Posted in The Media

General Paper Essay : To what extent has the media empowered people ?

Note : Student writing. Little editing has been done. This essay is open for discussion, and is not meant to be taken as the best answer to the question.

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This generation is one that is so technologically savvy that many have termed the era as the Facebook and twitter generation. Significantly, the media be it new or traditional forms or platforms that disseminate information quickly and efficiently to the majority, are tools of influence that are valued within the society. While on one hand, the media and its influence subconsciously controls and disempowers people, it is indubitable to note that the media is significant as a weapon, or a tool that protects oneself from the ravages of the modern society and one that is used in the pursuit of attaining a better livelihood. This weapon gives people the power, confidence and authority to carve out a life of their own that is free from oppression and the challenges of the modern world. Therefore, it is without a doubt that the media is a weapon that empowers people. However, when the media is controlled or manipulated by the higher authorities such that the majority is being dispelled out from the rights to control their own lives, the media is not a weapon of the masses. In fact, it is used as a weapon against them.

The media has empowered people and has allowed access to information and this information has accorded people with greater and control to decide and have an input in their daily lives. In the consumerist world, the media is being used by businesses as a tool to advertise and promote their products so as to attain consumer confidence in their products. The advent of such occurrences among the majority of firms has empowered consumers with information, knowledge and choice such that they are able to decide and weigh between products; they are able to make decisions because they have the knowledge to do so. The media is used as a tool to protect consumers from being cheated by others and in this context, the increase in information no longer makes them gullible to fall into the traps by profit-driven firms. Consumers are now able to make informed choices in deciding over an Apple iPods and creative MP3s. Indeed, the media is a weapon that protects consumers from being preyed upon by businesses and in their venue; people are empowered because they are given the power to decide. This is also evident in the world of politics, where greater information that is available on the internet has empowered people to make informed decisions in electing their leaders. The broadcasting of presidential elections campaigns on television and the use of internet, through weblogs, social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube by electional candidates, have increased the pool of information that helps the people decide. Malaysiakini.com, a widely accessed political website in Malaysia has empowered the people in gaining the alternative view towards politics. Barack Obama has famously used the internet as a tool to disseminate information and engage the community in efforts to build the nation, while at the same time garnering support in the recent American Presidential Elections. In sum, the media has been empowering the masses with the availability of information, sensibly used as a weapon that protects the majority from being denied the right to make good, informed and rational decisions in life.

In addition, media has empowered the masses as it has granted people with the platform to voice out their thoughts and views. The media has allowed individuals to exercise their rights to freedom of choice. This freedom is being used as a weapon to attack those who undermine the livelihood of the wider community and hence media is used as a tool to protect the masses from the chances of living under oppression. Media platforms are available, especially through the use of new media has allowed the voices and concerns of the majority to come into focus. Activists and non-governmental organizations groups in China have used the internet as a platform to voice out their views against environmental degradation and have even conglomerated like-minded individuals to sign petitions and pressurize the higher authorities to accord improvements in areas that affect the standards of living among the community. In this manner, the media is being used as a weapon of the people to collectively get involved in efforts to improve their lives, and to bring across issues to the government and to the wider community. This effort is an empowerment to the masses : almost all of society’s concerns are well advocated for, even in small representative groups. The point is, that media has allowed individuals to get involved and participate in areas that affects their survivability and standards of living. Not only that, the media is being used effectively as a means of communication that empowers the individuals as it allows them the power to attain means that would help them in dire situations. In Philippines, the recent bout of typhoon and floods has forced victims to scale their roofs or risk drowning in the floods. In such dire circumstances, victims have maximized the use of the internet through their phone and assessed networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to seek help. This manner of communication has been effective in saving the lives of those in danger and in addition has drawn much international attention towards the plight of those in need. Significantly, the media is a weapon that protects people and accords them with the power to seek a better livelihood.

The advent of the media has empowered the masses as it has provided opportunities for even the laymen to get involved with the world of business and in this sense, individuals are able to attain monetary gains that only augment their standards of living. The media has allowed businesses to flourish. Firms that seek to engage non-price competition through advertising means has garnered substantial profits by encouraging brand loyalty among consumers. Big brands such as Nike and Adidas are highly successful because they engage in advertising to promote their products, even if advertising costs are way beyond their revenue costs. This is so because the profits retained are more rewarding. In addition, the internet has allowed individuals to make transactions online. The adventure of the internet has led to the mushrooming of blog shops or individuals setting up their shops online. Besides a low set-up cost, business transactions through this manner has allowed even amateur entrepreneurs into engaging in the world of business. Monetary gains through the use of media has boosted economic growth and evidently, it is being used as a weapon of the masses in attaining higher and better standards of living.

Despite being a tool of empowerment, the media has flaws that clearly do not empower individuals in any way. The portrayal of negative stereotypes against the weak on television and in magazines has certainly undermined the social standing of these individuals. The media is awash with gender stereotypes that exacerbate gender inequality and the level of discrimination within the society. The portrayal of men as masochists, as well as the increasing portrayal of new-age men, or heterosexual men, apart from the portrayal of female as the damsel in distress and sex symbols are highly prejudiced the society are being fed with influences and standards or ‘expectations’ by which they ought to behave. This is evidently not empowerment. In fact, the media is not used as a weapon to uphold dignity and social standing, but it oppresses individuals into living their lives bounded by societal stereotypes that only undermine their ability to distinguish themselves from the others. In this respect, media is not a weapon, and does not empower the masses in any way.

In addition, the media has not empowered people when it is under the control of the authorities. The people in power who determine the level of exposure as well as the extent of access to media platforms is clearly an act of oppression. The media in such instances are being used as a tool to disseminate propaganda and by doing so brainwashing individuals to conform to the rules and expectations of the people in power. In this respect, the masses are not able to be expressive and are controlled within ideals that are not empowering them. In such instances, media is being used as a weapon against them. Totalitarian governments such as that of North Korea imposed total control over the media and limit the penetration of media from the outside world within the community. In fact, the media is being used by the government as a tool to control and contain the masses so that they resign towards the ideals and expectations of the government. Clearly, when much control is being placed on the media, the media no longer becomes a tool of empowerment for the masses.

This idea is similarly portrayed in instances where businesses and the advent of popular culture through media the nullifies the masses into adopting consumerism and hedonism as their way of life. Where the media is manipulated to influence people’s beliefs and values, too much exposure from the media makes individuals deprived of the ability to make a sensible judgment that is not influenced by what goes on in the media. The portrayal of perfectly gorgeous models and actors on television has redefined the concept of beauty in the modern world. Increasingly, many are willing to go under the knife to emulate such beauties. In addition, the portrayal of stick-thin models has led to the surge in illnesses such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa, especially among youth today.  In this respect, media has not empowered individuals far less being a weapon. Instead, it is a tool of confining the masses in conforming to social norms that are in actual fact insidiously pre-planned.

In a nutshell, while the media has its merits where they are efficiently used as tools that empower and protect people from being oppressed under bad living conditions, the advent of the popular culture has subconsciously conditioned us to conform to ideals that suppress our own beliefs and views. In sum, the media is only a weapon and is able to empower people when they are not controlled by any form of governance and are used sensibly by the masses.

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