Mass Media – How television is defining social relationships in today’s age
From a sociological perspective, the media play a crucial role in almost all aspects of daily life. However, their influence is not limited to what we know. The sociological significance of media extends beyond the content of media messages. That is, mass media are bound up with the process of social relations.
This impact is most obvious when we look at the ways in which the mass media literally mediate our relationships with various social institutions. For example, we base most of our knowledge of government on news accounts rather than experience. Not only are we dependent on the media, then, for what we know, but the media’s connection to politics also affects how we relate to the world of politics. Today, instead of attending a political event, we are more likely to read or watch the news of a political debate – followed by instant analysis and commentary – in the isolation of our home. We see similar dynamics at work with televised sports, televangelist preachers, and other “mediated” aspects of social life.
In more subtle ways, media are often part of our most routine relations with our family and close friends. Be it social media, or families watching television together, huddled around the “electronic hearth”. Friends sit attentively and listen to music together, and groups of young people go to the movies or rent a video. Time-strapped parents sometimes use the TV as a surrogate baby-sitter, allowing their children to watch hours of television at one sitting. In all these cases, media products are connected to the ways in which we interact with people on a daily basis. Media products provide a diversion, a source of conflict, or a unifying force. Thus, talking about social life without including a discussion of the role of mass media risks missing an important element of contemporary society.