In the modern world, due to new technologies media has invaded all spheres of society: politics, economics, science, culture, and others. Media attracts the attention of the audience by providing a wide variety of information. To accomplish this, media has unlimited resources, technology, and developed techniques. It is impossible to count the amount of time and energy people spend in front of the TV screen, listening to the radio, and reading magazines. Today, concepts of culture and media have become inseparable as culture is significantly shaped by what media information it transmits to people. The skyscraper model of culture defines popular culture, soap operas, video games as low culture, while high culture is something elite and unavailable to the general public (Campbell et al. 17).
Pop or mass culture is created for mass consumption, and due to its ability to reach broad audiences, it has a great power of shaping beliefs, values, and everyday practices of the American society. Meanwhile, both positive and adverse effects of pop culture influence can be observed in different social groups. Pop culture shows hyper sexualized young girls. With the help of modern technologies, it fundamentally changed the way people communicate today and their cultural values, as well as prompted the merging of different media. This essay will discuss the cultural values of low culture in media.
Social Media and Cultural Values
The most popular medium of pop culture today is the Internet and social networks. According to Chaffey, the most popular social network – Facebook -has almost two million active users across the world with 76 percent going online daily. It is interesting to note that other top social networks such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram all belong to Facebook (Chaffey). Thus, social networks can considerably impact attitudes and beliefs of their users. One of the advantages of social networks is that they promote the freedom of speech and expression, which is considered to be of the most fundamental values of the American nation.
Social networks provide a platform for social connectedness, self-expression, and public discussions on a variety of topics. With the help of social media, people are encouraged to be active citizens of the community. For example, Twitter is an attractive space for policy activists to express opinions or even call for action simply by using a particular hashtag. Staying connected with family, friends, and the community brings people closer, increases social activism, and promotes diversity and tolerance. Some might say that social networks also encourage creativity and serve as an inspiration for many people. People learn different real-life stories around the world and have the opportunity to develop their individuality.
However, there are also adverse effects of social networking sites, especially on youth. According to Fleur, social media tend to sexualize teenagers by setting physical standards of beauty for girls and by the promotion of pornographic advertisements (105). A considerable amount of research showed that young girls are especially vulnerable to the sexual representation of women and develop a negative body image and self-perceptions (Doornwaard et al. 1110). Although some may only develop a negative body image, due to the constantly illustrated sexuality in the media, many teenagers want to fit in and look sexually appealing to the opposite gender. Another dangerous consequence of using social networks is suicide and cyber bullying.
The tendency among teenagers to harm themselves for attention became popular. Fleur reports: “It seems that the online world is giving teens an expressive outlet for their pain, but also–due to the fact that it is conducted through a particular communication technology characterised by microblogging and micro-celebrity–it grants them an audience and provides further impetus to do harm to themselves” (107). Thus, social networks as a mean of mass communication can bring positive benefits and improve cultural beliefs of individuality and active citizenship. However, it can significantly influence the most vulnerable group of a society – teenagers. In pursuit of public attention and entertainment and due to the lack of media literacy skills, they can easily become victims of sexualization and cyber bullying.
Video Games and Cultural Values
Video games make a big part of the American culture. According to Taylor, almost half of the U.S. population play video games and twenty-five percent of families possess a game-playing device (Taylor). It implies that video games industry has a tremendous effect on the cultural values. There are many potential benefits of video games. They include learning useful information, acquiring a new skill or simply practicing music, sports, and many other activities. Although, in the beginning, the nature of video games was very primitive – puzzles and Tamagotchi, as a result of technological improvements now video games have a compelling storyline, individual characters along with realistic graphics and professional sound design. Just like social networks, video games can raise important philosophical or political issues and unite communities. The author of Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication, wrote: “Video games have grown from simple tools that made computing technology understandable to forms of media that can communicate cultural values and human relationships” (424).
On the other hand, it is impossible to ignore negative effects of video games. Firstly, video games can be addictive, leading to a waste of time. Secondly, specific categories of video games can cause a person to become violent. The American Psychological Association reported a correlation between violent video game use and aggression: it was expressed in “an increase in negative outcomes such as aggressive behavior, cognitions, and affect and as a decrease in positive outcomes such as prosocial behavior, empathy, and sensitivity to aggression” (16). Thus, video games can help stimulate a cognitive and personal development, but at the same time, excessively violent games can cause a person to be more aggressive and lack social skills.
Nowadays, the world and consumers are overwhelmed with the amount of various media and information. Due to media convergence, users can simultaneously receive information from different sources. Popular culture is considered to be low culture, but it has more power to impact a society rather than high culture and can teach many useful lessons. Despite the fact that digital era is slowly taking over traditional media outlets, both print and digital media greatly influence our cultural values. Two types of contemporary means of mass communication are social networks and video games. They proved to change cultural values of Americans to be more tolerant, active and united. However, negative impacts, such as sexualizing of young girls in the media and aggressive behavior caused by violent video games still exist. On the skyscraper model of culture, I would position social networks on top, because today it can directly reach out to millions of people simultaneously without requiring much technology. Art, ballet, music, and film would be in the middle. Video games would be at the bottom because they are mostly aimed for entertainment purposes.
American Psychological Association. Technical Report On The Review Of The Violent Video Game Literature. 2015, Web.
Campbell, Richard, et al. Media & Culture: Mass Communication in the Digital Age. Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2014.
Chaffey, Dave. “Global Social Media Research Summary 2017.” Smart Insights. 2017, Web.
Doornwaard, Suzan. M., et al. “Sex-related Online Behaviors and Adolescents’ Body and Sexual Self-perceptions.” Pediatrics, vol. 134, no. 6, 2014, pp. 1103-1110.
Fleur, Gabriel. “Sexting, Selfies and Self-Harm: Young People, Social Media and the Performance of Self-Development.” Media International Australia, vol. 151, no. 1, 2014, pp. 104-112.
Taylor, Rich. “Video Games’ Place in American Culture.” Huffington Post. 2015, Web.
Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication. University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing edition, 2016.