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Media Effects Theories

Discuss about the Media Effects for Communities or Societies.

Media effects are the social responses that individuals, communities or societies express as a result of exposure to media messages. Media messages could be articulated to result to have an intended response from the audience or sometimes the response could be unintended. This field of study developed in the early 20th century during the worldwide conflict happening at the time, and by the end of the 2nd World War, a lot of research concluded that the media had limited effects on the audience. In the late 20th century more theories on media effects suggested that the media had a massive impact on the audiences. Therefore, scholars and researchers revisited the research field to reexamine the effects of the media (Ludes, 2008). New theories were established to explain media effects on attitudes and behaviors of the audiences.

Direct effects theory suggests that audiences passively accept media messages and their responses are predictable. This theory assumes that media messages produce intended responses from the audiences. According to the theory, media messages have a greater influence on the society and could challenge stabilizing factors within present in the society. This there can be used to explain the effects of propaganda messages that have caused war in different regions in the world. The application of the theory in the contemporary society is minimal as people as getting more educated, and mass media outlets have increased therefore audiences compare information in different outlets before making decisions.

The Agenda-setting theory of the media suggests that mass media determine what should concern the media rather than their views by prioritizing these messages. The media pays attention to these messages while issues to increase debates on the issue within the public domain. Audiences will tend to avoid issues that affect them as the media do not consider them as pressing issues.  This model shows that the media determines what the audience should talk and think about. This theory applies most in the current society as the media have become major champions for public policy formulation. Mass media promotes debates within the public which in turn increases pressure on the government to formulate policies on different issues.

Uses and gratification theory states that the audience uses the media to satisfy their needs and desires which include entertainment, communication, and research. Different mass media users have different reasons and motivations for using a specific media. Different media have different roles in the society and depending on their impact and uses; users could choose them as long as they serve their needs. In the contemporary society, the causes of violent behaviors expressed by young people have been blamed on the media (Ludes, 2008). Many research conducted on violent behaviors among some youth show that they are a result of exposure to violent media. Media desensitizes people, and audiences with facing frustrating and depressing situations are vulnerable to these violent media to let out their frustrations.        

Symbolic interactionism theory uses the interactive aspect of humans to propagate shared symbols among the audience. The media uses this aspect to create symbols to influence existing shared symbols within the society. These symbols affect how individuals behave as the society has a major impact on how people behave. The advertising industry has capitalized on this theory to influence people’s attitudes towards products or services. Companies place a cultural aspect on products to increase their desirability for example; companies that manufacture luxury automobiles associate their products with socioeconomic class in the society as explained by Potter, W. J. (2012).

Direct Effects Theory

The spiral of silence theory suggests that mass media influences the dominance of some opinions while blocking minority opinions from the audience. The theory suggests that the main reason for the lack of minority opinion in the public domain is the avoidance of isolation from individuals with the majority opinion. The minority opinion is silenced, and an illusion of popular opinion is created which increases pressure for these individuals to adopt the majority opinion. For example, many individuals living in radical Islamic Countries may not agree with the rules laid out by the government, but they cannot speak against it for fear of isolation and stigma they could receive from fellow countrymen and the government. 

Young people especially teenagers are majorly influenced by celebrities through media. They imitate what the celebrities do without giving a thought of what the consequences of their actions. Media has capitalized on controversial and wrong acts, and they have made them be blown out of proportion. At a young age, they want to look, flashy by imitating dress code and makeup and other activities that celebrities do that hit the headlines (Bryant & Zillmann, 2016). 

Media constructs messages to inform, educate or warn the audiences but responses vary depending on how the individual understands the message. For example, media such as newspapers and television may provide warning messages on the negative effects addiction. These warning messages are not received in the same way thus others will take the messages in a negative way. The intent of spreading the message becomes an avenue for spreading the bad among the young people where many of them are at a stage where they experiment on anything. Some of the media content meant for entertainment such as violent movies has desensitized teenagers to have aggressive behaviors. 

In this digital age, people are spending more time on media-related gadgets, for example, watching TV, surfing the Internet, reading a newspaper or listening to radio. Audiences are bombarded with information from different sources and sometimes have no time to process them and rationally make a judgment on this information (Bryant & Zillmann, 2016). This information takes different forms including gossip, news, rumors, and content which may be relevant or irrelevant. Young people have become preoccupied with media content such that their social lives are no more.

Many children across the world are spending more time on accumulating media content other than investing more time studying and engaging in outdoor activities. This led to a shift in lifestyles with obesity on the rise among the young population to unhealthy eating and spending more time indoors watching or surfing the internet. With too many media options time spent on exploring and they can take hours and more information is added to these media each day. 

The 21st century has witnessed more horrors that have resulted from media desensitization across the globe. Mass shootings have been reported in different parts of the world and researchers have shown that the masterminds of these activities had been exposed to some form of radicalization. Some of the mass shootings related to terrorism witnessed across the world include the Orlando attack, Nice attack, Garissa University attack, Beirut attack and Bataclan attack is some of the deadly attacks that claimed several lives as noted by O'Kane, R. H. T. (2016).

Agenda-setting Theory

The world is facing more violence than it has ever witnessed since the 2nd World War. Many lives are being lost to terrorist attacks both in the West and East countries due to advancement in communication technologies. The media have aided the spread of terrorist propaganda through online forums in which they could recruit followers from different parts of the world (Townshend, 2011). Some of these attacks were homegrown, and individuals were radicalized online, for example, the Orlando Shooting was done by US citizens who had been radicalized online. Some attacks such as Garissa University attack were carried out by Al-Shabaab terrorists who have been radicalized to killing innocent lives.

Radical Islam is spreading fast across the globe through the media both intentionally and unintentionally. ISIS has capitalized on media channels such as YouTube, Twitter and chat rooms in which young and disenfranchised minds are attracted by the sense of purpose that these masterminds promise them. The white supremacists on the other have an increased presence online with many some of its members such as Dylan Roof, and Elliot was radicalized and these platforms to violent actions such as mass shootings.

These groups have manipulated mainstream media to spread their ideologies and initiate the public debate about their space in the society. These groups have ganged up to support narratives that support their ideologies on the media or even change intended meaning of media messages to suit what they believe is right. As suggested by the uses and gratification theory, media messages sometimes unintentionally radicalize individuals through filtering of information to suit their needs and desires.

Media messages need to be carefully constructed to avoid misinterpretation to avoid fear and hate against individuals. Terrorism has heavily been linked to Islam. Therefore, moderate Muslims in the western countries are facing the consequences of the actions of the radical Muslims. There is a lot of hate and fear directed towards them because of the attacks that have been carried out in the name of their religion. Many innocent Muslims have been arrested and linked to terrorist attacks without actual evidence of their involvement. The media has helped in perpetuating this concept that all terrorists are Muslims through films and news (O'Kane, 2016). Non-Muslims have been made to understand through the media that Islam is a violent religion that believes in killing people.

The media has a key role in the spread of information across the world, and due to limited media regulations, contents of all kinds reach the audience when it's still raw, and the audience are expected to process and respond to them accordingly (Townshend, 2011). The media should become responsible for messages they give to the public to ensure that negative impacts are reduced. Societies need to monitor what is being consumed through the media to ensure that morals in the society are not corrupted.

Conclusion

The media has the big role to play in the society; therefore, it must ensure that whatever content it gives the public must be carefully constructed to minimize negative influences it may bring to the public. Media should be regulated to reduce content that may compromise morals in the society. Parents, guardians, and teachers have a responsibility of ensuring that the content exposed to children and teenagers is monitored to reduce inappropriate content that the contemporary media offers. Governments need to initiate counter-terrorism programs to reduce the impact of growing terrorist threats across the globe. Through these programs, vulnerable youths are protected from these groups and are provided with services that keep them on track. All society members have a responsibility to reduce negative media effects on its members (Perse & Lambe, 2017).

References

Bryant, J., & Zillmann, D. (2016). Perspectives on media effects. Hillsdale, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates.

Bryant, J., & Zillmann, D. (2014). Media effects: Advances in theory and research. Hillsdale, N.J: Erlbaum

Burton, G. (2010). Media and Society: Critical Perspectives. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Feldstein, S. P. (2009). Terrorist ideology and the implications of radicalization. New York: Nova Science.

Ludes, P. (2008). Convergence and fragmentation: Media technology and the information society. Bristol, UK: Intellect.

O'Kane, R. H. T. (2016). Terrorism. Place of publication not identified: Routledge.

Perse, E. M., & Lambe, J. L. (2017). Media effects and society.

Potter, W. J. (2012). Media effects. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications.

Pregulman, A., Burke, E., & Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington, D.C.). (2012). Homegrown terrorism. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Serapio, M., Singroy, A., Roumeliotis, I., Koksal, N., & Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (2014). Homegrown Terrorism: September 2014. Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Townshend, C. (2011). Terrorism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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