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Influence of the Media on Society

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 2477 words Published: 18th Sep 2017

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We live in a world where the media dictates the way we dress, look and behave. Our society is becoming more and more materialistic, where we desire goods, products and spend money on items that are unnecessary.

The media portrays the celebrity lifestyle as the ideal way of living and distributes masses of magazines that contain:-

  • Celebrity gossip
  • Dress sense
  • Interfere into their personal life.
  • Emphasise less glamorous pictures of them.
  • Weight loss/gain.
  • Display images of perfect celebrity bodies.

Magazines such as Heat and Vibe target the young female population who are very impressionable and encourage the onset of anorexia and other eating disorders. Such media information results in the readers feeling less confident, experiencing body dismorphia and believing that coming out in spots etc is unnatural, (Vincent, 2001).

The youth today are trapped in a society greatly influenced by media and are unable to distinguish between reality and normality exposed by media components. Media constantly reminds society of human perfection seen in celebrities, which can be perceived on billboards, magazines, TV and on the net. The society is becoming obsessed with image and particularly weight; we can view reality shows for weight loss and plastic surgery, which are components that further corrupt the minds of young adolescents, (Sproule, 1997).

The mass media has now become a form of communication between cultures, global locations and most importantly as a means of advertising products and services that companies offer. The prominent expansion of globalisation has helped communication process between countries all over the world, where barriers such as language and cultural differences have been overcome or accommodated for.

The role the mass media plays in our society is phenomenal, media communication components have expanded as technology has advanced, if we refer to electronic media and the accessibility of global news with the click of a button. Media is continuously making the society believe that luxury items are necessities, it should be highlighted that media shapes the society to such an extent, that individual opinions are also affected so that they are in agreement with the mass media, (Robbins, 1999).

The major concerns in society are weight conscious young females and children who are being bullied, however the media does not facilitate enough for such important issues, instead we are in constant reminder of problems celebrities face and other unnecessary information.


Society has not acknowledged the full potential or power of mass media. Society’s mind has changed considerably where industries/companies cannot rely on customer loyalty, as the competition between multinational companies is too big.

The most powerful tool is the mass media that are paid large sums of money by industries and companies to capture the attention of potential or existing customers. For example if we consider the battle of Coca Cola and Pepsi, which has been going for years; Pepsi have employed a different approach by using popular celebrities to appear on their adverts and also used sport to make drinking Pepsi more “trendy”.

It should be mentioned that mainstream media is driven by many market forces. For many companies such as the newspaper industry, the product (information provided) is regarded as the audience and the customers considered as the corporate advertisers (Chomsky, 1997).

Many may be in disagreement with Chomsky’s statement, because it is not a normal manner of perceiving such customer and product relations. It would appear normal to consider the newspaper as the product and customer as the audience. The newspaper example can be generalised to assess the information and the reasons behind purchasing the magazines with celebrity and soap information.

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However if we analyse the scenario, where customers/readers conform to a demography where valuable information interpreted will be passed onto other members of society, and depending on the interest of subject topic will encourage the purchase of the paper. If this is true then the customer who has purchased the paper, has advertised what he/she has learnt/read. We refer to the paper as the audience; primarily it is the product that attracts the customers, hence the advertisers bring income to companies, (Vincent, 2001).

The media has portrayed the need of knowing about celebrity lifestyle a necessity and has made society more addicted to TV programmes by providing future storylines in magazines or newspapers. In conclusion to Chomsky’s theory, the audience is also the consumer.

The audience demographics are essential for media industries, where we should be aware that the content of media invasion/persuasion in our society is not as important as the target audience.

It is a misconception to believe the notion of satisfying the customer, because in reality industries target audiences who able to afford the products on offer and in advertisements. Bagdikian (2000) proposed that magazine advertising has a major impact on society’s conception of products and views of global issues. Bagdikian believes that impact of magazine influence and advertising reached a stage where editors chose articles containing adverts, which were thought to have the most influential impact on the readers as apposed to the article content itself.


The communication used by the mass media includes predominantly TV, magazines and books. Such mediated messages are perceived as packaged commodities and perceived or presented in such a form that the target audience is forced to return to these goods and services, (Jankiewicz, 2004).

Society and media influence has come so far along that separation of thoughts, opinions and way of living in the world today is impossible. When we refer to the media, we automatically assume that their advertising techniques are blatant and visible to us. However the mass/mainstream media disguises many adverts in the form of news and advertorials (which may be critical analysis of current issues).

The characteristics of the mass media can be summarised, as presented (Sproule, 1997):-

1. Audience remains unknown to the source.

2. Message is transferred through so many media channels which are  technological and involve a lot of time and effort. This insinuates that  immediate feedback is not available.

3. The source is most probably a complex organisation that decides when  and where a particular product should be available in the market.

The major issues faced by the mass media are propaganda and the impact of globalisation especially where cultural differences are less and less detectable and we are dominated by “Americanism”. The domination of the mass media in the society is successful because the means of persuasion that are employed to attract target audiences, (Prestage, 2002).

The term persuasion refers to a method/process by which we influence the behaviour, physical or mental status of others by influencing them to adopt a particular manner or perception that is in agreement to ours.

The persuasiveness of the mass media constitutes of two key points, which are the Direct-Effects Perspective and the Limited effects Perspective. The Direct-Effects Perspective assumes that media has direct effects on the audience and can be explained if the message-model (refer to Figure 1.1) is acknowledged as well as the cultivation theory.

The Limited-Effects Perspective proposes that we are selective to media coverage and information. It postulates that we ignore messages that do not accommodate/suit individual needs and remain in focus of reality, which can be explained better using the cultural studies theory, (Underwood, 2005).

The two-step flow model (message-model) was introduced by Katz and Lazarsfield in the 1940’s when they researched into the effects of political mass communication. Many valuable theories and conclusions were found by the researchers, one important aspect highlighted in their investigation was the change in votes (5% of sample group) as a result of media exposure. Their findings helped coin the term Limited Effects Paradigm of media influence.

The general idea behind the two-step flow model is that opinion leaders play a vital role in the portrayal of media messages. Their theory is based on some assumptions deduced from their investigated, and are summarised below, (Chomsky, 1997):-

  • There are limitations to effects of media messages which may be influenced by interpersonal relational and group membership.
  • Misconception of the term “mass audience” as this instigates that all have equal say and input into the effects experienced through media influences. However it is clear that some individuals play a more active role than others where others simply conform.
  • Opinion leaders in the “mass audience” are in constant interaction with the mass media and regard their selves as highly influential to others (refer to Figure 1.1).

The Cultivation Theory developed by Professor George Gerbner during the 1960’s, when he began his investigation into the effects of TV on viewers in relation to their perception of everyday life. Many theorists believe that TV has long term effects and cultivates our attitudes to normality, (Vincent, 2001).

The Cultivation Theory can be interpreted in two components, which are the first and second order effects. The first order effects refer to the beliefs that may emerge towards prevalence of violence and the second order effects may have developed in having particular attitudes where you may be conscious about personal welfare. Much cultivation research investigates the viewers’ perception of TV reality in comparison to reality of our society, (Chandler, 1995).

Professor Gerbner proposed that TV dominates our symbolic environment, where TV can be perceived as a more attractive or realistic world to viewers. He also suggested that the exaggeration of violence on screen provides mixed messages to viewers; the younger audience are most likely to be affected, (Robbins, 1999).

Professor Gerbner summarised the theory by postulating that if a viewers surrounding is similar to that shown on TV, then the effects of cultivation are the greatest.

The Rhetoric Theory is based on three important aspects, which are:-

  • Logical
  • Emotional
  • Ethical

The Rhetoric Theory is mainly concerned with the available means of persuasion; it is regarded as using symbols to produce effects and involves use of either language or symbols. Advertisements come in so many forms, where the motive of the advert or message influences the form of persuasion. Sometimes images/symbolism such as logos is more appealing than literature, (Prestage, 2002).

In conclusion to this section, it can be said that there are many theories of media persuasion towards target audiences, a few common theories have been mentioned to give the reader a broader thought process towards media domination, which is continually growing in our society.


Media influences our society to such an extent that many have become obsessed with image, luxury items and especially weight. The media persuasive strategies have become stronger and stronger and more widely available which a result of globalisation.

We live in a world where we are constantly exposed to the mass media and cannot help but become influenced by products and services that are unnecessary and become lost in the media reality and the reality of our society.

Although there are many theories that try and explain the persuasive strategies of media domination and techniques employed to target certain groups. As with all theories, the hypotheses mentioned in the previous section are not without criticism; however they provide a more in depth insight into the media components and how literature such as that found in magazines in very influential. Magazines are convenient on long journeys and celebrity gossip and detail makes it very appealing especially to the young female population.

The mass media does not realise the negative effects publicity of weight concern has on young impressionable adolescents, who may portray media images as a normal perception.

  • Bagdikian, B., H. (2000). The Media Monopoly (6th edition). Beacon Press, 2000.
  • Chomsky, N. (1997). What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream. Z Magazine.
  • Robbins, R. (1999). Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism. Allyn and Bacon 1999.
  • Sproule, J.M. (1997). Propaganda and Democracy: The American Experience of Media and Mass Persuasion. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Underwood, M. (2005). Katz and Lazarsfield: Two Step Model. Accessed online [google].


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