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Culture Talk

If I Were an Outsider, What Would I Say About Mass Media?

What's so much better about the flat black dog than me?

What’s so much better about the flat black dog than me?

If I were an outsider to our “modern” and “connected” society—perhaps someone hailing from a community where mass media and the quick distribution of information never existed—what would I think about our increasing submersion in online virtual realities? I’m sure I wouldn’t be worried about the world’s richest R&B couple, that enormous pet rabbit over in Scotland, or even the latest mid-term elections in North America. Without mass media in my life, I wouldn’t be constantly surrounded by flashy images in digital or print which tend to provide false ideas of how a person should be living. I can only imagine that if I were indeed a person who lived in a community where the use of mass media and easy information dissemination never existed, I would think more often of the others around me; I would work more on myself and my faith; I imagine that I would feel a lot more at peace.

If I were to be alive one thousand years from now, what would I contemplate about mass media and its long term effects? I’m sure I wouldn’t care about the countless millions of “Selfies” taken daily; I’d hardly be able to read through the billions of blogs and websites to find an exact answer to a question. Despite my hypothetically cynical and senile sour take on it, could the exploration and distribution of mass media someday become a custom and folk tradition during those years from 2014 to 3014? Or would I be stuck naively believing, “Hundreds of years ago, everyone and her Mom would, after suppertime, forgo conversation and community to go into separate bedrooms to hunch over computers and watch videos of others and even themselves.”? I fear that a thousand years from now, if I were to be alive, I’d be looking back on all of the isolation that humans endured while putting mass media first.

The reasons I might feel bitter: There are times I find the information age distracting, annoying, and even at times downright exhausting. It seems at times that everyone who advertises online, through print, and on billboard, is in constant competition, all attempting to become famous in one way or another. I also wonder why everyone has become self-involved to the point of missing out on real-life human connections. People spend significant time sharing their personal stories and opinions about their family, their pets, their friends, and their ideas by using their photos, their blogs, their voices. It seems tiresome and tremendously difficult to live up not only to the ideal physical, emotional, and mental but now even digital way of living in a modern pop-culture world. For one to become not just a great family man/woman, boss, and weekend gardener but now also e-mailer, media blogger, political idea-generator, and assiduous liker of friends’ gym photos all at the same time seems much too exhausting. Wouldn’t life be more simplistic and meaningful if we had only each other?

Maybe Keanu has a point.

Maybe Keanu has a point.

That is all, of course, if I were an outsider or living a thousand years from now. But I’m not an outsider to mass media in the least, and I definitely don’t know what life looks like in 3014. Alongside everyone I personally know, we are all a living, breathing culprit of the world’s mass media crime. I read articles and view videos online. I post articles and videos online. I distribute teachings and facts that I’ve learned. I distribute personal feelings and ideas. I distribute some things to the outside world, hoping that in some way it can reach another person in an academic way. I can’t waste time hating mass media; I choose to embrace it in a balanced manner.

So, I ask myself again: What if I was an outsider or future historian—but one who could find a beautiful thing or two about mass media and its effects on pop-culture? What if I found that while it distributes many forms of information to regions all over the world, it continues to create space and inspirations for new ideas, opinions, attitudes, beliefs, and even a few psychological needs? Mass media is provided electronically and digitally, through print and big, crafted signs. It may even be provided vocally with the art of public speaking. In the modern worlds that thrive on pop culture, all forms of information are accepted and discussed. The people working within mass media provide wonderful sources of information by either addressing problematic issues or brainstorming multiple solutions. There is an ever-growing platform for creative expression. Mass media may cause isolation for some, but it also brings people from all over the world together—a sense of “interconnectedness.” Maybe mass media isn’t so bad after all.

Some communities that choose to stray from mass media are happy in their own version of what life should look like. In fact, many individuals who have been surrounded by mass media all of their lives take to the mountains with rucksacks, creating a new version of what life should be. Mass media and the ever growing distribution of information are not for everyone. But I have to be grateful for all that it has done for me, and everyone I know. Perhaps I won’t win a YouTube nomination for Best Music Video, and perhaps in the end, we will all become egotistical, isolated, human beings—but what an interesting change in sociology we’ve made so far.

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Written by Rachael Bogdans

I am a recent graduate from Grand Valley State University where I studied Film/Video and Anthropology. My goal is to serve the world with communication of and about other cultures; the many different practices, alternatives to cooking and medicine, and to enlighten those who may have suffered from xenophobia.

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