Nowadays we can see a total influence of mass media on the forming of public opinion. Majority of people know from their own experience know how difficult it is to get off watching so-called “zombie-box”. "Television: chewing gum for the eyes", said Frank Lloyd Wright, and this is extremely close to the truth. It’s like some stranger takes our brain in siege, and it is rather hard to resist it. We would better surrender to mass media than to make up our own mind, analyzing obtained information and basing on more or less reliable sources. So let’s take a look at a few concepts of affecting public opinion by media.
The term "public opinion" (English public opinion) first was applied in the second half of XII century. English statesman Lord Salisbury used it for definition of moral support of the country for acts of parliament. Gradually the term became common. Public opinion represents a specific manifestation of mass consciousness, based on the estimates (verbal and nonverbal) of social processes and it characterizes the attitude of people to socially significant events and facts, actual problems of social life.
According to the concept of total influence, public opinion is formed mostly under the considerable influence of mass media information, circulated by communicative channels. Such kind of information largely defines social values and forms stereotypes and cultural dominants in society. Propaganda motives can help form dominants in the society.
Such approach to the media leads to the disjunction of society on masses and elite, and the masses are influenced by the elite, despite of being the largest part of the society. Elite’s priority is the obtrusion of its standards and values. The elite is much more active object of the structure of society, it determines the value system, cultural and social objects, which helps the elite to subordinate the masses. The concept of the “mass society” leads us to the perception of necessary changes in the social values, because the propagation of the simplified cultural dominants causes the reduction of the common cultural level. On the other side, there is a concept of limited effects. It’s main idea is that media is not the sufficient impact factor in forming of the public opinion; it is not able to provide the total changes of attitudes and beliefs of individuals and groups. The audience of the media varies on its views on life, and, accordingly, the obtained information. Distinct layers and individuals differ much and react differently on what they are told or what they see.
But media can cause the unpredictable consequences of their affecting the public, because a man is not a passive recipient of information, but a generator of ideas based on the received information. Pursuant to the concept of limited effects, media is considered to be separated and independent of the authorities. It is a social institute and a spreader of the information, almost free of the external pressure, and its job is only to inform the public, but not to manipulate it.
This point of view is controversial, so it is essential to explore in details the mechanisms of TV’s influence, because today it is the most powerful media tool that affects people’s consciousness.
Impact on adults
Foremost, it’s a political impact. Electioneering makes a strong pressure on the public opinion. Hundreds of promises of political leaders repeated many times gradually do their job because, in spite of his social status or financial situation, a man will always be an optimist. So he would rather vote for the person, who often appears on TV, takes part in different debates and embodies potential though ephemeral desired possibility of living.
Also it is important to state that today there is a dominance of the TV-shows and their popularity increases continuously. However, the depicted image of reality in these shows does not always coincide with the present reality. Many facts are simply artificially created by producers to attract people’s attention. TV-shows are the valley of sweet dreams for many people, because, if we mention the Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we will see that “humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance" (http://www.deepermind.com/20maslow). And how can we become famous without any particular efforts and merits? We can appear in the TV-show! There is a tragic example of such a fixed idea in the film by Darren Aronofsky “Requiem for a Dream”. In that film we can see the decay process of consciousness of a lonely elderly woman. Her only amusement was one popular TV-show, and she had always imagined herself as a heroine of this show. While making trials to get her former appearance she had in her youth, she begins to take some pills for the loss of weight, and she becomes dependent on them that brings her to the loony bin. And what was the root of such a tragedy? The origin was the stereotype of “how a successful woman must look.” So, it is a kind of negative impact of TV: many women, even if they are not fat, are obsessive with losing weight try to become slim and thus spoil their health. There are even cases of death provoked by exhausting diets and special pills. People are told what to buy and what to do to loose weight by great number of advertising, which is everywhere now (Mass Media Influence on Society).
Impact on the teenagers and children,
The most amenable audience is the adolescents and children. Media intrudes their lives from the beginning of their life path. The new generation differs much from the elder generation, which had an ability to develop it’s outlook on the base of good books and good films, made by years, carrying some eternal ideas, but not only the advertising and commercial, ready-made films. Of course, we can not generalize, but it is the easiest way for getting and adoption the information, which is used by the majority of the youth. And, as for children, this”easy way” makes them grow up faster in the moral sense, because, watching all the stuff on the television, such as sex and violence, they project the behavior of the characters on themselves. If earlier children used to play played dolls, toys, and active games, inspired by their own unspoiled inner world, now they have mostly surrogated it with small people acting in the electric box. Some can overcome the power of television, taking it as one of the sources of information, which should not be believed unreservedly, while others don’t do this, making the TV their fetish. On the base of the things children or teenagers see on TV, they form their notions about the norms of social behavior. This influence often can be stronger than the impact of people surrounding them, their families, friends etc., and such an experience is not always positive. But at the early age a child cannot always define what is good and what is bad, and can treat what he sees on TV as the right pattern of behavior. This can have serious consequences in future.
Media seem to work as an effective unifying force that joins brand supporters around common shared brand meanings. There is no single definition of Social Media. Given that media are directly associated with the use of Internet-based solutions, it comes as no surprise that social media are believed to facilitate the creation and maintenance of strong brand communities. Social media exemplify an innovative instrument of building virtual brand communities which are more durable and flexible than physically situated brand cultures (Cooke and Buckley 2007). The reason is that social media provide unlimited communication resources and favor continuous, multileveled communication between the brand supporters (Brown, Broderick, and Lee 2007; Ratneshwar and Mick 2005). For example, brand supporters cannot always use physical resources to reach one another and share their stories, but social media are a continuous source of communication among the Apple consumers. They create conditions needed to promote multileveled communication between consumers, consumers and brand manufacturers, as well as those who are only familiarizing themselves with the brand (assistance in use of the brand – Muniz and O’Guinn 2001; Schau and Muniz 2002). The speed and convenience of social media facilitate the provision of assistance to new brand users (Hollenbeck & Zinkhan 2006).
Media in business
Social media facilitate brand communities by shaping effective connections between brand consumers and manufacturers: it goes without saying that, the more responsive the manufacturer is the more committed consumers are likely to become. Social media create value in brand community practices. For example, Apple Macintosh users can use blogs and forums as a rich source of information about their attitudes and beliefs about the brand. The company managers can monitor this information and address consumer concerns. In this way, they also prove themselves as reliable providers of quality products that aim at having all consumer needs satisfied. Simultaneously, consumers feel that they do have a voice in the development of new and improvement of the existing brand products. Social media promote accountability and exemplify a diversified medium of brand communication – Apple Macintosh consumers can choose the communication channel that suits their needs. For example, some of them prefer using forums, whereas others perceive blogs as the most effective instrument of self-expression. Social media further strengthen the sense of belonging among Apple consumers; they remove hierarchies and provide consumers with the feeling of social equality on the web. Social media emphasize the importance of all customers and all customer messages. Unfortunately, the use of social media in brand communities is not without limitations.
Nowadays we can see a total influence of mass media on the forming of public opinion. Many people from their own experience know how difficult it is to quit watching TV. People are inclined rather to surrender to mass media than to make up their own mind, analyzing obtained information and basing on more or less reliable sources. A man always wanted to create his own alternative world, where he could hide all his troubles and problems, and the TV, for example, gives him such an opportunity, producing more and more serials and other spectacles. But entirely all the mass media, no matter what kind of it: a newspaper, a magazine, a radio, TV or Internet, all of them, along with informing a mankind, cause the mass misinformation, because nowadays almost all the media are commercialized, and they give us the information that is beneficial to their owners, no matter, if it is a state or a private owner, because “freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one” (A.J. Liebling cited in Cooke).