We’re living in a world where the media reigns supreme. It’s a platform for everything (yes, the internet is also media). If Ryan Reynolds gets a coffee from Starbucks, you bet your life that someone in Uzbekistan heard all about it. So does the media hold sway over us? It’s a question every single person should ask themselves because the media influences many things that people do. It sets trends, promotes events and ideas, and gives people information. But how much is too much? Does the media truly hold so much power over us? The answer is yes.
The media influences society and social practices. For example, a decade ago, the topic of sex was very taboo in India and so many other places. It still is, but you can get away with it if you don’t talk about it in the presence of anyone older than 50. That’s still quite a change, and there’s more; women can drive in Saudi Arabia and do yoga without a veil! LGBTQ acceptance has never been stronger; India decriminalised homosexuality! Abortion was legalised in Ireland. And all of this is because of how these issues have been portrayed on TV or in books. The media is a medium for disseminating ideas and thoughts and helps promote social, cultural, political, and ethical awareness. We shouldn't forget our culture and background, but at some point, we must start finding a way to reconcile that and progress positively. Progress isn’t a bad thing, but it must be streamlined.
Freedom of expression is one of the most important and essential rights a person can have, and as a result, many serious social issues have been brought to light. But unfortunately, it feels like what the media is right now is a mix of an angsty wayward teenager and a greedy, money-grubbing sycophant. Now the problem is, like all rebellious eighteen-year-olds, the media went overboard. Rather than giving importance to every issue, they’re running after the ones that’ll make them more popular. They’re doing everything wrong, everything their parents told them not to do. In this case, of course, the parents in question are negligent and don’t seem to realise their responsibility. Like the stereotypical flunky, they obsequiously cherry-pick only what they feel the audience will be enthralled by to get ahead rather than doing their jobs.
So now what the press is doing is the equivalent of a drug-jumping habit. They cover and consequently promote stories that generate the most public interest. This cycle continues until a more interesting story comes along or general interest wanes. And in the last few years, this has become a serious issue across the world. We have so many social and political issues that need to come to light if we are to progress, but instead of raising these issues, the media lets itself become embroiled in every irrelevant controversy. It’s a form of addiction, unsurprisingly. It’s the age-old “like light to flies; like addicts to the drug.” Ratings are usually generated by scandals, controversies, fights and generally what celebrities and public figures did or didn’t do. Watching late-night debates is hilarious. And when I throw alcohol into the mix, it’s like watching a wildlife special on Animal Planet.
Sure, sensationalizing news helps get more viewers, so they tend to build up a person or portray them negatively. There’s no balance to it, but the blame can’t be entirely on the media. People have brains of their own, and they should be thinking for themselves. Those who are hated or loved on TV have both good and bad qualities, just like everyone else. We should think for ourselves, make our own choices, and form our opinions.
Despite this, you won’t see the media make a big issue out of it, and they have probably tried to, but most human rights groups are too busy arguing about whether or not serial killers should be given human rights. And let’s not forget that because of the immense social stigma and a very ineffectual law system, most cases of death never come to light. No one’s actually fighting for a cause anymore. They’re more interested in the fifteen minutes of fame guaranteed to them when they appear on television as “experts” and “activists.” If I wanted to become a social activist, I would look to people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Galileo, and Da Vinci. They were the actual rebels of their generation, and the achievements of modern activists pale compared to the veterans of the past.
What we’re doing is trying to turn journalists into revolutionaries; that’s what they’re not. Journalists are people who exist to bring you facts and information, untinged by any of their own biases, for you to decide. Instead, decisions are being given to us, and we’re told what to think and believe. In this, no matter which side of the political spectrum you’re on, it seems to remain the same. People seem to seek out echo chambers on social media, in real life, and even from journalists, and journalists seem to indulge. Money is power, and even journalists need money. They get their money from their readers and viewers, and so they give their audience what they want instead of what they need. And as a result, the media has lost its credibility, and people blame them for their own poor decisions.
How about this: instead of blaming the media for our inability to make logically sound decisions, we start thinking for ourselves and stop letting others think for us? And instead of catering exclusively to the large number of brain-dead individuals who watch the news when there’s nothing “good” on TV, the media could instead reach out to the people who are willing to fight for change. The simple act of breaking the vicious cycle our world has fallen into will lead us into a new future that is better and brighter and hopefully with greater accountability. But as long as we allow a disembodied voice to tell us what to do, we will go nowhere. So please, put your thinking hats on and be a rebel… with a cause.
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