The Unhealthy Cycle of Media Proliferation

Media shapes cultures. Consumer Preferences shapes media. Personal interests shape consumer preferences. And personal interests are shaped by things within the heart.

From a biblical perspective, our “mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34b, NIV). Or in other words, what we say and what we do is a reflection of what is within the heart. So, what happens when “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9a, NIV), what does it say about our preferences?

Our media outlets are being controlled by things within the human heart.

Considering that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5b, NIV), how will our media outlets be if it is controlled by the consumer preferences? Considering also that there is an ever-increasing growth in media, what will that make of our future societies?

Slide1
Figure 1: How sin influences media and shape cultures.

The age of social media poses another challenge. With cookies constantly collecting information about our browsing preferences, social media crafts what we will receive on our RSS feed based on what it thought that we like, and based on the people within our social circle. Constant exposure to information that the media thought we like will shape our perception of the world to what we want the world to be. The implications are severe and rather dangerous.

“This media cycle that is based on what one wants may cause the breaking up of communities.”

At the end of the spectrum, religious extremist will constantly be exposed to religious ideologies, reaffirming their hatred for communities outside of their inner circle. On another end of the spectrum, leaders will constantly be exposed to high-society information that they will never know the struggles of the lower class. This media cycle that is based on what one wants may cause the breaking up of communities. Interaction among people will be affected based on one’s perception. If one is constantly exposed to diversity, it may enhance harmony. However, if one is constantly exposed to extreme ideologies, conflicts and war may arise.

Slide2
Figure 2: How social media shape our interactions.

I think the nature of media in our society is unlikely to change. Society still needs to be informed of whatever that is happening around them. But there may be a slight shift in the way we perceive media. With the recent debate about fake news on media outlets (both social media and mainstream media), people are starting to think critically about the news that they have received. Even in the most rural of places that I have been to, lay-people are asking about the truth about the news that they have received. A good start, I guess?

“People are becoming apathetic to others around them.”

But I see another trend that is scarier than the proliferation of media. A trend that is influenced by both the media and the economy. It appears that people are starting to grow numb to the news. People are becoming apathetic to others around them. Even if media were to show that people are struggling within their own community, the natural instinct is to either change the channel or scroll to a more appealing entertainment.

Sure, people are coming together to fight for common rights and things that may please them. Peaceful protests and harmless gatherings still take place, showcasing humanity in all its apparent warmth and community-hood. But at the end of the day, these gatherings appear to be focused on the self.

People gather to support something they believed in. People gather to protest when their lives are at stake. I am not saying these are wrong. But I’m saying that there seem to be something missing from the puzzle. Sure, we may appear to fight for environmental causes, special rights of certain groups, and diversity. But when it comes to day-to-day interactions with people within our neighbourhood, there seems to be a certain numbness. It appears that people are blinded by something.

“Media is bringing people with similar causes together, but are tearing everyone else apart. And it is doing so because it thought it knew what we want.”

The media outlets are still serving its function. Society is still a functioning whole. But there is a general degradation in its unity and integration. Media is bringing people with similar causes together, but are tearing everyone else apart. And it is doing so because it thought it knew what we want.

So, here is a question I will post to the floor: Is there something that we truly want from the media?

Further readings:

The Evolution of Media. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://open.lib.umn.edu/mediaandculture/chapter/1-3-the-evolution-of-media/

Whitbourne, S. K. (2010). In-groups, out-groups, and the psychology of crowds. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201012/in-groups-out-groups-and-the-psychology-crowds

Picture taken from Pixabay.com

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