This paper aims at the thorough analysis of the social media influence upon American society in the framework of social construction. One of the most significant functions of social media is the social-orienting one that is associated with a profound impact on the ideological basis, value orientation of the population, the identity of people, and their ideas and aspirations, including the motivation and religious formation.
In today’s world, people are faced with the development of tools, methods, and data transmission capabilities. The pace of information exchange increases using satellites, TV, and the Internet. On the one hand, the result of this process is the development of the media and along with it – the emergence of the ability to influence people using different types of images and reporting. Based on this, some scientists call the media “the fourth power” of society, along with legislative, executive, and judicial ones (Castells 78). This topic was chosen by me in order to study the influence of the media on the social sphere.
The role of the media in the social life of the country is rather significant. In the modern social system, the media perform some critical functions such as information, socialization, education, criticism, and others. The existence of a democratically organized media objectively covers social events that are one of the most significant guarantees of the democratic stability of society. Conversely, failure to comply with the mentioned functions can radically distort its goals and values, disrupt its efficiency, and undermine the viability. The social impact of the media is carried out through its impact on the human mind and senses; in other words, social construction (Cheong 85).
The rational model of social media is designed to convince people through information and argumentation that are built in accordance with the logic. This model corresponds to the established mentality and culture of a particular society. It also involves a variety of adversarial media struggling for the attention and trust of people. The illegal use of the media to incite racial, ethnic, class or religious hatred and enmity is prohibited by law. However, the visual image is a great power of emotional impact on the person that can overshadow rational reasons and arguments. Saturated with the emotional content, the media can have a decisive influence on the social behavior of citizens.
Historical experience shows that social media can serve a variety of social goals: to educate people, to develop their self-esteem, the desire for freedom and social justice, to promote and help their informed participation in social life.
Nevertheless, the media impact on social construction is carried out not only directly through social communication providing participants of the social life with the necessary information and allowing any concerted collective action of groups of people, but also as a result of the formation of social entities themselves (Gillespie, Herbert, and Greenhill 82). Modern sources of information influence the psyche of people, ways of perceiving, and understanding of social events, as well as their moral values and social attitudes.
Considering the influence of the media, it is essential to examine two of its components, such as the information and communication technology and professional editorial practices (Granholm, Moberg, and Sjö 116). The first component includes marketing, for example, PR-activities and non-marketing, for instance, manipulation, propaganda, or disinformation. The second component comprises the methods of editing and publishing of materials along with professional standards of media companies and the subjective characteristics of the members of the media.
From my point of view, the most important to define is the non-marketing media. The shift from the use of propaganda techniques in pure form and turn to the use of various methods of persuasion is one of the modern trends of the media impact.
According to the research, there are three trends in the development of the media:
- Activation of the scope of promotional actions;
- The formation of social consciousness through the media;
- Globalization and the unification of the media.
Relations between church and state Religion has always played an important role in society.
As it was stated before, a religious segment of the media has a strong impact on the religious life of the society as it facilitates the dialogue between religion and people and contributes to the development of missionary activity. It is essential to point out that the study of religious construction allows providing an in-depth analysis of the current activities as well as interactions between religion and society. The use of religious organizations and media for missionary purposes becomes one of the key trends. Moreover, there is a system of religious media, including print periodicals, radio stations, TV channels and programs, and Internet resources.
However, the impact of the media is not always positive. For instance, let us consider the television. It seems that the mere presence of television has had a subtle yet profound effect on religion in general so that the representation of religion will never be the same again in the consciousness of people. In his provocative book “Amusing Ourselves to Death,» Postman expresses the idea that television radically changed the whole life of the population virtually.
Religion is an area that has undergone severe changes concerning the Sunday sermons and televangelists. Postman points out that since the TV, in fact, is entertainment, a preacher acts as a “film stars” and his “God appears as a magician in a banana” (Reid and Hogan 117). Although Christianity has always been a serious religion, its TV version can count on the necessary audience, only showing those things what people want. This version is hardly a biblical Christianity.
Thus, the television preachers have become “stars” as attractive and rich as a movie star. In television worship, there is no complicity: viewers sit at home, watch TV, and do not share common singing, praying, and liturgy. Church is considered to be a “holy land”, where people behave with more deference. When a person watches TV worship, he or she can sit in dirty underwear, drink beer, and eat pizza. Postman states that the more religious services are broadcasted on TV, the more pastors get better acquainted with the techniques of television (Reid and Hogan 123).
In this connection, there is a “danger consisting not in the fact that religion becomes the content of television shows, but that TV shows can become the content of religion” (Reid and Hogan 124). In their turn, pastors worry that people expect TV worships more than the real ones. People are attending worship quietly gets used to the fact that it is entertained and amused. Worships are held at jazz or rap and accompanied by computerized representations.
Therefore, plenty of places of worship no longer have the aura of sanctity, because the person can perform it sitting at home before the television. Some groups of believers regularly meet at the former site for skating; another group came to the old laundry; and the third one rents a large audience at the University for Sunday morning prayers. In other words, one might note a loss of a sense of holiness that exists in the Gothic cathedrals and churches of the Renaissance. The behavior in the church ceases to differ from human behavior elsewhere.
Scientists in the US are beginning to suppose that there is a direct link between the growth in the number of the Internet users and fall of religious preference. In his article «How the Internet Is Taking Away America’s Religion», thorough the scientific research, Allen Downey answers the question of why Americans are losing their faith.
In 1990, only about 8 percent of the US population had no religious preference. By 2010, this number has more than doubled and amounted to 18 percent (“How the Internet Is Taking Away America’s Religion” par. 1). It is nearly 25 million people who somehow lost their religion. The researcher carefully analyzes the data and concludes that the extinction of religion is the result of several factors while the most essential of them is the increase of the Internet use.
Downey states that the growth in the number of Internet users during the last two decades has led to a crucial fall in people’s religiosity. The research task was also to determine the fall of religiosity linked to other survey items such as religious education in the family, socio-economic status, and education level. Likewise Wuthnow, he found that the most serious impact on religious meaning has religious education: people who grew up in a religious atmosphere are more likely to retain their faith in the future (78).
In the 1980s, the Internet usage was close to zero, but in 2010, 53 percent of the population was carried out two hours a week online, and 25 percent – more than 7 hours per week (“How the Internet Is Taking Away America’s Religion” par. 11). The growth of the Internet use is closely associated with a decrease in religiosity. According to the calculations of Downey, approximately 25 percent of the fall of religiosity occurred due to the Internet.
The connection between the phenomena cannot work the other way around. Religiosity in adulthood cannot be the cause of the preceding religious education, although it can affect a person’s views on education.
Also, it is possible to imagine how the time spent on the internet could affect the loss of interest in religion. The Internet makes it possible to find information concerning people of other religions or not practicing religion in general, as well as gives an opportunity to communicate with them. However, it is much more difficult yet not impossible to imagine a plausible reason why the fall of religiosity may cause an increased use of the Internet. Therefore, it remains a very little doubt that Downey’s conclusions are correct.
In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the social media impacts the religious meaning of the population. The effect might be both positive and negative. On the one hand, it educates, socializes, and integrates people. On the other hand, media tends to decrease the very sanctity of the religion.
Castells, Manuel. The Power of Identity the Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. 2nd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Print.
Cheong, Pauline Hope. Digital Religion, Social Media, and Culture: Perspectives, Practices, and Futures. New York, NY: Lang, 2012. Print.
Gillespie, Marie, David Herbert, and Anita Greenhill. Social Media and Religious Change. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter, 2013. Print.
Granholm, Kennet, Marcus Moberg, and Sofia Sjö. Religion, Media, and Social Change. New York, NY: Routledge, 2015. Print.
“How the Internet Is Taking Away America’s Religion.” MIT Technology Review. N.p. 2014. Web.
Reid, Robert Stephen., and Lucy Lind Hogan. The Six Deadly Sins of Preaching: Becoming Responsible for the Faith We Proclaim. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2012. Print.
Wuthnow, Robert. “The Princeton Lectures on Youth, Church, and Culture.” The Princeton Lectures on Youth, Church, and Culture. N.p., 1996. Web.