Humanity is characterised by our need for information. We crave more; to know more, do more, see more, to be more.
We happily consume this indulgence of knowledge presented to us by our ever-growing media platforms… as long as we view it as producing a positive benefit for ourselves. For once society begins to believe that media has suddenly distorted into a harmful influence upon the individuals we see as most ‘vulnerable’:
- The uneducated
- The working class
we immediately forgo our instinctual need to further ourselves with knowledge. Instead we demonise the information outlets that serve only to provide us with a reflection of ourselves.
Thus we create an epidemic of anxieties about the effects of the media, as seen through the deprecation of society’s mental health and body image.
This current ‘media-induced’ damaging aspect of humanity has stemmed largely from the growing power and influence of the social media giant Facebook, as mentioned in this article
Here we see mental health researches analyse the effects of Facebook on social anxiety through some fairly limited experiments.
“A team of researchers performed an experiment to see whether reviewing a person’s Facebook profile before picking a person out of a picture would decrease anxiety levels. The researchers looked at the social anxiety levels of 26 female students between the ages of 18 and 20 using the Interaction Anxiousness Scale (IAS).”
The narrow range of participants in the experiment could not and does not provide an accurate demographic of society. Consequently the conclusions drawn that an individual is more likely to experience social anxiety in meeting a new person if they have viewed their Facebook profile first is not viable as a definite effect of the media, as the article itself accedes
“The study was limited, as it did not reflect real-world situations and only included encounters with the same sex. Therefore, more study is needed.”
And yet despite the inconclusiveness of media’s effect on social anxiety presented in this study and many others, society still insists on representing our own anxieties in the form of a malignant information source. It is not the role or the function of media to influence us at our core; only to reflect what we sometimes do not want to admit in ourselves.
Perhaps the most vilified of all media anxieties, the representation of the ideal body image is flashed constantly throughout all informational platforms. Yet is it the representation or inclusion of such impossible standards in our media that forces women and men alike to become dissatisfied with ourselves as we are? Or is it our consciousness as a society that we must strive for the elusive perfect figure in order to be happy? And thus is media only serving to mirror this desire back onto ourselves?
This scholarly article from Aileen Pidgeon and Rachel A. Harker argues that media began our unhealthy obsession with body image with the instigation of
“…a level of thinness that is impossible for most women to achieve…”
which was then internalised and compounded by our societal standards.
Yet what is the benefit for the media to present something that society does not wish to see? Despite the predisposition for some researchers to view the audience of media as ‘gullible victims’ and ‘easily influenced’, it is us as the consumers of media to dictate what we buy. There would be no profit in a media that presented information as it desired; with no thought for the masses that create and continue its existence. We create the media, the media does not create us.
Consequently, the social anxiety of
“…the mass media target[ing] women by promoting new diets, exercise regimens, and beauty treatments to rectify and conceal flaws in their bodies to achieve attractiveness and the thin-ideal.”
is, as are all societal fears of the media, not an effect of the media upon our seemingly weaker individuals.
The anxieties of media are our flaws. They embody the aspects of humanity that we deem unworthy to be associated with. And thus we force upon the media the blame of our nature as imperfect, inconsistent beings.
The media is inanimate device; a machine that feeds upon our mistakes and our fears, and then regurgitates them back to us, but we have become blind to our own hand delivering the food.