There’s no doubt that the variety of mass media, trends and messages carried by these media have a big impact of the life of every person in the country. I would even doubt state that mass media and their owners shape our society, to a certain extent. Among all the available means of disseminating information, print media is one of the oldest (after spoken word, of course) and the most wide-spread. Though Internet and electronic media have been rapidly spreading during the last decade, newspapers and magazines still remain the principal source of information for the majority of the population.
The aim of this essay is to discuss the development of popular culture and the impact of print media on this process, to describe the trends propagated by print media and their impacts of such phenomena as consumerism, work and working expectations, on perceptions on justice, law and order etc.
1. Popular culture and print media
The advent of printing and print media has become a very important change for American society (not only for American, though, but for the whole world). In fact, popular culture in its common meaning – “contemporary lifestyle and items that are well known and generally accepted, cultural patterns that are widespread within a population”ť (Croteau & Hoynes 2003) ”“ has appeared similarly with mass media. Another definition of popular culture demonstrates this: “popular culture ”“ culture and knowledge passed on through mass media, magazines, television, radio, Internet”ť (Budd & Craig 1999).
Statistics shows that 96% of management obtain information from newspapers; for average Americans, magazines become an important source for education, entertainment etc (Croteau & Hoynes 2003). The variety of print media may suit any reader’s taste. On one hand, the easiness of accessing information and the easiness of spreading it play a positive role in uniting the society, connecting people and making them more socially active. On the other hand, the reality shows different perspectives: most media are heavily engaged in advertising and offer 90% of information aimed at selling something or promoting someone in this or that way. Nowadays, media is creating a culture of egoism and consumerism; it offers values and ideals which create “standardized”ť citizens who can be easily manipulated and ideally fit as screws of the consumer chain. Surely, there are print media that educate people, make them think, promote social responsibility and cultural values, but it is only a minor part of all media.
2. Trends propagated by print media and their influence
Despite the fact that media shape most of social expectations and activities, there are some trends that are dictated by media only. For print media, such trends are, first of all, the aesthetic and life standards: there is an “ideal”ť image of a man (muscular, successful, rich etc.) and a woman (slender, beautiful, easy-going etc.). Also, there are a lot of images of “ideal”ť lifestyle: “elite”ť working place and career, spacious dwelling, resting at popular resorts on holidays”¦ Most of the values in this lifestyle belong to consumer ones, and such things as social responsibility, family and humanistic values remain almost untouched by print media propagation.
In the field of psychology, the schema theory states that individuals have an existing mental set that provides them a way of processing things, much like an expectation of how things should be (Wells & Hakanen 1997). Therefore, when print media creates a deliberately unreachable image of desired lifestyle in minds, this may lead to negative effects of people’s mind (the rising level of depressed and mentally disordered people proves that).
Other negative effects of pass media and popular culture is the attitude to working. Currently there are popular and unpopular professions, which leads to excess of specialists in “elite”ť spheres and shortage of other professionals ”“ though the country still needs drivers, cleaners, plumbers etc. Also, those who did not manage to get the popular profession and match the existing standards, usually get a sense of dissatisfaction about life. Though there is no reason for this but the unnatural social standards imposed by media.
The concept of justice and order has also experienced many changes. Though news, interviews and other ways of presenting “direct”ť information may carry a lot of truth, one should still understand that in case of print media every piece of information is pre-read and allowed to post, and most often printed materials are ordered by someone. Therefore, the possibility of accessing unstrained and objective information concerning law, politics and other related issues in print media is minimal.
Print media play a great role in creation of the popular culture and actually serve as its basis. However, these meads of disseminating information are highly commercialized and are mostly used for manipulating social values and human conscience. Print media in its current form are a product of consumer society and most of them, in this or that way, serve as means for advertising or political playground. Free expression of someone’s opinion is a rare thing for print media. As it seems to me, electronic media and Internet in particular are a much better means for sharing opinions and spreading information because there people may directly contact each other. There is a possibility that in future print media will make way for Internet-based media, and this will lead to reduction of social manipulation through media.