Lets start off first by trying to understand what anxiety is. According to Dictionry.com it is defined as:
- distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune: He felt anxiety about the possible loss of his job.
- earnest but tense desire; eagerness: He had a keen anxiety to succeed in his work.
- Psychiatry. a state of apprehension and psychic tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder.
- a plural of medium.
- (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.
- pertaining to or concerned with such means: a job in media research.
So when I discuss how media is currently causing anxieties in society, I am referring to how it creates a sense of distress or uneasiness in the minds of those who are consuming a particular medium. I believe media as a form of communication can be incredibly volatile, both helpful and destructive depending on the intentions of the author. I do believe that people are, in the end, responsible for their own actions and reactions to what they have consumed, but without the initial spark a fire cannot grow and the media is indeed that spark.
That photo of you topless, drunk and passed out at the party you were at last night has now been spread around your university campus by someone who posted it up on twitter. Or that picture you posted on Tumbler to end a debate within your family is being featured on Ellen because you some how managed to spark a debate about it’s colour around the world. #Thedress
The phrase “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on it’s boots” (originally thought to have been quoted by Mark Twain, but its origins are still debated) with the new media formats that have been created or are just emerging, misinformation can be spread faster than it takes for those trying to get enough information to defend the truth to come up with a defense against it. By that point it is often too late and the damage caused can be quite severe.
Best example of this is the Anti-vax vs Vax argument. In 1998 Andrew Wakefield created a document that linked Autism with vaccines, this sparked many parents to then sue vaccine companies because they were suddenly of the belief that their child’s disorder was caused, not because of a birth abnormality, but the vaccination of that child. A.Wakefields document was proven to have been falsified, however the damage had been done. People are still skeptical of vaccines now and chose to keep believing that the document A.Wakefield had written was indeed the truth and Big Pharmaceutical companies had simply paid for the documents to be discredited and his medical licence removed. A huge number of parents refuse to vaccinate their children believing in this misinformation which has now resulted in the measles virus, something that had all but been eradicated, to be prolific again.
Reporters covered the court cases on the news, celebrities came out in defence of the information believing their children to have suffered the same fate as many other children supposedly affected by vaccines. This in turn perpetuated the fears of parents who might not have heard of the “issues” that had arisen from the article A.Wakefield had written, because we all know once a celebrity believes it, it must be true, right? Now this is a very basic overview of what happened, if you would like a better version feel free to click here and read up more about A.Wakefield, or watch this clip here, here and here. The media did not force these people to stop vaccinating their children, but it was the reason the fear was implanted in their minds. So some of the blame must be directed at the media and the many sources that spread this information.
So does media create anxieties? Yes, it does. Is it responsible for the actions of those that consume it? To a certain degree, yes, it is partially responsible. People still have to take responsibility for their actions in the end as what they have read, seen or heard might have told them to do/say or not do/say something, but it has not completely taken all control away from them. So they are still responsible for what they do with the information. Ultimately a meme of a grumpy cat isn’t telling you to be grumpy all the time, but the idea is that you spread the meme around which is often what happens but it isn’t (I hope) going to encourage someone to go on a shooting sprie.
The naked man,Comedytime.tv available from http://www.comedytime.tv/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/45.jpg
anxiety. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved March 18 2015 Available from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/anxiety
medium. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved March 18 2015, Available from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/medium
The Ellen show Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9WPUO6Xe8k [Mar 3 2015]
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Wakefield
Jimmy Kimmel Live Feb 27 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgpfNScEd3M
PBS Newshour Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-lKvc8N1x8 [Feb 2 2015 ]
CNN Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGXDxgHAgG8 [Feb 2 2015]
the Grumpy Cat image, the grumpycatpics.com available from:https://theblackandolivechronicles.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/grumpy-cat-once-upon-a-time.jpg