Marty Pelletier

.. t reflects how and why humans allow their mass media to affect them.

It is in the way in which we perceive an event, a commercial, or a conversation that determines what we think about it, and therefore whether to invest energy in it. The real question is what determines how we perceive, how much influence is taken, how much is forced? Television is an authority in social values because we invest so heavily in its messages. In other words, people have assigned to television the role of educator, informant, and mentor through our reliance upon it for clues. Commercials serve to tell us what products, attitudes, and behaviors we need to be socially acceptable, and characters model the lives that we ought to lead.Through these means television sculpts our ideas of success, health, beauty, happiness, love, and morality, of which these productions avow to be an authority. However, it must be acknowledged that viewers are those that truly make TV an authority in social relations and ideals.

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The producers simply live up to such responsibility. The initial step in television^s ability to influence us is its capacity to hold our attention in the first place, long enough to impact us and leave a lasting impression. Television has long been a greater source of entertainment than books or lasting conversations about life.

We turn to it and dedicate more time to watching than we do to any other leisure activities.It is from these large proportions of invested time that television derives its power as a primary influence. Furthermore, the viewing of television is a ^safe^ activity because we are not judged as we view, no one knows what reaction we have to what we see is in the privacy of our own mind; whereas with speaking we have to risk having our ideas refuted. The second step in television^s success in influencing us is through its array of programs, messages, and realities, which ensures that everyone will find something that speaks to them and provides some sort of desirable feedback. Television is a powerful invention in that it allows channels to human identity. Satellite TV, (soon DHTV) and comprehensive cable programs present hundreds of channels with individual programming that have the power to captivate anyone, regardless of background or belief. This makes it easy to identify.Producers are able, furthermore, to determine in which ways we identify with the messages through Nielson ratings and product sales, and continually reinforce whatever values or messages that sells.

This selling of attention makes billionaires of certain CEOs and immediately raises questions of responsibility, morality, and where exactly free-will lies in a society so structured in conformity. Producers of programs and advertising are well aware of the competition they have with other sources for clues as to identity. Being the quickest, easiest, and least expensive product through which values and answers are communicated is an asset that makes it so influential.

This is why millions of dollars are offered per episode to a comedian living in New York City for playing the part of a comedian living in NYC.Conglomerates of businesses, thousands of jobs, all rest on product sales. Americans have become so addicted to finding our personal identity in consumerism that Jerry Seinfeld has become extremely influential to our economy.

Is it too late? Are we already so conditioned to need to be influenced by the same messages that we can^t see it? Are corporations already so invested in their own growth that to take their ^customers^ well being in to account would be bankruptcy? A perfect example is the Tobacco Industry. They are so incredibly invested in their worldwide distribution of nicotine that they knowingly target children, heighten nicotine levels, and then lie about its addictive nature and ability to kill if used properly. They were not born evil, I believe they have just learned to identify themselves by not looking at the consequences of their actions.This would be pretty easy with billions of dollars to spend and a true belief that one is simply offering a product for sale, as a public service almost.

Smoking cigarettes is another perfect example of how the ^self^ needs to find identity. The act of inhaling cigarette smoke is incredibly dangerous to one^s body and yet I feel that is exactly why kids do it. They know its not healthy, they smoke because it^s not healthy. Smoking started out as a social activity but as it became a ^dirty habit^, suddenly it was attractive to anyone who wanted to rebel or make a statement, namely teenagers.

They smoke because it^s cool and important to claim your independence as a teenager.What better way than to show that they can successfully ingest one of the most harmful substances known to man. The recent uproar and court cases over tobacco, I believe, only gives kids more reason to smoke as they see how easy it is to find identity in what others believe is bad.

That is why they snuck that first cigarette in the first place. What are the implications of all individuals needing to find their own identity and a society so attached to its products? Are we growing in our consumerist need to find our^selves^ or will this trend result in an intense rebellion when the cards are finally laid on the table and everyone sees the true relationship of a commidified culture to it^s need to identify? To what extent does conformity promote a stable society and at what point does it limit its possibilities? What responsibility do corporations have in sending messages that could easily harm social relations, such as the beauty myth, or the problem of drinking and driving? What freedoms are granted by our Amendments and further reinforced by our government^s subsidizations? What is my responsibility? I hope to attack these questions, based on the above assumptions, in my next paper.