Media, in general, can be described in simple terms like a movie was good, the book was sad, or the Internet is informative, and how did we ever live without it! Psychologists, on the other hand, look at media from a theoretical perspective by bringing socio-cognitive theories to media, suggesting that individuals are proactively involved in their development and can exercise control over their feelings, thoughts, and actions.
In other words, media psychology focuses on the relationship between human behavior and the media. It studies the interaction between individuals, groups, and technology, and tries to make sense of this synergy. As recently as 1950, when television was becoming a popular form of entertainment, media psychologists became concerned about children and their enthusiasm for television viewing and the impact, if any, on their reading skills. Later psychologists began studying the impact of violent television viewing on children’s behavior, and if they were more likely to exhibit asocial behavior.
Dr. Sarah Vinson, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist say that the media continues to consume an ever-growing part of people’s lives. Specifically younger people, do not have the face-to-face interaction necessary to learn social skills, and an increasing number of children are having a difficult time interacting with others, leading to unsociable behavior.
One area that is a major concern in psychology, both positive and negative, is video gaming. Psychologists have varying viewpoints, but all agree that gaming is having a significant impact on children, teenagers, young adults, and even people well into their 70s.
The controversy about game violence, bloodshed, and the fact that gamers spend hours playing games not only riles the video game industry but parents and psychologists alike have raised questions about the potential for violence, since the gamer is an active participant and not merely a viewer, as with television.
A 2010 review by psychologist Craig A. Anderson concluded, “The evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect, and for decreased empathy and pro-social behavior.”
Another way the media can impact the average American is with Facebook and other popular social media platforms. Over the past ten years, Facebook has become one of the most popular online sites, suggesting that it offers things we naturally crave: acceptance and companionship. And on the surface, that may be true. However, just like with any other online frenzy, Facebook can--and often does--invoke psychological issues, many of which may go unnoticed for weeks, months or years but have significant long term impacts.
A recent study found that heavy Facebook users experience a decrease in subjective well-being over time. Many users become depressed with their lack of success, or they may envy a friend’s successes more. Maybe one person’s Facebook profile doesn’t have as many likes or followers, and so they feel inadequate or unequal. Some people become jealous of others, unhappy with their current circumstances, and ultimately fall into an on-going depression.
In conclusion, the media’s impact, as studied through Media Psychology, used by millions of experts worldwide, has shown causation between one’s decisions and the media. Whether it be through video games, or through social media platforms, like Facebook,one thing can be certain: the media has a tremendous effect on our society.