We put a kettle on, the water boils. So who is responsible, me or the kettle? For years people have been blaming media for their problems. The media says I’m too fat, the media says I’m too thin, the media made me more violent. But who controls the media? Is our society run by secret intelligent assigned monkeys to play some kind of sick trick on us? Or are we too in denial to admit that we, ourselves, in fact influence what we see and read?
Media effects are usually perceived as negative, video games such as ‘Manhunt’ have been banned in countries like the UK and New Zealand after a fourteen year old boy was cruelly stabbed by his friend who was supposedly obsessed with the game. Ever since more and more video games have been linked to violent and antisocial behaviour. Interesting enough a research by psychologist Christopher Ferguson, published in the Journal of Communication, argues otherwise. Ferguson and his team point out that many laboratory-based studies into the effect of media violence have measured aggression in test subjects through “less aggressive outcomes ranging from filling in the missing letters of words through delivering non-painful noise bursts to a consenting opponent.”
We gain a lot of knowledge from reading newspapers, books, articles and visiting websites. We use music and videos to shape our moods and often to trigger a wanted emotion. With the advance of social media, Facebook and other methods of online communication have grown dramatically and improved our way of interaction by allowing us to connect with people we might have not seen for years, family members and friends who are overseas.
So how do we define the effects of media being positive or negative in our lives? And most importantly, who do we blame?
As human instinct, it is always easier to blame our problems, insecurities and mistakes on someone or something else. In chapter 3 of Media Effects by W. James Potter, he talks about four media-influenced functions that are; acquiring, triggering, altering, and reinforcing. The one that interested me the most, is altering because he talks about an exposure during the media that can alter something that’s already present within ourselves. So for example, if I was angry at my Mother while playing ‘Manhunt’, I might get an aggressive and cruel thought or attitude towards her, however, if I was content with our relationship while playing the same game, it would not have an impact on my thoughts or attitude at all.
James Potter then goes on to explain the forth influenced function which is reinforcing, again he points out that media is simply reinforcing an idea or an emotion that is already present in ourselves, making it harder to change our own opinion as we are carefully selecting parts of the media that best agree with our feelings and morals.
This, however, is a very broad term that can be argued either way. Being a 21 year old teenager very dependent on all kinds of media, I fear it’s our own ignorance and lack of profound knowledge and research that leaves us exposed to the effects of media. A strong and intelligent mind would not be easily affected or corrupted by anything, perhaps only opened to new perspectives and point of views.
Putting the kettle on, and complaining that we got burnt by the boiling water is the perfect metaphor for media effect today.
BBC News 2004, Game linked to hammer murder, available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/leicestershire/3934277.stm, accessed 18/03/2015.
C, Ferguson 2014, ‘Journal of Communications’, Does Movie or Video Game Violence Predict Societal Violence? It Depends on What You Look at and When, International Communication Association, Vol 65, Issue 1, pp 193–212.
W, J Potter 2015, ‘Media Effects’, What is media effect?, Sage Publications Inc, pp. 41-46. Available from Sage Journal Articles.