Mass Media Shaping of Culture and Perceptions of Self, Others and the World:
Where once Gutenberg’s printing press led the way in shaping the world, the driving technology in the modern world is mass media in its many and varied forms (Baran, 2019). Through a constant and continuous feedback loop centered on the dominance of mass media including, but not limited to social media, our values from entertainment to politics are formed and promoted into what are considered the normative values held not just in the United States but also to a greater or lesser extent in the global community. What passes as facts today are largely derived from what is accepted as factual not as much from strictly empirical evidence but that which has become normative for a global culture. This post modernistic civilization both shapes and is shaped by public opinions which often rests as much or more so on feelings than critical thinking.
Leaving politics and political agendas aside for the moment, we find this imposition being somewhat lifted now though for decades we have lived in a global culture that determined that a the perfect woman looked much like a Barbie doll and no other values could override this logical inconsistency (Thompson, et al., 1999). In or about 2016, a substantial move was made to to reshape opinions deemed as more reflective of the real world with respect to the diverse range of what companies including Mattel and many other product manufacturers, magazines and advertisers in general would portray (Baran, 2019).
This is not to fully accept and/or agree with the moral precept that finds modern mass media is pervasively dystopian. In fact, there are many who would agree that our society has found many advantages from mass media and particularly social media based on the internet has been a great leveler in providing information and the ability to communicate throughout much of the world in a swift manner through computer mediated communication as technology has continued to lead the way forward into the future (Baran, 2019). This is further explained below as illustrated by the move from a large group of conservative social media consumers from once pervasive social media platforms to those which are rising to challenge their hold due to the issue of respect for free speech.
Social Media’s Impact on the Consumption of Products and Social Issues Decisions:
Social media has been shown to have an effective impact on the consumption of products and social issues. Recent studies have evidence this impact on diverse college students and others (Meena, Z.N., et al, 2020). Long before this study, however, the ability of mass media and now social media has been well established to produce effective impact. This is true to the extent that we have had four years of argument with respect to how foreign powers including China and Russia have manipulated social media into influencing American public opinion. This is nothing new to those who follow intelligence work or have taken part in it. What is new, however, is the use of social media in the attempt and arguable success to do so.
Another example is that recently, there has been a mass exodus of Conservative thinkers from Facebook and Twitter that is still ongoing to other more free-speech orientated media platforms such as Parler for Twitter and MeWee for FaceBook. For myself, I am keeping my established presence on Twitter and primarily on FaceBook for a group that I set up and established while so far only lightly moving into more MeWee than Parler. This mass exodus was prompted by the over-zealous crack down by the platforms to impact public opinion with respect to the outcome of the present presidential election.
As Facebook and Twitter have acted to further suppress conservative opinions and statement of observable facts or what is believed to be observable facts, more and more conservative consumers are voting with their electronic feet by moving to where they believe they are finding more equitable treatment and free speech (Everett, 2018). What this has established in my mind’s eye is that these platforms serve a similar part in the interactions of citizens that pubs and taverns did in the 18th century leading up to the American Revolution. Thomas Paine would probably love the free for all of the intellectual free market that is the main part of these sites with only a thin but admittedly dark underlayer of hate groups and other such irrationality. Most of these bad actors find themselves like any other bad product being disposed of by the potential consumers. Technological determinism is currently being shown in this way to drive economic and cultural change (Baran, 2019).
Have the overlords of Facebook, Twitter and other social media moved to take away free speech and thought more so than any other age? If so, what then should be done about it?
Baran, S. J. (2019). Introduction to mass communication: Media literacy and culture (10th ed). McGraw Hill Education.
Everett, C. M. (2018). Free Speech on Privately-Owned Fora: A Discussion on Speech Freedoms and Policy for Social Media. Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy, 28(1), 113–145.
Meena, Z.N. & Radhika, R (2020). Forecasting the Impact of Social Media Advertising among College Students Using Higher Order Statistical Functions. Scalable Computing: Practice & Experience, 21(2), 291–307. https://doi.org/10.12694/scpe.v21i2.1651
Thompson, J. Kevin, Heinberg, Leslie J., Altabe, Madeline, & Tantleff-Dunn, Stacey (1999). Exacting beauty: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment of Body Image Disturbance. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.