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Cultural and Social Impacts of Global Networked Media

The concept of global media implies communication and the spread of information at the global level. The scale of media coverage has increased due to the development of new technologies, out of which the Internet is the most important one. Besides, the spread of liberal values also significantly contributed to the fact that people could share and search for any information they need. At the dawn of the media, it was apparent that culture and social circumstances affect the substance of media. However, nowadays, media has transformed into an independent and forceful institution capable of influencing culture and society.

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Without a doubt, over the century, the significance of media has significantly increased. At the same time, Hjarvard (2009) notices a peculiar paradox. From one point of view, media is an independent institution that exists among other social and political institutions (Hjarvard, 2009). From another perspective, media is inextricably linked to such institutions as politics, work, and even religion because “more and more of these institutional activities are performed through both interactive and mass media” (Hjarvard, 2009, p. 105). Nonetheless, the immense influence of media could not be debated.

The media has become a valuable tool for politicians because of its ability to shape public opinion. One of the brightest examples of the social impacts of media is the election of the 47th American president. More precisely, the Twitter account of former President Donald Trump was blocked; this created a distance between Trump and the electorate. Trump, in his turn, became deprived of the possibility to communicate his ideas to the audience and maintain their support and approval. At this point, it should be noted that social media was not an independent institution that agitated the public to vote in favor of Trump or Biden. However, this example illustrates that media has become a tasty morsel for those who want to use it as an instrument of manipulation of public opinion.

In talking about the power of media, it is necessary to discuss the concept of media. Mediatization implies that mass media shape political and social discourses. The case of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad published in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo illustrates how mass media could bring severe political consequences. Charlie Hebdo is famous for its political satire and edgy humor. The French adherence to the liberal principles of freedom of speech prohibits the government from controlling the extent of radicality of this magazines jokes. The caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad were unacceptable for the Muslims because religion plays an essential role in their lives. Besides, it remains unclear which goals Charlie Hebdo was pursuing while publishing the pictures that humiliate the Prophet.

These caricatures led to mass shootings and terrorist attacks in several French cities and cost the lives and health of ordinary citizens. Furthermore, several Islamic countries declared a boycott of the goods imported from France. The response of Immanuel Macron was also decisive because he urged to fight radical Islam. Eventually, it does not matter that the attitude of the French government to the representatives of the Muslim community differs from the one of Charlie Hebdos editorial board because it took only several hours after the publication of the pictures to start the religious war between secular France and religious Muslim countries.

Mass media could also positively affect culture and even fight social prejudice that exists in society. For example, currently, the social movement of body positivity is gaining more and more popularity each year. Brands of clothes, cosmetics, and underwear are actively used models with untraditional appearances or excessive weight for their advertising campaigns. In social media, the number of bloggers whose face or body image differs from the generally accepted beauty standards is also increasing dramatically. Undoubtedly, it is up to every person to decide whether for him or her excess weight or disabilities is a serious problem or simply a unique feature; it is nice to see that discrimination based on weight, gender, age, appearance, or disability is evaporating. And the reason for this lies in the fact that people see “different” people on TV, on their Instagram or YouTube, and on magazine covers. Even though this example is relatively trivial, it clearly illustrates that mass media, to some extent, shape peoples mentality, affect their ability to accept themselves as they are, and even alter cultural norms and understanding of beauty.

To conclude, mass media could not be regarded as an independent institution because it is closely conducted to political, social, and cultural ones. It is common knowledge what a significant role of media played during the war in Vietnam. Since these times, the significance of media has increased even further. Due to the fact that print media, broadcast media, and social media are effective tools to manipulate public opinion, politicians commonly use them in their election campaigns. Still, the media could act independently and promote new standards of beauty or even lead to a diplomatic row, as in the case of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

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Hjarvard, S. (2009) ‘The mediatization of society: A theory of the media as agents of social and cultural change’, Nordicom Review, 29(2), pp. 105-134.

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