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Posted on June 1st, 2012, by

Nowadays, media play increasingly more important role and the contemporary society is often characterized as post-industrial society where the information plays the key role in practically all spheres of human life. In this respect, it is worthy of note that, in such a situation, the role of media can be hardly underestimated since they affect dramatically human psychology, define individuals’ views, beliefs and even influence the lifestyle of the audience. On the other hand, nowadays the influence of media is argued, especially concerning the extent to which they may affect individuals living in different regions and preferring different media. Nonetheless, regardless possible regional varieties, specialists basically agree that media shape identity of each individual and their perception of society people live in.

First of all, it should be pointed out that in the contemporary world media influence is extremely significant basically due to the great progress of technologies which made media a part of the life of practically every individual worldwide. In fact, media becomes a global means of communication, or to put it more precisely, media generates information which is getting to be the global product that the world community consumes and that often is delivered in the same way to different communities by one and the same media. This is why in such a situation it is possible to argue that the national or communitarian identity is getting to be lost under the influence of globalization and, instead, the new identity is shaped by media people are regularly engaged with worldwide. As a result, the situation seems to be really paradoxical: people living in different parts of a state or even world may be engaged with identical media, i.e. they may watch the same TV programs, movies, listen the same music, and so on, and as a result they are influenced by the media in the same way to the extent that their psychology, mentality, behavior and lifestyle became similar, if not identical. Consequently, such an impact of media is considered to be able to shape new kind of community which is united not on ethnic or traditional socio-cultural principles, but on the basis of their virtual unity by means of media they are engaged with. Thus, media turns to be able to unite people to the extent that people living in one and the same community but using different media, i.e. watching different TV programs, listening different music, and so on, may be totally different, while people having the same tastes, preferences and even mentality shaped by certain media may be strikingly similar even though they can live in different parts of the world.

However, there exist an absolutely different view, according to which the influence on media on each individual is evened out by the influence of the local mentality and traditional lifestyle of a particular community. In fact, according to this view, the impact of the local community is considered t be stronger than the impact of media. As a result, media are perceived differently in different communities since the local traditions, beliefs, lifestyle and culture at large affect the audience and the local socio-cultural context changes the perception of one and the same media dramatically in different communities.

In such a way, in order to definitely say what really affects individuals it is necessary to solve the dilemma what is more important media or local mentality. Obviously, both positions are quite strong. On the one hand, the influence of media is really enormous and it is not a secret that often media can define the individuals’ views, shape beliefs and even create new values that are common for consumers of media products. On the other hand, it is also true that it is not so easy to change individuals’ mentality that has been forming during centuries and nowadays is represented in each community where local traditions and peculiarities are quite strong.

At the same time, on comparing both positions, it is necessary to point out that the impact of media on the contemporary society is much more significant than it was at the beginning of the 20th century, for instance, or even earlier when the notion of mass media did not even exist. This is why it is possible to estimate that the influence of both media and community are strong but there strength is different in different parts of the world, or even in different parts of one and the same country.

In fact, the problem is that there are communities where traditional lifestyle is unclear and unshaped. For instance, there are such multinational and multicultural states, such as the US, where different communities, cultures and traditions have mixed up. Naturally, in such a diverse society media may be really a uniting factor since often people may be united or distanced depending on the media they prefer[1]. This is why, in such a situation, it is really necessary to agree that the power of media is stronger than that of the communitarian context.

On the other hand, there are states and communities which are isolated or where local traditions and beliefs are much stronger and stricter than in culturally diverse states or communities. As a result, some specialists estimate that such communities are more influenced by local traditions than by media[2]. For instance, it is hardly possible to imagine that an orthodox community in some Muslim country like Iran would perceive the identical media in the absolutely same way as American people, for instance, even Muslims.

At the same time, regardless the extent to which the impact may differ, it is still obvious that it is media that shape individuals perception of themselves and their society. In fact, in the current situation, media are the most effective tool of communication and it is often used by the owner of media or by those who control media, for instance, a government or some non-profit organizations.

As a result, media turn to be an efficient means of fast and mass distribution of information. No wonder that even traditionally conservative societies, are influenced by media and human conscience is largely determined by media.

Practically, this means that media coverage of events, analysis of different movements, etc. can produce a more profound impact that traditions that have being existed within a society for centuries.

Paradoxically, but potentially, even the ideological conservatism and promotion of traditions may be the product’ of media, depending on those who control media. In this respect the example of Iran is particularly noteworthy when the country were growing more and more civic until the Islam revolution had totally changed the state policy and nowadays media, being controlled by state and religious elite of the country, are used to promote the Islamist ideology.

Thus, the reason for such a different impact of media and community is quite simple the individual views, beliefs, behavior are defined not by the strength of the impact of media but by the strength of the local traditions and culture. Nonetheless, in conclusion, it is necessary to underline that the impact of media in the contemporary world community is growing stronger while the impact of local context is weakened because of the processes of globalization to which media contribute dramatically. As a result, small communities can hardly resist to the growing power of global media and in the future it is media that will define human views, beliefs and mentality. However, even nowadays, media, to a significant extent, define individuals’ perception of themselves and their society, it is simply the degree of this impact of media that differs.

[1] Bagdikian, Ben H. The Media Monopoly, Sixth Edition, Beacon Press, 2000.


[2] Peter Berger, The Social Construction of Reality, Irvington Publisher, 1997.


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