Mass media is everywhere.
Think about it. Social media is a form of mass media, as is television and the radio. Even this newspaper is a form of mass media. As students, we use and consume a crazy amount of mass media daily.
It’s a must for those of us who are trying to earn a degree, and it will most likely always be present in our lives.
“The traditional definition of mass communication was that you have one source disseminating a message to many receivers. People would think of sources being newspapers, magazines, radio and TV,” said Chuck Lewis, a professor at MNSU in the Department of Mass Media.
But now with Internet, the answer of what is “mass media” becomes more involved because we now have to include social media, Lewis said.
Social media are “hybrid forms of communication,” said Lewis. Even if we don’t do things like watch the news or read this newspaper, we are still consuming mass media through our Twitter and Facebook accounts. Even things like Spotify and Apple Music are forms of mass communication.
Without mass media, we wouldn’t know what’s going on in the world because there would be no news. We wouldn’t be able to listen to our favorite songs, watch our favorite TV shows, or connect with people using social media. As students, we wouldn’t be able to gather research or finish homework assignments. Mass media has become a staple in our lives.
But with all of these great things, comes great responsibility.
“All mass communication—news, entertainment, social—has the potential to influence,” said Lewis. “One major problem at present is how fractured media production and consumption can be today… Instead of relying on mainstream news operations that use balanced gatekeepers to provide information, people just gravitate toward biased news outlets that simply reinforce certain viewpoints.”
This is to say, most people usually only listen to what they want to hear instead of looking for sources that are unbiased. We all want people to agree with us, so we seek them out. This is something to be mindful of when consuming mass media, especially social media.
Even though social media is great, it is greatly biased.
“It’s not material vetted by professional gatekeepers such as editors in a news operation,” Lewis said.
When you’re online, you’re going to be posting your own opinions. Most of us are not on Twitter to report news stories to our followers. To this, Lewis says, “Be careful. Be skeptical. Don’t believe at face value any media sources.”
With good comes bad, even with mass media. Mass media is incredibly important to have for reasons such as academics or expressing creativity. But it can be harmful if you are not able to form your own opinion on things and are quick to believe sources that benefit your own views.
Lewis’ last bit of advice for students is this: “Above all, try to get away from media each day—get away from all screens. Social media, such as Facebook, are engineered to create addiction. Try to just say no every so often and shut off the phone. The world won’t end, and you just might find you are less anxious and have more clarity about your life.”