By Maheen Ahmed
From television to newspapers, and everything in between, the word media is representative of any type of wide spread outlet that works to spread information to the masses. We are at a time where these types of outlets are more accessible than ever, but with this easy access and high volume of news constantly being pushed into people’s views, it can be hard to differ fact from fiction.
“It is an individual choice for us to consume media and opinions,” said Kathleen Vranos, the Dean of Arts and Humanities at Cape Cod Community College (4Cs). “And it is an individual choice to allow those words to influence us.”
According to Vranos, it’s up to the individual whether they allow the media to sway their views or not.
Vranos described this ever-changing effect that the media has on society as, “diverse and cannot be characterized in a soundbite.”
4Cs communications professor Tyler Daniels explained how people are inclined to search for scandal and what comes from it.
“We are a very conflict-oriented culture,” said Daniels. “We thrive on things that go against the status quo, things that are deviant, things that are against the social norm.”
Daniels believes that it’s because of this unpredictability and not knowing what is going to happen next, that make people crave this kind of disarray.
“It introduces an element of chaos into an otherwise semi-ordinary society we have established,” Daniels said.
However, the question needs to be raised on whether this drive for chaos gives rise to corruption. Daniels believes it does not.
“Correlation is not causation,” said Daniels. “In any society, there is a natural balance, a careful balance between order and chaos. I don’t think we cause it, at least not consciously.”
Though a balance is present, it seems to be askew, since politicians have the power to make different allocations and claims that may or not be true, and have a high volume of people believing their words.
“Within fake news and society there is something known as confirmation bias and the way that works, we as people, we like to feel that our opinions and our beliefs are valid,” said Daniels. “Put simply we like to be right about things. We will deliberately seek out sources, businesses or individuals who will on some level validate our self-perceived rightness.”
The sources may be false, but that doesn’t matter to the person consuming the knowledge if it validates the person’s own opinions and beliefs.
“On one hand, it’s a duality,” explained Naomi Arenberg, General Manager of 4Cs radio station WKKL. “Something is either true or false. However, in print journalism, or radio journalism or TV journalism, you can tell a story and influence the way people think about it with your choice of words, even if you’re just telling the truth.”
With the constant battle to be the first outlet to post a certain news story, journalist’s today now struggle with even shorter deadlines on their work, which in turn affects these professionals’ abilities to fact check and write clear enough articles.
4Cs history professor Claudia Barnes gave a historical perspective regarding the media’s influence over society today.
“I think some people have been able to use the media for exposure of issues that have not risen to the level of importance. And they’ve made domestic and international issues that were otherwise ignored, very significant,” said Barnes.
Barnes expressed that using celebrities and politicians can be a positive resource when trying to bring light to lesser known issues that deserve more coverage, but people should remain cautious as these influential figures also have the potential to be used as pawns or figureheads.
In order to identify the legitimacy of a source, Barnes said, “You have to look at the evidence, you have to look at who they are, you have to look at their agenda and look at their sources.”
It’s clear that the media has an ever-present grip on society, but while this grip my feel unescapable, it’s not necessarily something that we should want to escape. Instead, consumers of news from any outlet should feel obligated to be more conscious of realizing what is true and what could be considered ‘fake news’ and realize that it all comes down to perception.
Illustration by Harley Turso