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Are We Dependent on the Media?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 3713 words Published: 8th Aug 2017

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Media! Are we becoming dependent?

Media is everywhere in society; it is almost impossible for people to ignore. Media; such as television, film and social media; can play a significant role in socialising children, and forming their ideas about the world. This creates a cycle where each generation’s views and ideas become influenced by media and each generation depends upon it for morals and ideas. UK children watch an average of more than two and a half hours of television a day and spend an hour and 50 minutes online a day, a poll suggests. It is estimated that children watch 40,000 television adverts each year. (AAP, 2006) and as children grow, viewing of television increases. Under 6’s only watch 2 hours of television whereas 8 – 18 year olds watch on average 2 extra hours a day. This suggests that people rely more on television as they grow, now this may be because there is more choice for them to choose from or that they are in fact becoming dependent upon it.

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Most forms of media are seducing in many ways, which can make them become addictive because they appear exciting. Advertising people use clever techniques to hook people in and make them want to consume more media; using techniques such as; repetition of the advertised item, allowing for them to be build awareness and using television adverts, it allows both sight and sound to be used. This allows the advertiser to disguise the repetition by changing how it’s delivered.

An advert for a product called HeadOn is an example of this. (Number 1)

Viewers don’t know what the product does but the name is remembered. There are many other techniques; such as association with something well known; i.e. a celebrity or song, or a desirable emotion being used. There are also ways such as promotions, bandwagon usage; everyone else is using it and so should you. A successful advertisement creates a desire in people and allows for a way to fulfil that desire, which makes the audience feel good about doing anything about it.

Often we just receive messages from the media and do not question them making it easier for people to forget that everything does not have to be accepted. Media messages have only been one way. Audience’s watch and consume them but we do not create or influence the media, however, new content on the internet has changed this; such as social networking sites and audience’s uploading content online, using sites such as YouTube. Changes have come about because it allows for the audience to interact more with media, instead of just creating it, they allow for thought processes and creativity to flow, people do not just consume the media they are given but they add their spin, allow themselves to show off their opinions, creativity and even make a career out of something they are passionate about. They interact with the media they are looking at.

Youtuber’s make a significant amount of money. Dan Howell aka Danisnotonfire; uses YouTube professionally and has a net worth of around £2million. (Telegraph, 2015). He is a video blogger and recently became a radio personality. He creates many different videos; from internet help groups; asking his followers to ask him questions; to collaborating with other YouTuber’s such as AmazingPhil; Phil Lester. They like to interact with their followers, even having Tumblr’s which allow for this. They show people’s fan art and vlog about different subjects.

“Young people don’t sit in front of the TV for hours, they sit in front of a laptop for hours,” says Danisnotonfire. “Media companies have to adapt or die, like Blockbuster Video.” (Conrad Withey, founder of Popshack, 2015)

Many YouTube stars have become household names: Zoella (8.4m subscribers) has published four best-selling books in six months. Both Danisnotonfire (4.8m subscribers) and AmazingPhil (2.6m subscribers) have also brought out a book and sold out a UK tour. ‘YouTube stars have become one of the few ways to reach younger consumers. A survey by Variety found that the five most influential figures among Americans aged 13-18 were YouTube stars, eclipsing mainstream celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen.’ (Variety, 2015).

In the last 15 years media outlets have rapidly increased. In 1988 there were 4 television channels in the UK, now there are over 250. There were 60 radio stations, now almost triple that. There were 14 cinemas, now there are 2000 (Peake, 2002) these changes suggest a wider range of choice meaning people can spend more time using what is there. Early theories of media effects argue that media has a direct effect on behaviour. Hypodermic syringe theory (Harold Lasswell, 1920s) sees the media to have an immediate effect on people’s mood and actions. For example, violence in movies can produce violent behaviour which can enable influences on people’s perceptions. This could manipulate and control audiences but most of the research used to support this is from laboratory experiments which is fine but it lacks ecological validity as people behave different in laboratories than in real life. This theory ignores individual differences. Uses and gratification theory challenges this approach. This asks what an audience does for the media instead of vice versa. It is argued that media is there to satisfy certain needs. McQuail et al. (1972) identified four needs that need to be met by watching television, they were escapism, companionship, personal identity; this was to see how clever they were using programs like quizzes; and the last need was their need for information.

The uses and gratification approach lets the audience choose from the media to satisfy their needs. However, how can we identify audiences needs and how do we know that audiences have a wide range of programs, are they selective?

“People are adapting with the technology. In 1990, the internet had existed for only 7 years and only 3million people had access to it worldwide, of these 73% of were American. In 2008 there were 140 million people alone who have registered Facebook accounts and 40 million people had Bebo (comscore.com) Of these people there were only 22% of adults used them whereas almost double of children aged up until 17 used these sites, showing that maybe age has a part to play. According to Ofcom (2011) there were 18.8 million people to have a fixed residential broadband in the UK; while the figures continue to rise the UK population in 2011 was 63.2 million so only 30% of the population had it. The usage increases as the range of media increases but it only explains correlation and not causality. This could also suggest that people did not have internet at home but with the rise in other devices that access the internet; smart phones and dongles; they could be using these instead. 76% of those asked in thinkwithgoogle.com’s survey said they accessed the internet every day from their phones, so the internet usage could be higher. It could be argued that people could be seen to use more media as there is more of it to access, so the average could still be the same. People’s needs are forever changing and they seem to change with the media, as we are predisposed to media from a young age and it increases with age”. (Jessica Farrow, 2015)

Media dependency theory argues that the more dependent an individual is on the media for having their needs met, the more important the media be to that individual, thus there is a vicious cycle. (Sandra Ball Rokeach and Melvin Defleur, 1976). This theory is based on the uses and gratification theory which identifies how people use and become dependent upon media. People will use the media for many reasons; information and entertainment are just two examples. The media will also have much more influence over the individual; if someone is dependent upon the media then it is easy to set an agenda. Agenda-setting theory (Max McCombs and Donald Shaw, 1968) describes the ability to influence the importance of topics on the public agenda. I.e. if a news story is frequently covered then the audience will regard it as more important. For example, the constant televised show of the presidential 2017 election, this is important to everyone but is it only important because we keep getting told of it. The Paris attacks are another example, whilst this is important, there were bombings and attacks in different eastern countries but we were never told of this. Bad news almost always dominates the headlines; people respond more to negative words than they do to positive.

Media is always made for a reason and the audience helps that by being a part of the cycle. This approach can be easily measured as it is positivist and it predicts a correlation between media dependence and importance the media has. However, each person uses the media differently, so individual differences need to be taken into account. This theory does not do this but according to Chaffe and Berger’s criteria for scientific theories (1997) this theory is good. It is simple to understand and can be proven false, if a person is not dependent upon media then it will not be of great importance to the individual. This is also a great springboard to further research and helps to organise and relate to other media effect theories. It is a good theory but it needs to be expanded using the other theories such as Social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986) build on uses and gratification theory[T1], it helps distinguish the stimulus for media consumption.

Social cognitive theory explains behaviour in terms of the ‘reciprocal causation’ between individuals, environments, and behaviours. This allows to make a more personal relationship between them instead of a much larger picture.

Cognitive approaches like cultivation theory treats media consumers as passive sponges who file away bits of information. This does not always adequately describe consummation of media. Some people are more involved in certain aspects of medias, like fans of shows or movies. These people are not passive in their approaches but are interpreting material and seeking pleasures such as happiness and escaping their routines. People who are dependent upon media rely upon getting their needs met, so they spend more time using media to get the socialising they need and the needs covered. Each individuals needs is different but this seems to happen from childhood.

Addiction is a serious problem for everyday life, usage of the internet; a large part of mass media; helps to fuel people’s addictions. To be classed as an addiction suggests that people are becoming much more dependant and that the use of media can be dangerous especially if it is changing the biology of people’s brains. Media activates the same pleasure centres of the brain as substances like alcohol and drugs. Among these alterations, the most significant is in the uncinate fasciculus which connects the limbic system to the hippocampus, creating a dissymmetry in the frontal lobe of the brain. Addiction is only possible if the activity is rewarding to the individual. They start to need to media for their own personal needs and become selfish and as it is everywhere it is almost impossible to stop what they are doing. Even if individuals do not have much of a reason to use any form of media, they have to use it because it is necessary to stimulate their brain and release the chemicals needed to feed the addiction. Having behaviour problems such as ADHD and depression can effect this differently, as the brain reacts to different stimulus in ways that a brain would usually do and I will discuss this in my next essay.

Using social media can be detrimental to health. We see people doing different things with their life, maybe getting promoted or just a holiday and the mood can change, people can become envious. It makes everyone compare their lives to others, making people feel like they could be doing better, that they want something. Alison Stevenson wrote a blog on this and she says,

‘For years, I’d hear news of a friend’s success, and my immediate reaction would not be joy for that person. Instead I’d think to myself, “why didn’t that happen to me?” Only after the initial wave of self-pity had subsided, would I be able to finally feel genuinely happy for that person… I couldn’t help but obsess over why my particular path hadn’t lead me to the success I saw in other people’s lives.’ (Alison Stevenson, 2015)[T2][JF3][JF4]

If a mood can change like that just from using sites such as Facebook, then what is it doing to the mass population who are constantly using it. People seek approval and online media makes that much easier and worse to do. Stevenson admits that stopping using the site helped her ease off on the envy and learn to be happier.

Social media also allows people to showcase the ‘best’ side of their lives. They can show an idealised self to the world which allows people to be envious. A poll on Twitter revealed a sentiment of social media fatigue. Jazzi, does not blog so much anymore, hasn’t used Instagram in 70 weeks and her response to the poll was her first tweet since 2014. She still maintains all platforms except for Facebook and doesn’t interact with others. Stacey, a PA from London, deleted Facebook three years ago when “it went rogue and published private messages on [her] public wall.” Since she deleted it she has no regrets.” (Jane Helpern, Think Pieces, 2015) This goes to show that people do not have regrets from leaving social media and that can make it easier to live a day to day life.[T5]

We consume media but how much is it sensationalised to create more drama and effect. Television does it; even documentaries have a habit of adding to it. For example, Nanook of The North (1922) raised issues that continue to this day, there was a deceptive depiction of Inuit culture, actors were used in place of real people, parts of the Inuit’s identities were erased and the plight of the eskimo’s were overlooked. He manipulated the story, changing customs to show his vision. He continued to omit issues regarding the natives in favour of supporting his “vision” (Gray, 1950). A documentary, chronicles the lives of real people. Flaherty, the director, raised controversy with Nanook, because “his most serious manipulation of the subject was to pay both his technical assistants and his performers” (Nanook of the North, 1996) and establish characters.[T6]

Documentaries seem to show one side, does this make them biased or does that allow for the subject to be talked about? The Rageh Omaar documentary (2016), which talks about migration and technology, talks about Estonian culture and how the media seems to have hindered the culture they live by but there is also the other side, did the media help create the culture? Documentaries can provoke different feelings, such as socialisation; which in turn, linking up to the Rageh Omaar documentary; can be a hinder to everything and make people change in some way. If the culture is aware of the media presence then could it help, maybe creating empathy in people if they are represented truthfully? By using the programme itself to show this, it shows how technology do both. [T7][JF8]

Children still use a lot of media today, using items like tablets for games and educational purposes. This changes their development and the way they learn and socialise with each other, many children in the western world use media at such a young age. I will look more into this when I write my second essay, also looking at the cultural differences posed and how different media technology is in developing countries and how the rise in technology and the effects of this. People get sensitised to the media and they do not always know or realise how much they are taking in. The aim of this study is to establish if society is dependent upon media and whether they use too much of it in their everyday lives. What is too much needs to be considered but this will be looked into further in my next essay. To ensure validity I will back it up with theories already made and statistics already found. Media dependency theory will be one of these. As stated media is everywhere so this study will show people use media in all aspects of their lives and they need it fulfil their needs; whether psychological or biological.



Ball – Rokeach, S, and Defleur, M. (1976) ‘A dependency model of mass media effects’ Communication Research, 3, 3 – 21.

Chron (2017) ‘5 Most Common Advertising Techniques’ [Online] Available At: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/5-common-advertising-techniques-15273.html (Accessed 17th January 2017)

Google (2012) Smartphones and the Internet. [Online] Available At: thinkwithgoogle.com (Accessed: 13th October 2016)

Halavais, C. Petrick, C. Anker, A et al. (2004 – 2006) Communication Theory. London: eM Publications

Helpern, J (2015) ‘social media suicide’: why generation z is going off the grid. I-D Think Pieces [Online]. Available At: https://i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/social-media-suicide-why-generation-z-is-going-off-the-grid (Accessed: 17th January 2017)

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Ofcom (2012) Facts and Figures [Online] Available At: http://media.ofcom.org.uk/facts/ (Accessed: 15th October 2016)

‘On Assignment’ (2016) On Assignment with Rageh Omaar. ITV1, 27th September 2016

Pilkington, A and Yeo, A. (2009) Sociology in Focus for AQA A2 Level. Second Edition East Lothian: Scotprint and Haddington

Stevenson, A (2016) There’s an antidote for life-envy [Online] Available At: https://www.headspace.com/blog/2016/01/13/how-social-media-is-distracting-you-from-your-goals/ (Accessed: 17th January 2017)

Tech Addiction (No Date) Internet Addiction Statistics [Online] Available At: http://www.techaddiction.ca/internet_addiction_statistics.html (Accessed: 12th December 2016)

The Telegraph (2015) ‘Making money from Zoella and Dan Is Not On Fire: the start-ups behind the YouTube stars’ [Online] Available At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businessclub/technology/11669543/Making-money-from-Zoella-and-Dan-Is-Not-On-Fire-the-start-ups-behind-the-Youtube-stars.html (Accessed: 17th January 2017)

WorldMapper (No date) Internet Users 1990 [Online] Available At: http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=335. (Accessed: 15th October 2016)

Image References:

Number 1: HeadOn, (2006). HeadOn Advertising, ScreenShot image. Available at: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/f_SwD7RveNE/hqdefault.jpg [Accessed 17 Jan. 2017]

Video References:

KyleLC (2006). HeadOn. Available At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_SwD7RveNE (Accessed: 17th January 2017).

[T1]You do not always use a capital letters when referring to this theory – make sure you are consistent.

[T2]Cut down this quotation to save word count

[T5]Decrease this section, include only a couple of examples?

[T6]Reduce section on Nanook of the North



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