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Media influence

longread | 30.11.2020

Why should we carefully choose the news we read? Do we really express our own opinion or are we just giving in to the influence of mass media?

The time you spend


The average American spends exactly half of their day engaged with media. 12 hours! They sleep for eight hours a day, which leaves only four. If you subtract a few hours, then you’ll have the average time a European spends on media channels. As you can see, there is a chance that you can get used to mass media, begin to trust it and let it become your friend. Well, trust but verify. 


There is a chance that you can get used to mass media, begin to trust it and let it become your friend. Well, trust but verify. 

A few strange media terms

  • Filter bubble: an algorithm that constitutes an online reality. It ensures that the user only gets the information that they’re interested in. This is most obvious on Instagram – you only see the photos of the people you liked, whose page you visited or whose photos you comment on, namely, the individuals you’re interested in. Try to type in any word in the Google search engine and ask your friend to do the same. The results of the search will most probably be different. They’re based on the individual preferences that have been tracked.
  • Framing effect: a method used by mass media to make sure that a given problem is perceived from the point of view that suits them. For instance, the negative undertones in the news about Trump make you think of him poorly. Similarly, mass media portray Clinton in an altogether different light. As you read one article after the next, you start to have a newfound respect for her.
  • Agenda-setting theory: media channels only cover certain news and leave the rest behind the scenes. You are told what to think, what to discuss, and what to pay attention to.
  • The cultivation theory states that human consciousnesses and perception become distorted after watching TV for a prolonged period of time.

But I’m not so gullible!

Everybody thinks so. The third-person effect proves that many individuals believe that ads and the mass media impact everybody but themselves. Nevertheless, we all consume information that is created by others. Others who have feelings and a subjective evaluation of the situation. They can’t know absolutely everything and, of course, they cannot be 100% unbiased. If you were to recall the last time you recounted a story, then you would come to realise that you too do so emotionally based on your own perception of the events. Mass media outlets influence us by presenting the information in a way that benefits them, making you share their point of view. 

The third-person effect proves that many individuals believe that ads and the mass media impact everybody but themselves. 

Solving the problem 

In order to consume only quality information and not succumb to manipulation, you should analyse, filter and double-check what you read, watch and hear. This is how you can go about it:

  • Evaluate the source
    Is it a newspaper, a site, a person? How is the website designed? Usually proper editions make use of a more discreet design. Are the headlines of the newspaper too flashy? It is highly unlikely that the source with the extremely sensational headlines would post anything reliable.
  • Analyse the author’s educational background
    If the text contains slang or swearwords or if the author blatantly makes the simplest of mistakes, then you have probably stumbled upon an unreliable source.
  • Try to access independent media outlets
    Commercial mass media are financed by certain people, which means that the information that is not beneficial for them will not be released, regardless of its veracity. In most cases independent media will mention their independence on the main page of their site.
  • Consider the degree of relevance
    For instance, when reading up about research from the year 2010 about the number of social media users, it’s important to remember that the results in 2020 will differ significantly.
  • Look for arguments
    Every statement must be supported by evidence, be it scientific work that presents the relevant results, a quote of a person that is being mentioned, a picture from the scene or an official document. If the source simply lists facts and does not provide references, you should have second thoughts about trusting it.
  • Verify the data
    If you have two or more versions that are the same, then it’s probably true. If the versions contradict each other, keep looking or rely on your personal experience to arrive at a conclusion.
  • Think critically
    If someone writes for a news agency, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re smarter than you. Consider whether or not you agree with the author.

Concluding remarks

What’s your opinion on the following concepts: the Middle East, breadwinning women, pregnancy at 16 years of age, politicians? Is it negative? Do you believe the media might have impacted it in some way?

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text: Likbez Media

translation: dasha evsina

photos: Unsplash

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