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Student View: Media affects us from Hollywood to social media

By Ashrah Kahn

Ashrah Khan is a first-year BA Joint Honours student at Dublin City University where she studied media literacy in the School of Communications. 

Media literacy matters because it helps us navigate the vast amount of information we encounter every day. It gives us the skills and knowledge to critically analyse and evaluate media messages, so we can make informed decisions and avoid being misled. It empowers us to be active and responsible consumers of media. A simple example would be an individual coming across a news article on social media claiming that a certain vegetable can cure cancer. A media literate person would approach this information critically and may fact-check the claim by looking for reliable sources or consulting medical professionals.

The topic of media effects explores how the media can shape our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours. It’s fascinating to see how different types of media such as movies, TV shows, or social media, can influence our perceptions and even impact society. Furthermore, studying media effects helps us understand the power and responsibility that media creators have in shaping our world.

As well as that, the importance of media effects lies in its ability to uncover complex relationships between media content and how the audience responds to it. By analysing how media messages are received, interpreted and absorbed, we can gain valuable insights into the cognitive, emotional and behavioural repercussions on individuals. This understanding is crucial for promoting media literacy, allowing people to approach the information in a critical manner.

The hypodermic needle model of media effects reflected the stimulus-response psychology that was popular in the 1930s. This model assumes that media consumers uncritically accept whatever messages they see or hear in the mass media. Media messages such as advertising, films, social media etc. are ‘injected’ into the mind of the powerless audience. This idea is still significant because there are many references in today’s society to a helpless audience that lacks knowledge.

During the 1930s, simplistic studies revealed that Hollywood films appeared to have a negative impact on the behaviour and values of the American youth. Fearing potential government regulation, Hollywood took it upon itself to establish moral guidelines and at the same time, they fully supported state propaganda efforts during World War Two. This demonstrates the industry’s attempt to address societal concerns while also aligning with government initiatives. Are tech companies now in this position?

With the advent of digital platforms and devices, media consumption has become more accessible and widespread. This amplifies the potential impacts of media on individuals and society. For example, Andrew Tate is a multi-millionaire influencer who spreads misogynistic and disgusting ideas to young boys through the apps of Twitter and YouTube. Andrew Tate has been branded as the ‘King of Toxic Masculinity’ for the content he puts out. He is also suspected of rape and sex trafficking. Many young boys are easily influenced by his hate speech and many parents are worried as their children may show signs of hatred towards women in the future. After much reporting, Andrew Tate has been banned from all social media platforms for violating the platforms’ policies and to prevent him from posting any sort of offensive and hateful comments.

Additionally, technology enables targeted advertising, algorithmic recommendations, and personalised content, which can further influence our thoughts and behaviours. It is very important for us to be aware of these changes and to adapt accordingly and to make informed decisions, so we can ensure that the impact on our society remains positive.

This opinion piece is part of a blog series from DCU students.