Does Media Mirror or Construct reality?

Media is seen as a tool that could be used to make or break the society that we live in. The media’s role has extended from its convention on being a reflection of the values existent in society, to that of a creative tool used to mould and influence public opinion and behaviour. Considering that this is the ‘big data’ era, where people spend a lot of time collecting and assimilating the information to comprehend the reality around them, rather than reflecting what is already there, media plays a card where it, quite literally, establishes thoughts.

During earlier days, media did reflect what society thought, however, we must keep in mind that more than the reflection, almost every cantankerous public opinion leader saw media as a tool for propaganda, which they could use to paint a society which was in their heads into the minds of the people. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin have all used media to construct a reality in the minds of their people to achieve their goals of mass destruction.

In this age, Commercialism is the chief goal of media. Journalists, due to the selection of what events actually make the news, inevitably eliminate complete reflection. They decide the focus and the progress of the stories. 

Case Study 1 - Negative News Media

Pertaining to Indian media, most of the nationalized news channels portray the world that we live in as a sort of conniving, cheap, selfish and cruel world with the number of accidents, scams and politically violent debates that they showcase. Regardless of whether it reflects public opinion or not, media agencies increase the viewers’ knowledge of the frequency of a certain issue.

For example, mob killings do happen in certain villages, but the media agencies talk about the Uttarakhand mob killings so frequently and broadcast it during PrimeTime that it almost seems as if a person from Madras would be mobbed the very next day.

Case Study 2 - Fashion Trends

Social media plays a big role in influencing public opinion by appealing personally to each individual. They influence and proactively optimise a person’s experience of using a certain media. Fashion or they way people physically hold themselves in society also calls for huge influences.

Most teenagers using social media prefer to dress up and emulate their favourite celebrities and role models. It is as simple as the saying, ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do.’ MTV, is one such popular lifestyle channel which promotes new ‘styles’ of walking, talking, clothing and consequently, the thinking of young minds. Two years ago and people wouldn’t have known Sabyasachi at all, however, media has made it an international symbol of pristine Indian bridal wear. Some constructions of reality may be considered dangerous, such as a rap song which constructs a criminal lifestyle as fun and glamorous, or a magazine that suggests only very thin women are beautiful.

Case Study 3 -  Advertising

Every single toy that you see on TV almost seems too good to be true, and as a child, many of us have felt that the toy was unimpressive and did not seem as it did on TV, as it really is in reality. Travel brochures, beauty products, clothes, schemes, are all portrayed in media as an idealistic society, where everything is high and dandy.

However, we cannot completely allege media of lying to us, as media cannot create something out of nothing. The audience agrees on what the media truly shows because there is an element of relatability in it. It is relevant, otherwise, people wouldn’t make it the big thing it is today. In a way, media does construct society, but more often than not, it constructs from what is already prevalent in society.

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