The television was one of the most novel inventions of the 20th century. This device replaced the radio as the mass communication media medium of choice and its impact on society was phenomenal. Huston and Fairchild reveal that the television revolutionalized American society in the post World War II years and it grew to become an integral part of many homes (23).
This is because television played a versatile role in the society with the range of programs aired serving many purposes. Programs that were offered could be classified as: entertaining, informational, and educational. While newer technologies such as the computer and the internet have reduced the influence of the television, its role in modern society still remains major.
The television is today an integral part of the lives of most Americans and its influence continues to be great. With these considerations, this paper will set out to discuss how the television has influenced American society. The paper will consider the various negative and positive influences this invention has had so as to demonstrate the major impact that the television has had on our society.
Influences of TV on American Society
The television plays a great role in ensuring that Americans stay informed. From the reports of events aired on the television, people are made aware of events that are taking place locally, nationally and even internationally. Indiscriminate reporting results in people being given information on matters that affect them or other people throughout the world.
With this information, Americans are able to make sound decisions or react in an appropriate manner to situations. Huston and Fairchild reveals that most major stations dedicate significant resources to producing informative programs which result in a better informed nation (23).
Television has been critical in changing the manner in which Americans view other people. Specifically, television has influenced the perceptions that American’s have on minorities in the US as well as people from other regions in the world (Gentz and Kramer 31).
Television has significantly helped to correct some of the stereotypes and misconceptions about minority groups. Through TV programs, people have been able to obtain new information which has helped dispel the stereotypical views that were previously held. Gentz and Kramer assert that television provides a lens through which we make sense of new conditions and information that we receive in our every day lives (32).
This has been true for the American population where television has resulted in a better understanding of various issues from around the world. In this age of globalization, the television has ensured that people are aware of other cultures, which may be significantly different from their own. This knowledge has led to appreciation and tolerance for people whose traditions and cultures are different.
The television has been used to guide the consumption habits of Americans. This is because the opinions offered by the television reinforce attitudes and behaviors of people, hence influencing a person’s opinion on some things (Gentz and Kramer 156). Advertisement is specifically aimed at influencing consumers to adopt or maintain a pre conceived form of ideology.
The rampant advertisement that characterizes television has contributed to the culture of consumerism for which American’s are universally known for. Even so, advertisements have a positive impact since they inform the population about new products that have been introduced to the market. They also help the television to operate since advertisers are the prime revenue source for many television stations (Croteau and Hoynes 143).
Croteau and Hoynes suggests that television has played a major role in socialization which is the process through which people learn and internalize the values, beliefs, and norms of the cultures they are exposed to (132). Through forums and talk shows, people are exposed to different ideas and arguments are presented.
The television has been able to bring together people of different cultures, social classes, and races and allow this people to appreciate each others diversity. Croteau and Hoynes assert that television shows give people common topics to talk about with their friends and family (3). As such, television to some extent dictates the topics which people are talking about.
One of the major negative influences that television has had on the population is that it has over exposed people to violence. Violence as entertainment has been a defining characteristic of the television industry and programs which contain high levels of violence are highly rated by viewers. This overexposure has resulted in desensitization to violence as people have become accustomed to violent scenes being played on the television.
Funk et al. reveals that constant exposure to violence through the TV leads to desensitization in subtle quantities which makes it hard to the individual to realize what is happening (25). This phenomenon eliminates the cognitive or even behavioral response that a person naturally has to violence. Television has therefore made American’s less empathetic when responding to violence and in extreme cases; it has brought about strong pro-violence attitudes in individuals.
Television has since its early years been used by governments as a tool of advancing propaganda and generally manipulating public opinion on various issues. While rampant propaganda through television has not happened in America, television is guilty of practicing favoritism in its news reporting which goes against the ideals of the media being fair, unbiased, and without prejudices.
Barker and Lawrence admonish television for telling the masses what to think through the use of forums where journalists give their opinions on political events with the sole objective of swaying public opinion (4). Television is therefore used to sway public opinion in favor of politicians whom the particular station is sympathetic to. In elections, television shows have been known to significantly influence the outcomes by praising some candidates at the expense of their opponents.
Television also dictates the topics which people should pay attention to. As it is, television stations are at liberty to choose the news which will be aired to their viewers. The stations concentrate on incidents which have the greatest commercial incentive.
This has resulted in a questions being raised concerning news reporting on television and how to determine what is newsworthy. Gentz and Kramer document that following the 9/11 terror attacks, television has over reported on terrorism activities (124). The US population is therefore inclined to view the world as a dangerous place with terrorist attacks being imminent.
Television acts as the principal mode by which our culture views itself. As such, Americans rely on the television to understand public issues. This is especially the case with regard to the political climate of country as well as economic and social issues. Huston and Fairchild protest that television has led to the trivialization of the content in public discourse (143).
This is because television places the highest value on entertainment and as such, the items presented are supposed to be entertaining in order to qualify for television time. Television therefore presents people with material that is sometimes inconsequential at the expense of dealing with serious matters that affect the society.
Discussion and Conclusion
Decades after its invention, the television continues to play a critical role in society. It continues to fulfill its three primary aims which are: informing, educating and entertaining the people.
However, technological advances and in particular the invention of the computer and the internet have had some impacts on television. The internet has removed the previous monopoly as the information provider of choice that the television had. People today make use of the internet for information, entertainment as well as educational purposes.
This paper set out to discuss the influence that television has had on American society. To this end, this paper has demonstrated that television has since its invention influenced the society in profound ways. The paper has discussed the many positive influences of the television including its educational and informational value.
However, this paper has made it clear that not all the influences of the television are positive. Television has promoted violence and it has been used as a tool for manipulating public opinion. Nonetheless, television viewing has continued to be a major recreational activity for many Americans. It can therefore be projected that television will remain to be a major influence in the American society for years to come.
Barker, David, and Adam Lawrence. Media favoritism in presidential primaries: reviving the direct effects model. 11 Mar, 2004. Web. 27 Jan 2012. http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p88366_index.html.
Croteau, David, and William Hoynes. Media Society: Industries, Images, and audiences. NY: Pine Forge Press, 2003. Print.
Funk, Jeanne, et al. “Violence Exposure in Real-life, Video Games, Television, Movies, and the Internet: is there Desensitization?” Journal of Adolescence 27.2 (2004): 23–39
Gentz, Natasha, and Stefan Kramer. Globalization, Cultural Identities, and Media Representations. California: SUNY Press, 2006. Print.
Huston, Alexa, and Ford Fairchild. Big world, small screen: the role of television in American society. Nebraska: University of Nebraska press, 2002. Print.