The media refers to any channel of communication that passes a message from the sender to the recipient, including print media, mass media, Television, Radio, and Social media. The internet is also another medium of communication through which people communicate. Nowadays, the internet and other computer-based mechanisms have become essential media of communication. All these communication media contribute positively and negatively to communication. According to Spears et al (2002), the media has positive and negative social effects on communication. Because communication is a social aspect that affects the interaction of people in a society, the mode of communication is always an essential aspect to be considered. The media affects how people collaborate and interact in their natural environment (Salinas, 2005). This research paper argues that the media has contributed positively and negatively to communication; it has made communication easier and improved social presence and interaction among people in the society, although it has also encouraged irresponsive social behaviours in communication such as power inequalities, abuse, cybercrime, violence and sexual immoralities.
Positive Impact of Media on Communication
Media has made communication and interaction easier and more beneficial in many ways. One of the benefits of media in communication is that it liberates media users from inequalities and social influences by bridging information gaps in the society. When engaging in face-to-face communications, people are usually exposed to social influences and biases which are not encountered when media such as email and letters are used. For example, when using face-to-face communication, a powerful party in the communication may exert pressure, threats and other tools of power that hinders the liberty and freedom of the other party to express himself or herself. With the use of media other than face-to-face conversations, none of the parties can experience such pressures. A good example of this situation occurs when a teacher talks harshly to a student such that the student fears to ask questions in class due to the fear of being punished. With the use of letter, email or telephone call to the teacher, the student may be able to communicate freely and ask questions related to class work easily without being subjected to social influence of threats from the teacher. This liberty and freedom occurs because visual anonymity associated with various media of communication results in important psychological impacts. Spears et al (2002) argue that conditions of anonymity results in deregulated social behaviours and liberty.
Media of communication also eliminates unnecessary barriers of communication in everyday life. For example, when two people want to communicate in a noisy class where face-to-face communication is inaudible, the communicating parties may use a piece of letter or social media and text applications to communicate with each other because such media are silent and can break the barrier of noise. This makes communication easy. Media also plays the role of breaking barrier of differences in status, culture and language. People from different social statuses can use the same media of communication without barriers (Trenz, 2008). For example, the radio, television and internet have become cheap and accessible to many people from different social status. On the contrary, face-to-face communication may limit the communication between different social classes because people from a lower social class may not feel comfortable to interact and communicate freely with members of a higher social class. By breaking the barrier of social status, the media between different social groups becomes easier.
The media such as radio and television also reduces language and cultural barriers by interpreting different languages and transmitting news and information using different languages and considering different cultural background (Trenz, 2008). For example, a person speaking Spanish may access news from an English speaking nation like USA through an international Spanish Television Station which has its English and Spanish speaking reporters in United States. Some television and radio stations also act as means of communicating different cultural practices and information. For example, most modern television stations have reality shows in which trending issues in fashion, politics, entertainment and religion are discussed. People learn different cultures through such shows. Therefore, communication about contemporary issues and provision of important information becomes easier when various media of communication such as television and radio are used.
The media also breaks the barrier of interruption during communication. When people communicate face-to-face, they usually engage in turn taking where both parties exchange messages, information and ideas in turns (Spears, 2002). Usually, the parties may interrupt each other, making communication difficult or even at times impossible. When media such as social media, emails, internet, fax and letters are used, parties rarely interrupt each other. this makes communication to flow easily. Some media of communication such as television, radio, internet and letters do not allow people to interrupt each other because none of the members may know what the other party says until all the information he or she wants to give have been compiled in one conversational floor. For instance, people sending each other emails cannot interrupt each other because one party waits until the other party compiles all his information in one email before writing his or her email in response.
Media also enhances improved interaction and social presence in a wider society. Salinas (2005) suggests that communication media enables collaborators to accomplish social richness and social presence. Social psychological studies show that media transmits social information as people interact through them. Media channels such as telephone, video conferencing and emails enable people to interact and create a virtual reality which makes the participants to feel their social presence in a wider society. According to Salinas (2005), social presence in the cyberspace enhances interaction among people from different parts of the world, and makes exchange of information easier among collaborators. The social presence also enables people who rarely meet to work together and exchange useful ideas and information across various media of communication. In this regard, media have broken the barriers of distance in communication because people can communicate easily from different parts of the world. For example, a student may move from China to America to study and communicates regularly and easily with his or her parents. He or she feels their social presence despite the distance between them. The same student may also communicate with other students across the world through web 2.0 applications, dashboards, discussion boards and social media in order to exchange information that will help them in their education.
Media also plays an important role in provision of important information to change the lives of people positively. For example, Isaacs (2014) suggested that the social media plays a significant epidemiological role. Public health institutions provide information about spread and infectivity of diseases such as cholera and malaria through the social media such as twitter and facebook. Business and non-profit organisations also use media such as social media and mass media to provide information about their products and services to the public (Hochheimer, 2007). They communicate easily with their existing and potential customers and other stakeholders in order to pass important information to them. For example, business organisations may use the social media to pass information such as AGM dates, dividend issue for shareholders, introduction of new products, change of pricing, and other important information.
Negative Impact of Media on Communication
Despite the positive roles played media in communication, there are also some negative effects of media in communication. First, it causes lack of understanding between the sender and recipient of the information because the sender is not physically available to explain the meaning of the message that he delivers (Ayish, 2005). Media channels such as email and the social media involve sending a message through the internet without direct communication using face-to-face approach. The parties involved in such communication media methods do not get a chance to interact personally. For example, the recipient is not able to tell the recipient about things that he or she did not understand immediately. Instead, response is given after a while, which may be too late for the purpose of the message. Delayed response makes understanding between the two parties to become difficult. In this regard, face-to-face communication becomes superior because the recipient of the message can look at the reaction of the sender and understand the message easily. Furthermore, media communication lacks immediate feedback which makes communication between the parties difficult.
Media also encourages deception and lying in communication. This leads communicating parties to lose trust on each other. According to Spears (2002), the anonymity of the media people manipulate information through various media especially internet media in order to serve their personal interests. In fact, some people adopt different gender in order to achieve certain personal and political agenda. Businesses and organisations also engage in deception through the internet by advertising their products using false information about them. The public do not understand a lot about the products and services of various organisations and they desperately look for any information they get (Ayish, 2005). As a result, website owners formulate messages that seemingly entice people and attract a large following no matter the deception the messages carry. Because the lie never lasts, when the followers know the truth they lose their trust on the organisation or business.
Indeed, the media is essential in enhancing effective communication. However, the media may also lead to negative effects on the users in terms of communication. Research and past studies have shown that media including email, television, print media, and social media make communication easier. The media causes easy communication because it breaks the barriers of communication such as geographical barriers (distance), noise, and cultural and language differences. It also enables users to interact and enjoy social presence in a virtual reality where they work together and share information to improve their lives. Furthermore, communication is made easier by the social media through provision of information that people need to communicate and improve their lives. Media also causes negative effects. The anonymity of the internet as a media of communication causes cyber bullying and other related cyber crimes. It also leads to deception which causes lack of trust by the communicating parties.
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Hochheimer, J.L. (2007). Building logos via communication media: Facilitating peace through reconciliation. Javnost, 14(4), 55-72.
Isaacs, D. (2014). Social Media and Communication. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 50, 421-422.
Salinas, E. (2005). Effects of Communication Mode on Social Presence, Virtual Presence, and Performance in Collaborative Virtual Environments. Presence, 14(4), 434-449.
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