Charlize Su 11BDoes mass media affect our perception of reality?Chew on this: where do you go to get your information? Most of us would answer something along the lines of Facebook, local television networks and the radio, which are all part of mainstream media. But how reliable is your source of information exactly, and to what extent can you trust material given to a widespread audience through mass communication? I believe that mass media does in fact affect our perception of reality because the media only shows you what they want you to see. Well, what is mass media exactly? Allow me to elaborate. According to the Oxford Dictionary, mass media refers to sources of information and news such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television, that reach and influence large numbers of people. These days, mass media mainly relies on social media platforms and news networks to transmit information locally as well as globally. Mass media takes the shape of three forms: entertainment media, social media and informational media. Entertainment media comprises of movies, television, radio, and the like. Social media refers to Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and other communication platforms. Lastly, informational media would be news networks, blogs, newspapers, magazines and article websites. I found a quote by Philip K. Dick striking, “We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, ‘What is real?’ Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms.” I think this is entirely relevant to our current society where all kinds of information are in the open more than ever, which is why people believe whatever is laid out for them. Philip starkly reveals the truth that our realities are stories spun by those who seek to control us, to distort our perspectives. Maybe we are so blinded by what the media feeds us, that sometimes we do not stop to consider if it really is true, if there were more to the story than what the media would lead us to believe. One way that this is shown is through the undeniable fact that bad news dominates the headlines. Why is this so? Studies indicate that as human beings, we are innately drawn to the darkness of human nature, to tragedies and catastrophes. Negative issues like sudden disasters and terror acts are compelling to us, due to “negativity bias”, a term coined to be defined as our collective hunger to hear, and remember bad news. The media knows this and exploits this human trait in their news forums. Perhaps that is why many people think that the world is becoming more dangerous and a worse place to live in, with all the mass shootings, terrorism and political conflict taking place right now. We are so much more aware of the danger and sufferings around the world, which may have fuelled our paranoia and pessimism. We are given the impression that we live in a cruel, hard place even as we remain in our protected bubble from the outside world. However, I would like to interject by saying that the world has never been safer than it currently is because of great advancements in technology and improved standards of living. The media is often biased even though it may not be obvious sometimes. We are constantly given only one side of the story or a brief shallow version of events. As such, we are unable to discern the actual truth or make any critical analysis accurately due to lack of objectivity and depth. The media indeed shows us what they want us to see. The entertainment media distorts our perspective of people. Magazines and articles are plastered with celebrity scandals, the latest power couple, and more irrelevant gossip that no one really needs. We are constantly being surrounded by idolism and worship of celebrities, as they are glorified under the media. Although this had more effect on teenagers initially, now even children and adults fall under the glamorous spell of Hollywood. We look up to them more than scientists, Nobel prize winners, and people who actually change the world, and this is so prevalent in the 21st century. This is called sensationalism and a good example would be the Kardashians who hold a significant amount of influence over many people. I mean, everyone knows who Kim Kardashian is right? To summarise, they are famous for nothing really, but there are blind worshippers who still adore them as idols. With so much news coverage on celebrity lives, important and more relevant subjects aren’t given the spotlight they deserve. This gives people the illusion that the entertainment world is perfect and glamorous, and people who idolise so regularly are often disillusioned about the world they live in. Often so, people are more susceptible to a having a shallow worldview if they are always exposed to these kinds of shallow content. The truth is this: celebrity news isn’t real news.Many a time, the media portrays the world as black and white. What does that mean exactly? Only that we are constantly shown good versus evil, right versus wrong, yes versus no– the polar extremes. This is particularly depicted in movies where the protagonists and villains are easily identified and given a one-dimensional personality which labels them as good or bad. There is hardly any middle ground in which characters maintain the grey area. The same can also be said about reality where there are all kinds of conflicts that draw a line between black and white. A prominent example is racial discrimination between the blacks and whites- no pun intended. Due to stereotypes of black people, they are often portrayed as inhumane criminals lower than a human being when they commit a crime, no matter how serious it is. Articles rant about how horrible they are based on schemas of black people, and publish bad pictures of them. Inversely, when a white person commits a crime, they aren’t given as much hate, their crimes are treated more lightly, and articles publish better pictures of them. This shows the obvious biasness and prejudice the media has even though they are supposed to be impartial. Mainstream media caters to a widespread public so this subjectivity tends to affect people unconsciously, changing their perceptions to be over-simplified and become less adaptive. In this very grey world we live in, we cannot afford to have a black and white worldview. We can’t reduce life to gross generalisations and things must be looked at on a case by case basis. Not everything has a definite yes or no answer, it always varies depending on its situation. In addition, mass media also uses propaganda to spread influence. Back in the previous century, propaganda was most evident during the war where ideas and beliefs were circulated throughout nations. Right now in the modern world, propaganda has become less obvious, more subtle and even more persuasive than before. It makes use of all forms of media to promote their specific agendas, for example in social media, advertisements and the press. Propaganda is so powerful that anyone can fall prey to it. One obvious way that we can point out the use of propaganda is how the media promotes left or right wing agendas especially in America. Many television stations and news networks have their own bias towards this matter so their content are not as objective as you might otherwise believe. Similarly, advertisements have the same impact. On television, they last for a minute or two but the effect that it can have on the unconscious mind is great. Due to our fast-paced, busy lifestyles, we do not make it an important point to filter out any unnecessary information, which is why these adverts enter our subconscious. This then results in the messages of propagandas and adverts changing the way in which we think, affecting our mindset. Building on the fact that advertisements have the power to alter the way we think, they take different forms besides what you see on the television. Advertisements are mainly targeted at consumers to buy goods and services, and with advancements in technology, they appear on social media sites as well. With the ineffable power of social media, all kinds of people get sponsored and promote products to their viewers. One of the most prevalent products being advertised worldwide is cosmetics, which has a lot to be said about. Firstly, the cosmetic industry relies on the insecurities and low self-esteems of consumers to have a thriving business. They focus on correcting physical flaws and reaching perfection. Of course, the idea of becoming perfect is absurd but you’ll be surprised, many people do fall for this ploy. Cosmetic and other beauty firms use gorgeous models and photoshop to trick girls into thinking that they must attain similar unrealistic body standards. Furthermore, this tells guys that they should date girls who look that way. People’s perceptions of themselves then begin to change, often for the worse as they see themselves as more flawed. Subsequently, they spend money on products that they see on advertisements or because of models that they idolise. The effect of these advertisements changes how people view themselves and others, and they become more self-conscious and narcissistic. It takes their attention away from more important things in life and affect how they perceive the world around them.Even so, mass media doesn’t always affect our perception of reality. Sometimes, the informational media is nonpartisan and objective, and gives both sides of the story. Sometimes, issues are portrayed unbiasedly in all honesty for what they are. However, that mostly happens for news that aren’t controversial or require any public opinion. There aren’t many new sources that provide objective news either. On top of that, there are other factors that affect the way we perceive reality such as education, opinions of our peers, our environment, etcetera which may counter what the media feeds us. Thus, mass media does affect our way of seeing the world, and this fact cannot be changed.To sum up, bad news, entertainment, prejudices, propaganda and advertisements in the media change our perception of reality. The effect of this has many ramifications because it hijacks our minds, distorts our thoughts and allows us to view life in a different reality that often benefits the ones with power, the ones who control us from above. Hence, it is of utmost importance that we make sure to get our news from sources of integrity so that we can have a deeper understanding of the world we live in, and not fall for the media’s deceptions. After all, perception and reality are two very different things.Bibliography Tom Stafford. “Psychology: Why bad news dominates the headlines” BBC.com, 29 July 2014.