotion, you are confronted with two wrestling children on the floor, fists at the ready. In a moment, the taped up remote, a testimony to previous battles, is launched across the room, a missile fired and seeking to destroy. A smash, a bang, and a crash and your favored antique mirror is shattered to the floor.

In the background, violent images are streamed across the television. Instantaneously, you understand. It is clear to you that your children misbehaving are undeniably a result of what they have just viewed on television. Why else would they be acting in such an indecent manner? You shake your head, turn and walk away. Let’s just take the convenient route and blame the media.

As a fickle and easily influenced society, it is evident that there is an emergence of highly extensive social issues that affect us every day. Obesity and weight management, violence in the community, even recent anxieties regarding technology and consumerism have all been of high concern.

Every media form we are presented with inspires an anxiety about the negative effects that may result from them. People are readily blaming the media for social issues because they are not self critical and choose the convenience of holding mass media solely accountable. The notion of the effects model was developed by the Lumiere brothers from the desire to prove that media does have adverse affects on people in response to this.

As a body of thought, the effects model examines the “direct and reasonably predictable effects upon the behaviour of society by mass media.” It is interesting to note however that even after at least sixty years of research, results remain to be inconclusive. So I pose the question, is it the media we should be questioning, or society in general?

We are exposed to a diverse range of messages, and it is ultimately our discretion that discerns the way in which we act. The concept of people living and existing in front of a screen, as a result to readily accessible technology has been suggested to be the cause of rising obesity statistics. Ultimately, television makes you fat.

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The average person spends about 150 hours, watching television per month, not including time spent on phones, tablets, computers etc. Seemingly enough, not only does this result in a lack of physical activity, but leaves an individual exposed to specifically designed messages targeted at an audience for a long period of time. Advertisements and public information campaigns are scripted to change our attitude or behaviour and manipulate our decisions. Prolonged involvement in viewing programs “increases energy intake due to distraction from satiety cues.”- The Better The Story, The Bigger The Serving 

Essentially, an individual will blur lines between the real world and what is being shown on television after long exposure. They become immersed in what is being shown, and are transformed into a vulnerable product that is to be taken advantage of. People are eating without awareness that the ads were designed and essentially created to cause them to eat.

From a psychological standpoint, the manner in which you interpret the message has a significant effect on the interpretation of what is being said. We are all guilty of the pleasure of divulging into that tub of peanut butter ice cream during a Rom-Com, or happily reaching for packet of Tim Tams over a much healthier option. At the end of the day, it is one’s choice. Mass media is not at fault here, society is.

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The theory of causality on an evidently impressionable society must not go un-noticed. One of the issues with the media effects model is that there is no attempt to understand the media that is being shown. One would rather jump to conclusions, than to examine what is truly being said. The effects model rests on a base of ‘reductive assumptions and unjustified stereotypes’ regarding media content. Children portrayed as victims in regards to violent mass media have become some-what a controversial issue.

Alfred Bandura conceived a social learning theory that children develop through what they are exposed to, based on a behaviourist concept of human psychology. Children are impressionable, they mimic what they see.

In engagement of content analysis, George Gerbner concluded that adverse effects of mass media were only generated from an exposure to violence over a long period of time. Children’s cartoons were proven to be most particularly violent in response to handling conflicts, with the majority of offenders escaping retribution. What is this instilling in the younger generation?

It is true that the media desensitizes and cultivates certain attitudes. However, if children are exposed to a constant flow of violence and lack of discipline in their own homes it is inevitable that they will be unable to discern right from wrong. They will ultimately emulate the actions of their parents and act accordingly in any given situation.

It says here that televison is supposed to make you violent.'

I ask: are children born innocent and is it society that corrupts them? Or is violence cultivated when parents neglect their duties?

Research concludes that depictions of violence will promote anti-social behaviour, with the support of content analysis studies that incriminate the media. Biased in this degree, findings suggest that there are substantial risks from viewing violence. These studies are based on misapplied methodology and are selective in its criticisms. Not only are the studies conducted in artificial circumstances, but are limited to fictional production leaving new and factual programs exempt.

In essence, the media effects model is not grounded in theory. There is an endless list of underlying facets that are not examined. Perhaps, it has failed because there is no real evidence that mass media is the direct cause of these social anxieties. It is not primarily about the effects and behaviour of society but more or less the influence and perceptions we derive from them. Take responsibility for your actions; mass media is not to blame, but ourselves.