How Social Media has Changed us

The reception of social media has impacted the news massively; from the way it is reported to the way it is distributed in recent years this has been turned on its head.  “News is conceptualized as a “constructed reality” in which journalists define and redefine social meanings.” (Hannigan, 2006: pg.80). This describes how although what we receive may not necessarily be true we still take it to be the news as we see journalists as a “legitimate source”. Further examining that the media amplify their opinions and due to the trust placed in these sources they then become trends and popularly held beliefs. Consequently, those individuals who disagree are left isolated as do not hold mainstream beliefs. This can be seen to display the Hypodermic Needle Theory which is described as “agenda setting” (EF Shaw, 1977: 102) as the audience passively accept what they see and do not challenge its truth. This theory then importantly shows how easily affected we can be by social media and therefore how it is able to shape our everyday lives consequently having a huge impact. However these traditional views can be challenged, rather than individuals being segregated due to their alternative views social media has provided them with the opportunity to seek out those who share the same beliefs. An example of this is the wide range of conspiracy theories that are online that challenge the news reported such as 911Truth.Org which collects together posts and accounts from those who believe that the events reported about the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers have been falsely reported. However social media sites such as their blog has provided a place for all viewpoints to be shared. Providing these alternate ideas allows others to then think about the information they are receiving therefore becoming a more active audience consequently changing how news is consumed compared to how it has been in previous times. Hypodermic needle theory could face criticism also due to this new way of consuming news due to social media, further social media has a cognitive effect on us meaning that it is unable to have a direct impact on our actions. Rather it influences our mental images and opinions showing that it can lead us in a certain direction but it is still within our own power to not accept what we are told. There is still great danger within social media even though we are placed with more power to evaluate what we are seeing. Recent headlines such as “social media has been integral to ISIS’s rise” (Popular Science, 2015) shows how giving people this interconnectivity with millions of people all over the world can completely change aspects of society such as arguably enabling terrorists. Showing how this progress is not necessarily for the better.


In the circular model of communication as explained by Schramm (Mquail and Windahl, 1982: pg. 19) it is suggested that communication is a two-way process, there is a sender and a receiver which take turns in each of the roles. This leads us to think about how in the modern-day industries are not only the sender and us the receiver but we are taking both of these roles upon ourselves when it comes to online communication. We are now all both the encoder and the decoder showing how the present day differs greatly from the past, seen with citizen journalism with events such as the 2015 Paris attacks being filmed on mobile phones, everyday people decided how much of this event the rest of the world was going to be able to see. This shows how social media has changed humans so greatly as encoding and decoding is familiar to us in person and in real life however it has created a completely new generation of people with the skills to interact and interpret messages and communicate online which has not been a skill needed in the past. This shows how the reception and disruption of social media has caused humans to have to adapt and learn new skills in order to participate in this new age.


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