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Chapter 8. Design Your Life > Social Forces, the Mass Media, and Our Experience

Social Forces, the Mass Media, and Our Experience

There are powerful social forces that act through the mass media to influence the “meanings” we give to things. The news media, for one, exert significant influence on how we conceptualize the world. They affect the meanings we give to events across the globe—in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, etc. They affect the meanings we give to events close to us. They shape our world view. They tell us, in effect, who to trust and who to fear, what gives us security and what threatens us, who to admire and who to scorn, what is significant in our lives and what is insignificant. They create friend and enemy, tell us what our problems are and, typically, tell us how to solve our problems. They imply what is criminal behavior and what is not. They influence what we think about capital punishment, the police, prisons, prisoners, punishments, social workers, poverty, welfare, the medical system, schools, etc. They influence what we consider normal and healthy sexuality and what we consider perverted. They imply when violence is necessary and praise-worthy and when it is inappropriate and to be condemned. Much of this mass media influence upon us is one-sided, superficial, and misleading—when not out-and-out false.

Billions are spent to create, shape, and influence this process. The consequences for the well being of people are enormous. We cannot be critical thinkers and accept the influence that the mass media continually fosters. Whether our viewpoint is conservative or liberal; right, middle, or left; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Agnostic, or atheist—we need to resist mass media influence in our lives. We must decide for ourselves what we think, feel, and want. We cannot do this while under the thrall of the mass media. We must “experience” the world in terms that we ourselves create. We must seek out alternative views. We must find sources that go beyond our national media. We must read widely. We must think broadly.


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