The advent of the mass media and its exponential increase in popularity has had significant implications for scientific research, social dynamics, and politics. The popularity of mass media has for instance provided social scientists with the previously unprecedented access to large quantities of information from which they could conduct extensive quantitative and qualitative research on human behavior. Mass media that takes the form of social media platforms has equally enhanced the ability of individuals to discover, connect, and interact with multiple others in a virtual world. The mass media’s ability to reach broad audiences has similarly revolutionized the nature of politics by availing a more effective means for leaders to influence the masses. The above observations are but a small representative of the unlimited potential of mass media to effect positive change. Mass media, however, could also have less than consequences that would be less than ideal.
Foremost, the mass media mass media could and is being used by corporate business to influence the behavior of consumers for the ultimate goal of maximizing profits in the long-term. Advertisements in typical business practice are structured to in such a manner that they use enticing rhetoric to solicit the interest of the potential buyer. While such methods are ethical, mass media has given corporations the ability to engage in immoral marketing practices. The case study on Cambridge Analytica’s data harvesting practices perhaps best exemplifies the significance of the issue. The article by Rogers et al. demonstrates the businesses corporates are capable of using human behavioral science “to sell ads and products without oversight.” The case of Cambridge Analytica indeed shows the intensified risk of breaches of data privacy and the wrong use of personal information in the age of big data.
Secondly, the mass media has heralded an era in which the political class has realized more effective mechanisms of manipulating the citizenry to for political purposes. The article by Chenoweth, for instance, observes the reality that social media platforms have granted politicians the power to target specific groups in specific places, at the convenient time, and with tailor-made political messages. The problem, however, is that politician may abuse such power to manipulate the opinions of users of social media or even use such platforms to suppress the freedom of expression that forms the foundation of today’s globalized world. Rodgers et al. indeed recognize the emerging practice of “micro-targeting” in which the manipulators of political opinion create multiple social media accounts to convey the false perception that an entire community upholds specific views.
Finally, mass media has enormous potential to dehumanize in as much as it facilitates human social interactions. The content of mass media is controlled by a relatively small group of comprising the media house owners and third parties who use media such as television, radio, and the internet to push specific messages to the unsuspecting consumer. In such circumstances, audiences of mass are rendered vulnerable to consuming content whose purpose only the controlling parties determine. The film titled “Miss Representation” captures this reality. It documents how the mass media has altered women’s perceptions of themselves to such extents that they have subscribed to its idealization of the perfect woman. The mass media has made women more so conscious of their outward experience that it becomes the foundation of their self-esteem (Siebel Newsom, and Acquaro).
Ultimately, mass media is experiencing a significant shift in its applications with its users discovering its potential to implement ideas that are universally unethical. The mass media poses a serious threat to the confidentiality of data due to the commercialization of information stored by social media platforms. It further threatens the freedom of expression by giving the political class the power to manipulate public opinion. More significantly, the mass media has proven its potential to dehumanize. Indeed, users of mass media are bound to remain at a relative disadvantage if they do not commence an honest reflection on the harmful effects it has at the personal and societal levels.
Chenoweth, Erica. "Why Social Media Isn’t the Revolutionary Tool It Appears to Be". The Independent, 2016, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/social-media-revolution-tech-activists-arab-spring-dictators-a7433476.html. Accessed 18 Apr 2018.
Rogers, Adam et al. "The Cambridge Analytica Data Apocalypse Was Predicted in 2007". WIRED, 2018, https://www.wired.com/story/the-cambridge-analytica-data-apocalypse-was-predicted-in-2007/. Accessed 18 Apr 2018.
Siebel Newsom, Jennifer, and Kimberlee Acquaro. Miss Representation. Girls' Club Entertainment, 2011.