Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mass Media

The first things that come to mind when thinking about mass media are radio, television, movies, books, iPods, cell phones, newspapers, blogs, the internet and magazines. I feel most people would probably think of those mediums as well; what differentiates those items is how we feel about them. While many people worship new media, I feel a little more spectacle about them.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my blackberry just as much as the next person, and I can’t imagine my life without my television or laptop; I can’t help but wonder, however, how beneficial these mediums are. Sure they can give us hours upon hours of entertainment... but why are they here? What is the real purpose behind new media?

All of the mediums I listed from radios to television and cell phones to magazines seem like they help humans communicate and become social with one another. The television gives us something to discuss with co-workers and classmates; cell phones help us keep in contact with friends and family; radios bring us information about people and places all over the world; magazines bond us together with those who are also, oh-so-concerned about Britney Spears’ babies. Right?

Neil Postman said in his keynote speech, The Humanism of Media Ecology, “In Democracy in America, de Tocqueville worried that the printed word would lead Americans away from a sense of community and toward what he called egotism. De Tocqueville could not know of radio, television, or the Internet, but if he could, I’m sure he would ask of them, Do they help maintain a balance between a sense of social cohesion and individuality, both of which are necessary to a humane democracy? I do not think he would be impressed by media whose formats encourage isolation.”

This is an amazing, eye-opening point. Isolation.

As we move forward and embark newer and newer media, humans are distancing themselves further and further away from each other. Now we can buy groceries online without having to step a single foot in the local grocery store! We can purchase clothes on eBay instead of shopping at malls. We can video-call our friends instead of really seeing them. We can order movies through cable instead of going out to the video store. We can even “poke” people through facebook. We can virtually do just about anything we want without leaving our homes. This is a frightening reality and it is happening now!

So while I understand why people value new media, I encourage them to also step outside into the real world. This is where they can really smell fresh air, feel and touch real objects and communicate face-to-face with each other!

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