Audience’s Behavior and Thoughts Convinced by Content on the MediaMarch 23, 2020
Have you ever wanted to buy a product after seeing your favorite influencer recommend it?
Most people, even with the awareness that it is an advertisement, would say that they have. It is undeniable that the media can be an extremely effective tool for marketing and influencing our wants and needs.What most people do not realize, however, is that non-advertising forms of media can also have a surprising impact on our thoughts and understanding of the world. The vast majority of audiences consuming media through news outlets and social media platforms are unaware of the extent that content on the media has on influencing the way we think or how we behave in our daily lives.
What is the media?
Before a more comprehensive analysis can be made, a foundational question must be asked: what exactly is the media? In a broad sense, the media is a tool used to communicate information to a large audience. It can be classified into two types: traditional media and digital media. Traditional media is the means of wide-range communication used predominantly in the past by large-scale companies. This form of communication is one-way, meaning its senders cannot receive a response. Newspapers, radio stations, and televisions are examples of traditional media. They are effective mechanisms used by the press to share information to a large population, as well as great tools for businesses looking to advertise their product. Gradually, groundbreaking technological advances, such as the advent of the internet, introduced a new form of communication: digital media. This form of media allowed people to access information at a substantially faster rate. It is also possible now for people to respond immediately to the data that they receive. Digital media not only made information significantly more accessible, but it also opened up the possibility for the general population to share knowledge, whereas, in the past, only companies with large budgets can afford such a privilege. Consumers of the twenty-first century are much more familiar with this form of media; it would be a challenge to find someone under the age of thirty who does not have a Facebook account or a smartphone with internet access.
The Power of the Media
In the modern age, where anybody with an average income can afford digital technology, more people consume more information from the media than ever. As a result, it has become one of the most influential factors in how society perceives a wide array of ideas and concepts. While it has many positive impacts, such as making people more informed and aware of the issues that are happening in society, there are also negative repercussions that entail in this so-called “information age.” The following sections of this blog will examine the cases where the media can be a problematic influence on the collective ideas held by society.
The 2018 Cambridge Analytica Scandal
A prime instance of the media’s wide-reaching impact on societal perception is that of the 2018 Cambridge Analytica Scandal. Cambridge Analytica, a political data-analysis firm that worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, illegally obtained the data of over 50 million Facebook users through a counterfeit quiz application which exploited a loophole in Facebook’s algorithm, allowing for the mass harvesting of private user data. The firm then created extensive personal profiles, which were then used for aggressive ad targeting during the 2016 election. Americans who were users of Facebook, which amounted to tens of millions, were bombarded with misleading information which had a significant impact on the perception of each of the political candidates. Candidates who were in opposition to Trump had their reputations damaged as a result of the ad targeting. A study finding showed that the English word most associated with Donald Trump’s biggest rival, Hillary Clinton, was “email,” which referred to her alleged email scandals. While the scandal was only a rumor and was never confirmed, people ultimately perceived Clinton in a more negative light due to the advertisement targeting which aggressively featured the negative aspects of Hillary Clinton, while featured misleading positive aspects about Donald Trump.
While there were no conclusive reports on how much this scandal affected the election, Trump did become president, despite the overwhelming support for other candidates which can clearly be seen during the election. It would not be too farfetched to conclude that this kind of ad targeting had a monumental impact on affecting the political perceptions of an entire nation. Facebook, once thought to be a harmless social media platform where users can share and discuss their interests, may have changed the course of American history with its alarming collection of users’ private data.
Violence in media can influence the youth
Teenagers and young adults are perhaps the largest demographic consuming information through the media today, as they have grown up along with the development of digital media platforms. An important aspect of this is the fact that younger people are prone to be misled by the media since they have not fully developed the capacity to think critically about the information they receive. As a result, the information they receive over the news or social media can be incredibly dangerous and volatile to their thinking. If not properly regulated, violent movies and video games can easily be the first time a child has seen such a form of violence. In many cases, parents fail to regulate what information their child consumes on the media outlets, which can lead to younger audiences getting the wrong idea about social conduct. Various popular school shooters have admitted to being influenced by violent video games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.
News reports of mass shootings can also mislead the youth to commit the same crimes. A recent and relatable example is that of the Korat shootings. Once mass media coverage of the Korat shootings started to appear, the flow of information began to spin out of control, leading to the following cases of similar wrongdoings. This is caused conveniently as a result of teenagers who grew up without proper parental care; the media acted as a final trigger, misleading them into believing that such behavior may be their way out. In this case, the way that the media presents information is crucial to changing public perceptions, and where the press fails to regulate volatile information, cases like the mass shootings following the Korat massacre transpires.
No one is safe from the media
With the two aforementioned examples, it may seem like the media only affects a specific target demographic. However, unbeknownst to the majority of the population, the media has an impact on all of us, in more subtle ways. To illustrate, nearly every single social media platform that we use on a daily basis has some form of advertisement. And it is no secret: internet titans such as Google collect our private information to use for target marketing. Through a process of repetition, advertisers target the demands we share when we type in search engines. They consequently show us the advertisements we seemingly like to see over and over again. As much as we all hate advertisements, as a psychological effect of seeing repetitive advertisements, our interest in the product unintentionally grows.
Furthermore, influencers who are paid to review a product can also affect our perception. Popular social media figures that we hold high opinions of can simply recommend us products we may not have heard of, and easily convince us to try them out; these types of promotions are usually paired with some form of incentive, such as a certain type of limited promotion, or basically stating that the influencer will benefit from our purchase, which will compel us to want the product even more. In fact, an entire field of profession has been shaped by these psychological marketing tactics. More and more companies are hiring experts in the psychology field to determine effective strategies to market, mostly by manipulating consumers through aggressive targeting.
For decades, the media has had an immense effect on society. Without awareness, we are constantly surrounded by information and ideas which have been shaped by the media. It is evident that these communication platforms have had more of an impact on our mindsets than we realize. While the internet age has allowed for more people to gain access to more information at a faster rate than ever, which has resulted in the general population being much more knowledgeable than in the past, the harms than social media present to us should not be ignored. On an individual level, it is recommended that people of all ages and groups do more research on the topic in order to be aware of potentially misleading information they may receive. And on a societal level, overaggressive and illicit communication methods must be regulated by the government to prevent manipulation, and the press must do a better job of being concise, honest, and presenting the whole truth to the society.