In recent years, the realm of the media has exploded into new and uncharted territories after the creation and rise in popularity of new technologies and social media. Smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and a multitude of sites where people can essentially share almost every second of their lives right as its happening has created a culture in most industrialized countries where it’s hard to interact with other people without someone bringing up a topic, a video, a post, or something else that they saw on a social media site on some new form of technology. Although many people have made parody videos looking down on those who are addicted to social media and new forms of technology, I am here to discuss why the media – which includes social media and smartphones – influences our daily lives and the world around us, affecting both global and local societies in both positive and negative ways. This post is not a post meant to berate and belittle those who love consuming different aspects of the media along with using some of the latest technology.
Newspapers were the main source of news and sensational journalism throughout the nineteenth century. Radio first became popular in the early 20th century and changed the way people interacted – both with friends and colleagues outside of the home as well as family members and the family structure within the home. Soon after, the film and movie industry followed and gave way to a more subtle form of propaganda and general escapist mode of entertainment. After World War II, television rose into popularity with the economic boom that followed the end of the war, allowing an even greater change to American and global society through its spread of commercialism and consumerism. Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, an increasing amount of personal computers and cell phones became available to the general public. Although it was quite expensive and relatively rare at first for people to acquire such technology, it became cheaper and more popular in the mid to late 1990s.
With that increase in the amount of people having such technology, easier access to more information and a more global economy and society appeared in the forms of the internet and the earliest forms of email, chat rooms, social media sites, blogs, online libraries, and a multitude of other platforms where information could easily be shared. As the 1990s gave way to the early years of the new millennium, the access to large amounts of information and a more global kind of society increased exponentially and encompassed everything from kids’ games on the internet to the nightly news that adults watched late at night after work, and everything and anything in between. Personal cell phones became increasingly smaller in size, cheaper in price, and more popular with quite a number of people around the world. While laptops and personal computers weren’t all that popular and not that easy to carry around to and from home, desktops in homes and apartments became more accepted and were used for both personal pleasures and work uses that weren’t always related to math and science. Through the 21st century, the media has become a pervasive force that people use multiple times a day between advertisements overflowing and creeping into almost every aspect of our lives, from bathroom stalls to where we eat and everything in between, to watching and consuming the news and other updates on computers, phones, televisions, and tablets – regardless of whether such technologies belong to us, a friend, or if they are open to the public to use.
While such changes occurred rapidly within the past century and a half, the media has become a force that’s hard to be reckoned with. People in today’s global society tend to find out news from mediated sources and base their opinions of people, cultures, and nations off of the reputations and stereotypes (both positive and negative) that are presented and maintained across multiple media outlets. The notion that the media can affect entire outlooks on interpersonal relationships from friends and family members to how entire nations and cultures interact, the media as a whole affects the entire world on an extremely deep level. Even in parts of the world where people tend to be relatively poor and have limited access to technology, their worldview and knowledge of the world can be affected and shaped by the media based off of how they gain knowledge on cultures, societies, and nations that are not their own. The media matters precisely because it is a force that cannot be removed or reckoned with, and it affects the world in both positive and negative ways, whether people want it to or not.