What role does mass media play in society?

Mass media as “communication—whether written, broadcast, or spoken—that reaches a large audience. This includes television, radio, advertising, movies, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, and so forth.”

Mass media is a significant force in modern culture. Sociologists refer to this as a mediated culture where media “reflects and creates the culture”. People are constantly bombarded with messages from a plethora of sources including Television, billboards, movies, and magazines, to name just a few.

These forms of media is that they are able to promote not only products, but moods, attitudes, and a sense of what is and is not important, or socially acceptable. This creates an issue when the messages being showcased are negative ones. This relates back to my first research question, as some of the negative messages showcased by the media in regards to body image are what influence, alter, and distort society’s perception of beauty. 

One of the role that Mass media plays in society is that it makes possible the concept of celebrity: people could not become famous without the way that movies, magazines, and news media are able to reach across the globe on such a grand scale. Cliffnotes states that, In fact, “only political and business leaders, as well as the few notorious outlaws, were famous in the past. Only in recent times have actors, singers, and other social elites become celebrities or ‘stars'”.

The current level of media prevalence has not always existed. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, television, for example, consisted of primarily three networks, public broadcasting, and a few local independent stations. The programming of these channels were primarily aimed at two-parent, middle-class families. Despite this, many middle-class households did not even own a television. In contrast, one can find a television in even the poorest of homes, and multiple TVs in the homes of most middle-class families.

The availability of televisions has increased significantly, but programming has also diversified, creating shows to aim people of all ages, incomes, backgrounds, interestes, and attitudes. The internet has also increased the role of mass media in more recent days, as nearly all business and companies now make themselves available online.

“Although TV and the Internet have dominated the mass media”, the article states, “movies and magazines—particularly those lining the aisles at grocery checkout stands—also play a powerful role in culture, as do other forms of media”.

So what role does mass media play in today’s society? Most will agree that mass media is a permanent part of modern culture, and there are three main sociological perspectives on the role of media exist: the limited-effects theory, the class-dominant theory, and the culturalist theory.

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