How Print and Digital Media Impact Society and Popular Culture
Updated: Jul 20
Media, or the way in which we communicate information, has heavily influenced public opinion since the first words were written, around 2600 BC. Of course, a lot's changed since then. But what remains is the fact that we are social. And, as inherently social beings, we're affected by our relationships and social networks.
Here, we’ll look at the role that media plays in our everyday lives, from exchanging information to persuading and pressuring others to act. And what that means for our future.
A Brief History of Print Media
Books and newspapers are some of the earliest forms of mass communication. Gutenberg's printing press produced a tremendous amount in a short amount of time. Disseminating knowledge to the masses was faster and cheaper than ever. People became more literate. And eventually, preferred writing over speaking. This marked the start of the Information Age (also known as the Digital Age or New Media Age).
Social Network Theory: How Relationships Influence Behavior
Social network theory suggests that communities consist of social units with relatively stable patterns of relationships and interactions over time. Esteemed communication theorist and sociologist Everett M. Rogers defined a social network as “interconnected individuals who are linked by patterned communication flows." Of course, this applies to both in real life and online.
"Ideas, norms, and practices are diffused through, or rejected, by interpersonal networks because of the strong influence that evaluations and behavior of others — especially opinion leaders — have on network members" (Rice & Atkin, 2009).
In this way, print and traditional mass media can be viewed as social networks, influenced by an elite group of opinion leaders.
How the Internet Changed Everything — Forever
The Internet was officially born on January 1, 1983. And with it came more profound shifts in how we communicate. Before the Internet, media conglomerates or "the press" controlled the conversation — a centralized, one-sided conversation with no audience participation. However, the new media landscape supports multi-sided conversations from an endless stream of creators. Most importantly, the Internet belongs to everyone. Or “the people formerly known as the audience,” a term coined by professor Jay Rosen.
Digital networks make sharing cheap and the potential for participation nearly universal.
Individuals can interact and influence each other's opinions, resulting in behavior change. Additionally, mobile devices and video streaming platforms have made it even easier for people to create and consume content at their own convenience.
Social Media Creates Conversation
Social media provides new channels for us to interact and collaborate within a global sharing economy. While there are many benefits to using social media, like most other things in life, there's also a downside. The constant bombardment of Pinterest-worthy images exacerbate the pressure to be perfect. Photo-editing apps like Facetune perpetuate unattainable beauty standards — and it's so prevalent now that it's hard to tell what's real or fake. These kinds of trends can be damaging to anyone's self-esteem, especially for impressionable young teens and adolescents. Conversely, social media and digital technology have helped raise awareness on a number of social movements and causes, such has:
The Me Too movement
Black Lives Matter (BLM)
Moms Demand Action
That's just to name a few. There's also online community forums and support groups, which are helpful for people who find it difficult to be express themselves or be vulnerable in person.
So, What Does This Mean for You?
As marketers, branding experts, communication professionals and beyond, we have an opportunity to shape the world around us. Using our expertise, we can influence a narrative, activate a cause and spark action in support of a better future. We can be more mindful of the creative pieces we produce by asking ourselves these questions:
What key message(s) do I want the audience to walk away with?
Is the message I'm communicating authentic, true and fact-checked?
Is it relevant to my specific audience?
Does it spark creativity or inspire original thoughts?
Have I considered different perspectives, ages and cultures?
Words and visuals are powerful. So it's important to be thoughtful about what we're communicating.
Now that consumers are in control, it's our duty to inform, persuade and motivate positive behavior changes. Together, we can transform the world for a better tomorrow. (And we all know more brains are better than one.)
Let’s get out and make our mark!
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