Social aspects of television

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The social aspects of television are influences this medium has had on society since its inception. The belief that this impact has been dramatic has been largely unchallenged in media theory since its inception. However, there is much dispute as to what those effects are, how serious the ramifications are and if these effects are more or less evolutionary with human communication.

Positive effects[edit]

Social Surrogacy Hypothesis[edit]

Current research is discovering that individuals suffering from social isolation can employ television to create what is termed a parasocial or faux relationship with characters from their favorite television shows and movies as a way of deflecting feelings of loneliness and social deprivation.[1] Just as an individual would spend time with a real person sharing opinions and thoughts, pseudo-relationships are formed with TV characters by becoming personally invested in their lives as if they were a close friend [1] so that the individual can satiate the human desire to form meaningful relationships and establish themselves in society. Jaye Derrick and Shira Gabriel of the University of Buffalo, and Kurt Hugenberg of Miami University found that when an individual is not able to participate in interactions with real people, they are less likely to indicate feelings of loneliness when watching their favorite TV show.[2]

They refer to this finding as the Social Surrogacy Hypothesis.[1] Furthermore, when an event such as a fight or argument disrupts a personal relationship, watching a favorite TV show was able to create a cushion and prevent the individual from experiencing reduced self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy that can often accompany the perceived threat.[1] By providing a temporary substitute for acceptance and belonging that is experienced through social relationships TV is helping to relieve feelings of depression and loneliness when those relationships are not available. This benefit is considered a positive consequence of watching television as it can counteract the psychological damage that is caused by isolation from social relationships.

Educational advantages[edit]

Several studies have found that educational television has many advantages. The Media Awareness Network, explains in its article, The Good Things about Television,[3] that television can be a very powerful and effective learning tool for children if used wisely. The article states that television can help young people discover where they fit into society, develop closer relationships with peers and family, and teach them to understand complex social aspects of communication.[4] Dimitri Christakis cites studies in which those who watched "Sesame Street" and other educational programs as preschoolers had higher grades, were reading more books, placed more value on achievement and were more creative. Similarly, while those exposed to negative role models suffered, those exposed to positive models behaved better.[5]

Negative effects[edit]

There are many pejorative terms for television, including "boob tube" and "chewing gum for the mind", showing the disdain held by many people for this medium.[6] Newton N. Minow spoke of the "vast wasteland" that was the television programming of the day in his 1961 speech.

Complaints about the social influence of television have been heard from the U.S. justice system as investigators and prosecutors decry what they refer to as “the CSI Syndrome.” They complain that, because of the popularity and considerable viewership of CSI and its spin-offs, juries today expect to be “dazzled,” and will acquit criminals of charges unless presented with impressive physical evidence, even when motive, testimony, and lack of alibi are presented by the prosecution.[7]

Television has also been credited with changing the norms of social propriety, although the direction and value of this change are disputed. Milton Shulman, writing about television in the 1960s, wrote that “TV cartoons showed cows without udders and not even a pause was pregnant,” and noted that on-air vulgarity was highly frowned upon. Shulman suggested that, even by the 1970s, television was shaping the ideas of propriety and appropriateness in the countries the medium blanketed. He asserted that, as a particularly “pervasive and ubiquitous” medium, television could create a comfortable familiarity with and acceptance of language and behavior once deemed socially unacceptable. Television, as well as influencing its viewers, evoked an imitative response from other competing media as they struggle to keep pace and retain viewer- or readership.[8]

According to a study published in 2008, conducted by John Robinson and Steven Martin from the University of Maryland, people who are not satisfied with their lives spend 30% more time watching TV than satisfied people do. The research was conducted with 30,000 people during the period between 1975 and 2006. This contrasted with a previous study, which indicated that watching TV was the happiest time of the day for some people. Based on his study, Robinson commented that the pleasurable effects of television may be likened to an addictive activity, producing "momentary pleasure but long-term misery and regret."[9]

Psychological effects[edit]

There is a theory that when a person plays video games or watches TV, the basal ganglia portion of the brain becomes very active and dopamine is released. Some scientists believe that release of high amounts of dopamine reduces the amount of the neurotransmitter available for control of movement, perception of pain and pleasure and formation of feelings,[10] although this remains a controversial conclusion. A study conducted by Herbert Krugman found that while viewers are watching television the right side of the brain is twice as active as the left which causes a state of hypnosis.[11]

Physical effects[edit]

Studies in both children and adults have found an association between the number of hours of television watched and obesity.[12] A study found that watching television decreases the metabolic rate in children to below that found in children at rest.[13] Author John Steinbeck describes television watchers:

"I have observed the physical symptoms of television-looking on children as well as on adults. The mouth grows slack and the lips hang open; the eyes take on a hypnotized or doped look; the nose runs rather more than usual; the backbone turns to water and the fingers slowly and methodically pick the designs out of brocade furniture. Such is the appearance of semiconsciousness that one wonders how much of the ‘message’ of television is getting through to the brain."[14]

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under two years of age should not watch any television and children two and older should watch one to two hours at most. Children who watch more than four hours of television a day are more likely to become overweight.[15][16]

TV watching and other sedentary activities are associated with greater risk of heart attack.[17]

Alleged dangers[edit]

Legislators, scientists and parents are debating the effects of television violence on viewers, particularly youth. Fifty years of research on the impact of television on children's emotional and social development have not ended this debate.[18][19]

Some scholars [18] have claimed that the evidence clearly supports a causal relationship between media violence and societal violence. However other authors[19][20] note significant methodological problems with the literature and mismatch between increasing media violence and decreasing crime rates in the United States.

A 2002 article in Scientific American suggested that compulsive television watching, television addiction, was no different from any other addiction, a finding backed up by reports of withdrawal symptoms among families forced by circumstance to cease watching.[21] However this view has not yet received widespread acceptance among all scholars, and "television addiction" is not a diagnoseable condition according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual -IV -TR.

A longitudinal study in New Zealand involving 1000 people (from childhood to 26 years of age) demonstrated that "television viewing in childhood and adolescence is associated with poor educational achievement by 12 years of age".[22] The same paper noted that there was a significant negative association between time spent watching television per day as a child and educational attainment by age 26: the more time a child spent watching television at ages 5 to 15, the less likely they were to have a university degree by age 26. However recent research (Schmidt et al., 2009) has indicated that, once other factors are controlled for, television viewing appears to have little to no impact on cognitive performance, contrary to previous thought.[23] However this study was limited to cognitive performance in childhood. Numerous studies have also examined the relationship between TV viewing and school grades.[24]

A study published in the Journal of Sexuality Research and Social Policy concluded that parental television involvement was associated with greater body satisfaction among adolescent girls, less sexual experience amongst both male and female adolescents, and that parental television involvement may influence self-esteem and body image, in part by increasing parent-child closeness.[25] However a more recent article by Christopher Ferguson, Benjamin Winegard, and Bo Winegard cautioned that the literature on media and body dissatisfaction is weaker and less consistent than often claimed and that media effects have been overemphasized.[26] Similarly recent work by Laurence Steinbrerg and Kathryn Monahan has found that, using propensity score matching to control for other variables, television viewing of sexual media had no impact on teen sexual behavior in a longitudinal analysis.[27]

Many studies have found little or no effect of television viewing on viewers[28] (see Freedman, 2002). For example a recent long-term outcome study of youth found no long-term relationship between watching violent television and youth violence or bullying [29]

On July 26, 2000 the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry stated that "prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life."[30] However, scholars have since analyzed several statements in this release, both about the number of studies conducted, and a comparison with medical effects, and found many errors (Block & Crain, 2007; Freedman, 2002)

Propaganda[edit]

Television is used to promote commercial, social and political agendas. Use of public service announcements (including those paid for by governing bodies or politicians), news and current affairs, television advertisement, advertorials and talk shows are used to influence public opinion. The Cultivation Hypothesis suggests that some viewers may begin to repeat questionable or even blatantly fictitious information gleaned from the media as if it were factual. Considerable debate remains, however, whether the Cultivation Hypothesis is well supported by scientific literature, however, the effectiveness of television for propaganda (including commercial advertising) is unsurpassed. The US military and State Department often turn to media to broadcast into hostile territory or nation.[31]

Politics[edit]

While the effects of television programs depend on what is actually consumed, Neil Postman argues that the dominance of entertaining, but not informative programming, creates a politically ignorant society, undermining democracy: "Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least-informed people in the Western world."[32] However some broadcasters do offer Americans intelligent political narrative and argument. This offers otherwise ignorant viewers, who may not read about politics elsewhere, the opportunity to access current or historical political views, for example.

Technology trends[edit]

In its infancy, television was a time-dependent, fleeting medium; it acted on the schedule of the institutions that broadcast the television signal or operated the cable. Fans of regular shows planned their schedules so that they could be available to watch their shows at their time of broadcast. The term appointment television was coined by marketers to describe this kind of attachment.

The viewership's dependence on schedule lessened with the invention of programmable video recorders, such as the Videocassette recorder and the Digital video recorder. Consumers could watch programs on their own schedule once they were broadcast and recorded. Television service providers also offer video on demand, a set of programs which could be watched at any time.

Both mobile phone networks and the Internet can give us video streams; video sharing websites have become popular. In addition, the jumps in processing power within smartphone and tablet devices has facilitated uptake of "hybridised" TV viewing, where viewers simultaneously watch programs on TV sets and interact with online social networks via their mobile devices. A 2012 study by Australian media company Yahoo!7 found 36% of Australians will call or text family and friends and 41% will post on Facebook while watching TV.[33] Yahoo!7 has already experienced significant early uptake of its Fango mobile app, which encourages social sharing and discussion of TV programs on Australian free-to-air networks.

The Japanese manufacturer Scalar has developed a very small TV-system attached to the eyeglasses, called "Teleglass T3-F".[34]

Gender and television[edit]

While women, who were “traditionally more isolated than men” were given equal opportunity to consume shows about more “manly” endeavors, men’s feminine sides are tapped by the emotional nature of many television programs.[35]

Television played a significant role in the feminist movement. Although most of the women portrayed on television conformed to stereotypes, television also showed the lives of men as well as news and current affairs. These "other lives" portrayed on television left many women unsatisfied with their current socialization.

The representation of males and females on the television screen has been a subject of much discussion since the television became commercially available in the late 1930s. In 1964 Betty Friedan claimed that “television has represented the American Woman as a “stupid, unattractive, insecure little household drudge who spends her martyred mindless, boring days dreaming of love—and plotting nasty revenge against her husband.” As women started to revolt and protest to become equals in society in the 1960s and 1970s, their portrayal on the television was an issue that they addressed. Journalist Susan Faludi suggested, “The practices and programming of network television in the 1980s were an attempt to get back to those earlier stereotypes of women.” Through television, even the most homebound women can experience parts of our culture once considered primarily male, such as sports, war, business, medicine, law, and politics. Since at least the 1990s there has been a trend of showing males as insufferable and possibly spineless fools (e.g. Homer Simpson, Ray Burone).

The inherent intimacy of television makes it one of the few public arenas in our society where men routinely wear makeup and are judged as much on their personal appearance and their "style" as on their "accomplishments."

From 1930 to 2007 daytime television hasn’t changed much. Soap operas and talk shows still dominate the daytime time slot. Primetime television since the 1950s has been aimed at and catered towards males. In 1952, 68% of characters in primetime dramas were male; in 1973, 74% of characters in these shows were male. In 1970 the National Organization for Women (NOW) took action. They formed a task force to study and change the “derogatory stereotypes of women on television.” In 1972 they challenged the licences of two network-owned stations on the basis of their sexist programming. In the 1960s the shows I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched insinuated that the only way that a woman could escape her duties was to use magic. Industry analysis Shari Anne Brill of Carat USA states, “For years, when men were behind the camera, women were really ditsy. Now you have female leads playing superheroes, or super business women.” Current network broadcasting features a range of female portrayals. This is evident in a 1999 study by Lauzen and Dozier showing that "43% of all major characters on television are female".[36]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Butler, Fionnuala, Cynthia Pickett. “Imaginary Friends.” Scientific American. Scientific American Magazine. 28 July 2009. Web. 26 Mar. 2010. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=imaginary-friends
  2. ^ http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WJB-4V74XVH-1&_user=10&_coverDate=02%2F28%2F2009&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=7797bc404e45e0a80e9bb84374599eae
  3. ^ Media Awareness Network, "The Good Things About Television"
  4. ^ http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/parents/television/good_things_tv.cfm
  5. ^ Dimitri Christakis (February 22, 2007). "Smarter kids through television: debunking myths old and new". Seattle Times Newspaper. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  6. ^ McFedries, Paul (2001). The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Smart Vocabulary. Alpha Books. p. 88. ISBN 0-02-863997-9. 
  7. ^ Van Zandt, Clint (MSNBC analyst & former FBI profiler), 4:21 p.m. ET 3 Aug, 2005, "The Real World vs. the CSI Syndrome," msnbc.msn.com, viewed 27 October 2007, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8802371/
  8. ^ Shulman, Milton (1973) The Ravenous Eye, Cassell and Company, p. 277.
  9. ^ Robinson, John P.; Martin, Steven (2008-07-31). "What Do Happy People Do?" (Portable Document Format). Social Indicators Research (Springer Science+Business Media) 89 (3): 565–571. doi:10.1007/s11205-008-9296-6. ISSN 1573-0921. Retrieved 2011-12-29. Lay summaryUniversity of Maryland Newsdesk (2009-11-14). "If interpreted in the Princeton group’s framework of activity as experienced being the sine qua non of measurement, that would mean that TV represents a highly enjoyable activity that would improve the quality of people’s lives, given that more of Americans' free time is being devoted to it. Clearly, the data analyzed here point in the opposite direction. As noted at the outset, whether that means happiness leads to lower viewing, or that more viewing leads to unhappiness, cannot be determined from these data, and thus will require a panel design along with some careful observational study." 
  10. ^ ADHD - ADD Videos Games and TV
  11. ^ Moore, W. (2004). Television: Opiate of the Masses. Familyresources.com
  12. ^ Gortmaker SL, Must A, Sobol AM, Peterson K, Colditz GA, Dietz WH (April 1996). "Television viewing as a cause of increasing obesity among children in the United States, 1986-1990". Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 150 (4): 356–62. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1996.02170290022003. PMID 8634729. 
  13. ^ Klesges, PhD, Robert C.; Mary L. Shelton, MS; Lisa M. Klesges, MS (1993). "Effects of Television on Metabolic Rate: Potential Implications for Childhood Obesity". Pediatrics 91 (2): 281–286. PMID 8424001. Retrieved 2008-05-19. 
  14. ^ Steinbeck, John. The Reporter, March 10, 1955
  15. ^ "The Benefits of Limiting TV". American Academy of Pediatrics. 29 March 2010. 
  16. ^ "How TV affects your child". Kids Health. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  17. ^ Inactivity Is Harmful, Even With Trips to the Gym,
  18. ^ a b Bushman, B; Anderson, C (2001). "Media violence and the American public". American Psychologist 56 (6–7): 477–489. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.56.6-7.477. PMID 11413871. 
  19. ^ a b Savage, J (2008). "The role of exposure to media violence in the etiology of violent behavior: A criminologist weighs in". American Behavioral Scientist 51 (8): 1123–1136. doi:10.1177/0002764207312016. 
  20. ^ Olson, C (2004). "Media Violence Research and Youth Violence Data: Why Do They Conflict?". Academic Psychiatry 28 (2): 144–150. doi:10.1176/appi.ap.28.2.144. PMID 15298868. 
  21. ^ Kubey, Robert; Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (February 23, 2002). "Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor". Scientific American. 
  22. ^ Hancox, MD, Robert J.; Barry J. Milne, MSc; Richie Poulton, PhD (2005). "Association of Television Viewing During Childhood With Poor Educational Achievement". Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 159 (7): 614–618. doi:10.1001/archpedi.159.7.614. PMID 15996992. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  23. ^ http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/123/3/e370.pdf
  24. ^ Hershberger, Angela. The ``Evils" of Television: The Amount of Television Viewing and School Performance Levels. Indiana University South Bend. Archived from the original on 2007-01-28. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  25. ^ Schooler, Deborah; Janna L. Kim; Lynn Sorsoli (December 2006). "Setting Rules or Sitting Down: Parental Mediation of Television Consumption and Adolescent Self-Esteem, Body Image, and Sexuality". Sexuality Research and Social Policy: Journal of NSRC (University of California Press) 3 (4): 49–62. doi:10.1525/srsp.2006.3.4.49. 
  26. ^ Ferguson, C.; Winegard, B.; Winegard, B.M. (March 2011). "Who is the fairest one of all: How evolution guides peer and media influences on female body dissatisfaction". Review of General Psychology 15 (1): 11–28. doi:10.1037/a0022607. 
  27. ^ Steinbern, L.; Monahan, K. (March 2011). "Who Adolescents' exposure to sexy media does not hasten the initiation of sexual intercourse.". Developmental Psychology 47 (2): 562–576. 
  28. ^ Freedman, J (2002). Media violence and its effect on aggression.: Assessing the scientific evidence. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-3553-1. 
  29. ^ "Video Games and Youth Violence: A Prospective Analysis in Adolescents", Christopher J. Ferguson, Journal of Youth and Adolescence
  30. ^ American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, & American Psychiatric Association. (2000, July 26). Joint statement on the impact of entertainment violence on children. Retrieved from American Academy of Pediatrics website: http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/jstmtevc.htm
  31. ^ "Psychological Operations Field Manual No.33-1" published in August 1979 by Department of the Army Headquarters in Washington DC; and "Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Media Subcourse PO-0816" by The Army Institute for Professional Development, published in 1983
  32. ^ Neil Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Penguin USA, 1985. ISBN 0-670-80454-1
  33. ^ Kennedy, Jessica (10 February 2012). "Social TV on the rise". B&T Online. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  34. ^ "Watch TV anywhere on tiny set that fits on glasses". Reuters. May 22, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  35. ^ Meyrowitz, Joshua (1995) "Mediating Communication: What Happens?" in John Downing, Ali Mohammadi and Annabelle Sreberny-Mohamadi (eds) Questioning the Media, Sage, Thousand Oaks, pp. 39-53.
  36. ^ Lauzen, Dozier (1999) http://www.entrepreneur.com/tradejournals/article/81767329.html

External links[edit]

  1. Mary Desjardins, Gender and Television, The Museum of Broadcast Communications (2007), http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/G/htmlG/genderandte/genderandte.htm,
  2. Meyrowitz, Joshua (1995) "Mediating Communication: What Happens?" in John Downing, Ali Mohammadi and Annabelle Sreberny-Mohammadi (eds) Questioning the Media, Sage, Thousand Oaks, pp. 39–53.