Social media’s role in modeling human behavior, societies

By Ghadeer Ghloum

KUWAIT: The extent of the power of social media on societies and individuals, especially after the revolution of smartphones and wide spread of multiple social media platforms, is no secret today. Now, almost every individual can open their own page or channel and broadcast through it whatever they perceive, which holds the possibility of being true or misleading, besides the difficulty of censoring and controlling violent scenes on different social media platforms, which may contribute to subconsciously normalizing inhumanity among individuals.

Dr. Khaled Al Qahs

To dig deeper into this issue, Kuwait Times interviewed Associate Professor of Communication and Culture Studies at Kuwait University Dr Haneen Al-Ghabra, Professor of Mass Communication at Kuwait University Dr Khaled Al-Qahs and Psychologist and Therapist Jumanah Mohammad. Ghabra said the media is an integral factor that affects society just like other parts of society, such as the laws that make up the country, economy, education sector, etc.

Jumanah Mohammad

The influence of any structural institution such as the media will affect individuals’ values, ethics and behaviors, which means it can affect our thoughts around racism, classism, nationalism and even issues of violence. For instance, stereotypes about Muslims being terrorists were spread in US media, which led to the Muslim travel ban law in 2017 in the US. This does not stop there, as it seeps into other sectors such as schools. Hence, we cannot deny the media’s impact on humans’ attitudes and behavior.

On his part, Qahs said studies indicate that social media has diverse and multiple effects on the audience receiving the messages and content delivered to them. The process does not end with just sending the message (media content) from the sender to the final receiver. There are various effects on the ideas, values and behaviors of the audience, such as changing attitudes or perspectives, cognitive changes, socialization, collective excitement, emotional arousal, social control, reality construction and reinforcement of the status quo.

Dr. Haneen Al Ghabra

However, media is not the sole cause of influencing humans. It operates through a network of elements and influences to create impact, such as the time we spend using social media, the nature of what we watch and our life experiences. Moreover, Ghabra spoke about the relationship between exposure to inhuman actions through media and humans’ behavior, as she said that the problem with the ethics and responsibility of reporting does not only fall upon the media — it is much deeper than that. It is the ideologies that circulate; for example, if we look at the promotion of violence against women, it is not necessarily that the media and popular culture are promoting it.

It is the ideology of patriarchy that taught individuals, both women and men, that men are superior to women, and this can also seep into our education, our upbringing (family), certain interpretations of religion and so forth. Hence, people that write and produce the news, films, music, TV shows and so forth have already internalized this sort of thinking unknowingly, and this is reflected in different forms of media and popular culture. Qahs added that many researchers in the field of media and its relationship with society have been concerned with the phenomenon of increasing violence in media content. Some studies suggest that the spread of violence in societies is due to the audience’s exposure to content that contain verbal and physical violence.

These studies have yielded several findings about violence, such as the fact that the audience (especially children and teenagers) learn violence through observation and watching, especially in TV series and movies. Qahs also clarified that people do not automatically apply the aggressive behavior they observe but internalize it to moments of anger and stress. The repetition of viewing leads to desensitization towards violence and aggressive behavior, resulting in a lack of concern and tolerance towards violent behavior in the media, making people more inclined to tolerate violence in all its forms.

Therefore, it is necessary to educate society about the dangers of the spread of violence, and the need to monitor media content, particularly the depiction of intense violence in news bulletins, TV series and movies. Ultimately, Mohammad explained how individuals can protect themselves from adopting and normalizing wrongful behavior, as she said individuals should avoid excessive consumption of content that goes against human values and ethics, in order to prevent the burying of condemnation and the development of acceptance towards such content or actions. On the other hand, they should strengthen their thinking and good behavior through reading or engaging in dialogues with experts in the field, in order to close any intellectual gaps that social media influences may exploit, as the consequences can be significant.

The post Social media’s role in modeling human behavior, societies appeared first on Kuwait Times.

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