Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Media" The Double-edged Sword

I had to write an issues paper to finish up my collage course. It could be anything related to media. I got a really late start on but the Lord led me to an interesting topic (for me at least).  So even though it's kind of rough I though I'd post it here to see what guys think about it. Please comment if you have thoughts about any of it (whether it rings true, whether I could have stated some thing strong, or whether something doesn't quite line up with the faith we have as christians)

“Media” The Double-Edged Sword

 The more I think about it the more I believe that media today is like a weapon, a weapon that can be used in both helpful and harmful ways, one that through misuse can actually hurt the one who wields it unwittingly. Today I would like to take a broader, three dimensional look at this tool called “Media” to examine its many uses, the harm it can cause, and the undeniable help it can render the one who approaches it with wisdom.
 First, what does a person think of when they hear the word “media”? I know I first think of the many facets of Internet use and of TV, but it seems that actually the work “media” covers any kind of communication that is meant to reach lots of people (“lots” as in more than two people). Bellow are two definitions that help us get a simple grasp of the word.

2 ( usually used with a plural verb ) the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, and magazines, that reach or influence people widely: The media are covering the speech tonight.”

“In general, "media" refers to various means of communication. For example, television, radio, and the newspaper are different types of media. The term can also be used as a collective noun for the press or news reporting agencies. In the computer world, "media" is also used as a collective noun, but refers to different types of data storage options.”

I think one of the reasons that the definition of “media” is hard to encompass is that media is always changing, growing, morphing into new areas. I do not plan on explaining any of these areas of media right now. I think we are pretty familiar with most of them. But, now that we have a definition to run with, lets quickly list some of the uses and formats (the way it is communicated) of media in order to refresh your memory.  
  • news
  • education
  • advertisement
  • entertainment
  • interaction
  • TV
  • Internet
  • Newspapers
  • Radio
  • Video games
  • Books (books still count right?)
  • Movies

Each of these categories could be further broken down. For example under “Internet” could be listed: websites, blogs, videos, Facebook. And while I listed “Radio” really IPods or mp3 players are just as popular so I should probably have just listed “Music”, but I think you get the idea. Everyone I know could look at this list and identify ways they benefit personally from these items listed, most of them probably on a daily basis. These benefits can be small or large depending on how we use this weapon of “media”. People can go to the Internet to educate themselves in a new skill. They can use Facebook to communicate with friends regardless of that friend's location on the earth. Or they can use media to express their ideas, call people to action, and change the world around them. As this article states Nonprofit organizations have begun to realize just how powerful some of these new media formats can be.

As the world has discovered through the grass-roots revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia —driven in part by messages on Twitter and Facebook—online social media can be powerful tools for spurring social change. And increasingly, both fledgling nonprofits and long-established charities are taking up those tools in issue advocacy.”

I cannot right now even begin to list all the benefits and good that can be done through media use. So now let us turn and discuss how the use of media is good and how it is bad.
 As with any weapon, I believe effective use of media depends on skill, knowledge, and position, BUT the greatest determiner of the effect caused is the will (or the intent) of a person. When a person picks up a weapon or tool they can use it for good or for evil, even when they are using it properly. A socket wrench can be used to put car parts together or to take someone else’s car apart (this would be evil assuming they did not want you to take it apart).  Similarly, media, such as a blog for instance, can be used to build a small business or to undermine and slander someone else’ business or reputation. So while media can be used for small or great good it can also be used for small or great harm. There is much media out there today, especially on the Internet, that is harmful. There are advertisements that lie to you trying to get you to buy their products, there are traps and schemes meant to steal your information and your money, there are porn sites that enslave your mind, there are lyrics with violent and perverted ideas, there is false slander of others that constantly flies around through newspapers, web sites, and email. These are examples of people using media to cause harm. The amount of harm varies depending on their skill, knowledge and position. You don’t have to look far to find articles titled like this  “The Top 5 Social Media Scams and How to Avoid Them”, or to find the results of studies done on Facebook overuse. Here are the top 3 negative effects that Facebook can have on an individual as shown in a study conducted by Dr. Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University.

  • Teenagers who use Facebook more often show narcissistic tendencies while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania, and aggressive tendencies.
  • Daily overuse of media and technology has a negative effect on the health of all children, preteens, and teenagers by making them more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders, as well as by making them more susceptible to future health problems.
  • Facebook can be distracting and can negatively impact learning. Studies found that middle school, high school, and college students who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period achieved lower grades.

And so while we can see that media can be a benefit to society and to individuals, we also see that if can be a detriment, depending on how it’s used.
“So there is good and bad media. So what?” you say. We all know this if we think about it. What do we do with this information? Well back to the weapon analogy. As with most things in this life, we have a choice, a choice to do good or to do evil. We could pick up the sword to cut down and destroy. But I would urge the opposite. We have a job to do. Two things I would say, and then a third that I fear our world today is sadly lacking. First, just as the same sword can be employed to defeat the one who has used it (read almost any of the old stories and you can see that this is true), we can use media to speak out against the harmful media we see around us. Second, we can seek to use media as a tool to do the good work that has been put in our hearts to do. Whether this be to help a community in need, further our education, look for a job, create jobs, or to simply provide good wholesome entertainment for our families, we can use media actively and with thoughtfulness to do good for us and for others.
Recently I watched a short video about a story teller. A story teller with skills in media. A story teller with skills in media with a heart to tell the stories of people who do not have a voice. This man is skilled, and though I do not know much about him I can see some of the good his work is doing and I want to know more about it. I would encourage you to go see for yourself one way that media can be used for good. You can see it in this man’s work. The first and second links will show you the who, what and how. The third link will take you to his site if you want to see more.

The Third thing we need to do is to educate the children of our society about this tool called “media”. This is one of the most damaging aspects of media in our world today. And while the government may try to develop regulations to protect children from harmful media similar to its regulations for possession and use of guns, ultimately it does not have much influence over what a child does with media. Ultimately it is up to the parents to teach their children how use media in beneficial ways, whether the media be video games, the computer, or books. Children need to be taught both what media is good and helpful, and what amounts of media are good and helpful. Children who overuse media are much more likely to have bad grades and to feel discontent, but children with parents who have rules in place (and enforced) about the use of media such as TV, video games, and the computer, are much more likely to abstain from the overuse of media, and therefore have better grades, as well as have better overall health and satisfaction with life.

“Children whose parents make an effort to limit
media use—through the media environment they
create in the home and the rules they set—spend
less time with media than their peers.
Children who live in homes that limit media opportunities
spend less time with media. For example, kids whose
parents don’t put a TV in their bedroom, don’t leave the
TV on during meals or in the background when no one is
watching, or do impose some type of media-related rules
spend substantially less time with media than do children
with more media-lenient parents.”

This misuse of media is like a child who has his daddy’s gun, and with no one to stop him goes outside and starts firing at the side of the house. It may be tons of fun, he may hit the side of the house every time, he may learn the mechanics of the gun very well, but eventually bad things will happen. People inside the house could get hurt, the house will be damaged more and more (it could become structurally unsound if it goes on too long), the child’s hearing could be impaired (this child has unlimited ammo by the way). Until this child learns what a gun is for and how it should be used he is a danger to others and himself. The same things can happen with the misuse of media. With no one to stop him a child may use the media 10 hours a day (statistics show that through multitasking the average child crams 10.5 hours of media exposure into a 7.5 hours time span), it may be tons of fun, he may learn how to use Facebook better than you do. But eventually bad things will happen. The more a child uses media the less he is personally involved with his (or her) family. The more violence and sexual conduct he is exposed to (even through TV news) the more numb he may became to the real needs and hurts and desires of his friends and family. The more children damaged by bad and overused media the more weak the foundation of the house of a family and this house of a nation becomes.

In the end, Media is in this world to stay, and the faces it has are ever changing. We can approach this tool casually and let it cause more casualties while passively being carried along in the temporary pleasure it offers, or we can use it actively for good and teach our children to do the same. This weapon of media can be used for great good or it can be used for great evil, and, whether intention be good or evil, it can cause harm to the one who uses it without care, without forethought, without knowledge.

Thank you for Reading! Here is the Link to my reference sheet if you want to read some of the sources of my information cited. (its a google doc)


  1. This is good, and very true.
    Where did you get your quotes? I didn't see the authors cited anywhere, but maybe I missed it. :)

  2. I actually have a separate reference sheet that I had to turn in. I guess I should have posted that somewhere as well. Here is a link to it

    Anyone can see it if they want. There are a lot of them, but some are good reads.

  3. It is a google doc. If you don't use google docs and want to read it let me know.
    @Sarah, I'm glad you like it by the way. If you have any thoughts I'd love to hear them as well.