Dont use social media to impress people; use it to impact people. (Epikso, 2017) This quote harbours positive notions and intentions, but it has gradually become apparent that mass media has more negative impacts on its audience than positive. In this essay, we will be addressing how the individual, community and society level feel these negative effects. We will be doing this by showing the negative impacts mass media has pertaining to gender, race and propaganda.
Firstly, mass media has negative effects on individuals. Specifically, these individuals would be women. Mass media negatively influences the way women are viewed, thus affecting female viewers personally, whether physically or emotionally. These negative influences include stereotypical representations and establishing false standards of women.
Mass media platforms like print media display stereotypical representations of women. According to a report from the Council of Europe, Gender stereotyping is defined as generalized views or ideas of specific genders, and that they have to act a certain way based on their sex. (Council of Europe, n.d.). Mass media keeps this phenomenon prevalent, especially when it comes to females. Most females featured in newspaper advertisements either have flawless skin, doe-like eyes, a white smile, or slim figure. A journal article published said female newscasters also appear more reserved than their male counterparts (Wood, J.T., 1994). This suggests that females are stereotyped in the media as dainty, quiet, and perhaps even fragile.
A thesis states that in television shows like Desperate Housewives, women are often depicted as overly dramatic, reliant on others and working constrained low ranking jobs – a stark contrast to enterprising and aspiring males (Murphy, 2015). This implies that female characters are stereotyped as emotional, unintelligent, dependent, incompetent and subordinate to men. The media constantly feeds audience information about who each woman should be, and how she should behave in society. The inaccurate, media-created impressions that women are inferior can affect how women perceive themselves as individuals. This encourages a lack of confidence, assertiveness and self-belief, affecting them on an emotional level.
Mass media also establishes false standards for women. A study shows that magazines influence women to place pleasing others as their main priority. It explains that magazines advertisements show women slimming methods so that youll be more attractive to him (Peirce, K.,1990), and how to cook delicious dishes in order to keep him at home (Peirce, K.,1990). The media manufactures these negative messages, leading women to think that it is most important to be attractive and competent to satisfy men. As a journal proves, this notion is completely bogus. Men, on average, ranked looks as only the fourth-most-important trait for potential mates (Buss & Barnes, 1986).
However, many women still fall for the media falsehood, believing the ruse. This might result in women purchasing medicine like diet pills or undergoing plastic surgery, believing that they would correct their flaws. These methods can be harmful and even fatal. Therefore, these false standards for women lead to negative physical effects on a personal level.
Female viewers such as the younger female generation are also negatively affected by mass media. An Australian parenting website article expresses that distorted advertisements cause teenage girls to form negative comparisons and impressions about their bodies (Body Image: Pre-Teens and Teenagers, 2017). These comparisons set false standards of girls, leading them to conclude that they are not good enough. The pressure to conform to what social media depicts leads to low self-esteem, which has serious consequences like anxiety and depression, affecting girls on a psychological level.
Mass medias negative effects on individuals links to the Agenda Setting Theory. As we are exposed to media 68.8% of our waking hours (Vivian, 2014), the media heavily influences the way we perceive information. The media affects the attitude of its female audience by emphasizing what kind of roles women should and should not take. This generates stereotypes, disallowing women to completely express their own unique emotions and thoughts, and stopping them from reaching their potential. Hence, these reasons justify our stand as to why mass media brings negative effects to individuals.
Next, advancing to the bigger, community level, Mass media has negative effects on racial groups or communities. These negative effects consist of misrepresentation and biased depictions of a specific racial community, like the African Americans.
Mass media misrepresents African Americans, perpetuating racism in the process. An Opportunity Agenda Study concurs with this, stating that they are often misrepresented on fiction shows and films, with mostly unreliable and unrelatable characters who do not have fully developed backgrounds. (Donaldson, 2019) All too often, these entertainment shows make assumptions about African Americans, while leads to misrepresentation due to a lack of context.
Examples of African-American misrepresentation include films and television series like Training Day and The Wire, in which african american actors play drug dealers, con-artists and other forms of criminals. (Nittle, 2019) This suggests that African Americans are portrayed as perilous, and engaging in illicit activities. Therefore, on top of reducing relatability to the audience by providing little to no context about these characters, mass media elucidates the erroneous impression on media consumers that most african americans are dishonest, unlawful and delinquent. The medias negative connotations towards african americans would subsequently influence how the african american community are treated in reality. A poll conducted by Harvard researchers, reveals that 56 percent of african americans faced racism during job applications, and half said they experienced discrimination when interacting with police. (Milano, 2017) This undeniably shows the adverse real-life consequences of the medias misrepresentation of the community. The Social Learning Theory further proves this, as when an individual encounters a form of action portrayed by a person in media – in this case, the mistreatment of african americans resulted from misrepresentation – he remembers and reproduces the actions upon identifying with it. This plays into the creation of misinformed thoughts and beliefs about African Americans, leading to a misunderstood community.
Misrepresentation, combined with mass media bias, can result in biased depictions of a specific racial community affects that community negatively. On 20 March 2015, three Caucasian, University of Iowa Caucasian students stole items from multiple shops. That same day, four african american men also broke into a residence and stole multiple items (Hermiston, 2015). Both incidents had the same level of consequences, but the media published the news differently. The article reporting about the Caucasian students had featured their formal, yearbook pictures, whereas the article reporting the African Americans featured their mug shots. The media had chosen to portray the Caucasians in a more positive light, while African Americans in a more negative one. This demonstrates how racially prejudiced the media is towards African Americans. It implies that African Americans are more of a threat This leads to stereotypes that impact society as a whole, leading to negative social repercussions like racism. Hence, mass media does have a negative impact. into the increased prejudice and discrimination against African Americans, negatively impacting their community.
Lastly, ending on the largest, societal scale, mass media has negative effects on society as it helps distribute propaganda. A University of Tetova journal, The Mass Media and Persuasion (2014) states that propaganda has a specific and emphasised negative meaning, which is the dissemination of ideas and rumours with one aim – to cause harm to a certain matter.
Propaganda in mass media is damaging as it negatively affects how society sees religious groups and protestors. Propaganda can be even more destructive when circulated through mainstream and ubiquitous social media platforms.
Propaganda related to religious groups is prevalent in Mass Media. These groups include Muslims. A New York Times article reported a Facebook post made by Stop A.I, short for Stop All Invaders, mentioning negative comments regarding Muslims wearing Burqas in the United States. The post states that the Muslims could be terrorists (Parlapiano & Lee, 2018) and a security risk (Parlapiano & Lee, 2018), urging a ban on Muslims in the US.
This post demonstrates the propaganda technique of Name Calling, which links a person to a negative symbol. (Public Broadcasting Service [PBS], n.d.) Using those words, the post attempts to cast Muslims with Burqas in a negative light, conveying the message to viewers that Muslims are hostile, dangerous, and ill-intentioned. It may also criticise Islam religion as malignant or callous. However, the post cites no supporting information tied to the claims made, making it unreliable. These baseless accusations could not only tarnish Muslims social status, but also dissinform viewers about Muslims. Posts like this spread hate, and lead members of American society to form inaccurate Muslim stereotypes and perceptions. This contributes to creating an abrasive and divisive social environment, negatively impacting American society.
Propaganda can also falsely depict protestors in America. From the same news article, a Russian-created Twitter account, Tennessee GOP, featured on November 10, 2016 a picture of a group of supposed Anti-Trump protestors being dispersed by police after wreaking havoc on the streets, as seen in Appendix A. The post portrays Anti-Trump protestors as rowdy and uncouth, causing unrest in the country. However, this could not be further from the truth.
Debunking this claim is a Washington Post article reporting that according to American police, 2016 Anti-Trump demonstrations have been largely peaceful (Hauslohner & Berman, 2016). Clearly, the medias propaganda cares little for being credible or accurate. Instead, they apply the propaganda technique – Fear. By playing on deep-seated fears (PBS, n.d.), the technique scares people into mindlessly believing in the conveyed negative message. It can also cause American citizens concern for information accuracy to be drowned out, as anxiety and worry for their safety take over. Thus, this heightened sense of trepidation among Americans would impact American society negatively.
Furthermore, the accounts name, Tennessee GOP – named after an American state party, is extremely misleading to mass media receivers. The name provides a false sense of authenticity, making receivers more likely to passively and mindlessly accept the deception that protestors are a threat, as the truth. With respect to the Powerful Effects Theory, the public allows mass media to inject information, propaganda and ideas into their consciousness, like a hypodermic needle (Vivian, 2014). As a result, the public would construct distorted opinions. These opinions, along with misinformation are dispersed rapidly and broadly throughout social media, reaching and misleading even more members of various societies. These repercussions demonstrate that distributing propaganda is a negative effect of mass media on society.
The highly deceptive and biased nature of propaganda – which mass media perpetuates – manipulates receivers using various techniques. Due to this, mass media contributes to creating an ignorant and falsifying society ruled by fear, social division and resentment, clearly showing that the distributing propaganda is one of mass medias negative effects.
Despite our arguments, some people still think otherwise. Some think that mass media has positive effects, as it can swiftly transmit and disseminate important information, such as news.
An article by The Borgen Project, a US nonprofit organization working to end poverty and hunger, states that with the existence of mass media mediums such as radios and newspapers, communities in developing countries have instant access to important information or emergency warnings, which will help them evacuate earlier and faster. (Fowler, 2018)
However, we argue that although mass media distributes information at a fast pace, it also contains false or inaccurate information. This forms the building blocks of the worldwide phenomenon, fake news. A REACH poll reveals that 77 percent of its Singaporean participants encountered online fake news at least occasionally – 46 percent of whom saw it on Facebook (More than 70% in Singapore have come across fake news online: REACH poll, 2018). With such a high percentage of misinformed viewers, there is no doubt that mass media does much more harm than good.
On March 18, 2015, a Singapore student posted a false announcement of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yews death. International media like Chinas CCTV and CNN Breaking News took the bait and reported the news on Twitter, only to subsequently apologise for their mistake (Philomin, 2015). This proves that in an attempt to distribute news quickly, they only added on to the flourishing supply of fake news online, leaving viewers in further confusion and disarray.
With all factors considered, we stand by our arguments, and opinion that mass media has negative effects.
As the media plays a constant role in our daily lives, we are constantly manipulated and influenced in our beliefs, desires, appearance and opinions. The racial prejudice, inaccurate women representation and distribution of propaganda the media perpetuates all have negative influences and effects on its consumers – whether they are individuals, communities or an entire society. We believe that mass media will develop into an even more indispensable source of information to people. Thus, its negative effects would continue to worsen and corrupt mass media receivers in the future.