Media, as a prime tool of value production machinery, has aimed to captivate the consumer class with its notion of how a society should work. The media conglomerates have become the gatekeepers of the socio-cultural beliefs, ideologies and values that one should perceive from the broad exposure to the media content. Media as a reflection of the society is expected to disseminate information and make people aware of the happenings around them, nationally and internationally. But with time, it has focused on shaping the ideologies and acting as an opinion maker of the mass. In a democratic society, the youth plays a crucial role in a nation’s future. Thus, it should be our prime concern to understand what the media produces and how it affects the youth.
As the cultivation theory of media explains, repeated exposure to violence may create a stereotype in the viewers’ mind and result in its acceptance among the masses. It also influences the audience to perceive content stereotypically under some pre-defined structures of socio-cultural practices such as racism, classism, casteism and the violence perpetuated due to such differences. In my opinion, the media acts as a manipulation machine of the ruling class to convince/influence the masses.
In 1933, media was used as a master key in Nazi Germany to spread the notion of “one nation, one state, one leader” and injecting into the German masses the idea that “Jews are our misfortune!” – to trigger the sense of enmity among them. For a long-time, media has been used as a tool to spread violence for some propagandist reason of the authoritarian class. In our country, the corporate owned media has been used to propagate the idea of ‘Hindutva’ in the name of ‘nationalism’. This has fuelled inter-religious and inter-caste chaos resulting in severe riots on several occasions. In each case, media platforms (traditional or new media) have played a crucial role in influencing public opinion.
Video games, web series, movies or even cartoons meant for our entertainment, sometimes have content which may include murder, killing the opponents, physical attack on others, molestation, sense of superiority using deadly weapons and so on. All this content needs to be handled responsibly and sensitively as it impacts the consumers’ mind especially the youth who encompass a large proportion of the users/audiences. Blue whale game introduced in 2016, which claimed the lives of innocent teenagers in our country is one such example where we failed to keep a check on the type of content young people access. Harmful media content also has the potential to make young people more aggressive and hostile.
‘Sanskari’ as a keyword for the parameters to be a ‘good’ human being or in some cases ‘a good woman’ in our country, has been repeatedly taught to the masses, or the youth in particular through the media portrayals in TV serials, films and advertisements. This has burdened us to behave and react in a certain ‘acceptable’ manner. The way media portrays gender is biased, stereotypical and patriarchal. Ranging from defining the beauty standards – making ‘dark thick hair’, ‘flawless white skin’, ‘slim and sleek body’ as the parameters for it, to equating masculinity with muscles, or a ‘thick beard’, media has fed the masses a contrived perception of what an ideal male or female body should look like. They have made people a victim of capitalism by convincing them to buy the products which will help them to be readily accepted and appreciated in society. With such ideologies, the young generation that fails to live up to these standards have often suffered from an inferiority complex affecting their personality and level of confidence. It further creates a social inhibition among the youth.
Due to the compulsion created by social media, our young generation is always in a rush to keep everyone updated about their life on the virtual platform forgetting to give time or importance to the people in their real life. It seems as if a race for seeking attention and a fear of missing out is acting simultaneously to keep them hooked on this virtual reality. Acceptance has been equated to the number of likes and comments a person gets, and a failure to obtain a good number often makes them depressed or anxious. Hence, social media takes control of their lives completely.
In the 21st century, with the growth of technology, media has become more advanced and reached the masses to a greater extent. There’s no doubt that the media plays a crucial role in our society being the fourth pillar of democracy and their unbiased stance is extremely essential, but with time, media has digressed from its objective and in turn has become a value production machinery to shape up the society with a dominating capitalist and patriarchal spectacle. Hence, the youth has become the most critical target audiences – since they are the torchbearers of our future. Thus, it’s our responsibility to have a better understanding of media and use it smartly to avoid being easy targets for them.