The influence caused by media upon human beings is getting huger as new media appear rapidly in our society. The impact of different media on relationships have been constantly brought up. In this assay, I will focus mostly on the aspect of human relationships and on the impact of three different kinds of medium as well as two other derivatives, namely TV, mobile phone, Internet, and Facebook, smartphone, respectively, discussing the differences between media themselves as well as the differences of impact on human relationships.
Television, the medium which penetrated deeply into families, unite people at first but break them up at the end. It’s an one-way medium that you can only receive information from it rather than use it to maintain relationships; Mobile phone, in contrast to television, is a medium whose function is mainly used to contact people and maintain human relationships. Internet, unlike television and mobile phone, is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, it allows distant people to keep in touch. On the other hand, people spent more and more time socialising in front of screens causing the intimacy of face-to-face communication gradually disappeared; Facebook is a small part of Internet so that it shares the same pros and cons as Internet, but it advanced the functionality of Internet and created a powerful network in human society. According to Daniel Lerner whose classic text, The Passing of Traditional Society, argued that mass media opened closed traditional minds by revealing the vast world of difference, facilitating the ’empathy’ that was a prerequisite of the mobile, politically participating, opinion-holding personality essential to modernity” (Lughod 1995: 190).
It is true that the invention of mass media has made an information explosion, broadening people’s perspectives and hastening the speed of acquiring information and knowledge, but what comes along with them are issues of impact of media on human’s relationships, as well as political and social problems. Nowadays, human society is rife with media images. People were affected by those images without any conscious. So, how does media play a role in people’s life, or more specifically, people’s relationships?
Is there any difference between impacts caused by different media? Television I consider television as a medium that people can only receive messages, rather than interact and converse through it. Unlike mobile phones or “skype”, or social network such as facebook, which can be used to connect friends in a distant place, television can only play the role of conveying information and entertaining, but not positively improve the level of relationships. Somtimes it even makes relationships insecure.
Many people gather around a television, watching football, saying nothing just for the anticipation of future events. Since most of television programs will have the same result, I will focus on ‘Soap Opera’ and will concentrate on its function of ‘plausibly holding people together in front of television’. From Lila Abu-Lughod’s book, The Objects of Soap Opera, we can see the national fever heat on television serials in Egypt. Also can be seen in Cuba or elsewhere in Latin America, the most common evening activity is to watch television broadcasting of “telenovelas” (Pertierra 2009: 115).
The magical power of television unites people so easily and quickly, even people who have never seen each other before can share a television and break the ice by talking about the contents of television. Does TV really shorten the distance between people? In the aspect of gathering people and opening up a conversation, I believe the answer is positive. Not only do people gather around to watch a serial or a soap opera during the show time, but in the aftermath of the show, people talk about it.
However, I argue that the seemingly intimate relationship between people, caused by the impact of television in this case is temporary, conditional and superficial. The subject of a talk caused by television is always about the contents of the programme, which have nothing to do with deepening a relationship, seeing that the conversations are too surface that they do not touch upon “understanding a person more” while they do make you know more about the plot of a play. Consideration needs to be taken to the proportion of time spent watching as well, for instance, five hours of daily telenovela in Venezuela (Miller, 1992: 163). No one would speak with you during the time when people are watching a soap opera. ” I couldn’t help but wondered, “What were people doing in these five hours before the emergence of television? ” “Naquib Mahfouz laments the decline of the Cairo coffee house, explaining ‘People used to go to the coffee shops and listen to story tellers who played a musical instrument and told of folk heroes. These events filled the role played by television serials today” (Lughod, 1995: 191).
In this case, people used to meet friends in coffee house, chitchatting and watching live shows, but after they got a television, those time were occupied by television programmes just as it should be. At the beginning, television does functionally bring people together. In this stage, television is nonessential. It’s just like a toy, which will gather children around and children will play and talk about it. They can live with or without it. Somehow television started rooting in people’s mind and gradually people were addicted too deeply to shows or programs.
At the end, television, in fact, widens the distance between people. I conclude that the ultimate impact of TV on relationships is making the relationship become more temporary, conditional and superficial. Temporary because every show will come to an end. Conditional on account of its dependency on shows. And superficial because of the shallowness of relationship. Mobile Phone Compared with television, I consider the function of mobile phones is just the opposite to that of televisions. That is, mobile phone is mainly used as a tool to hold up relationships rather than anything else.
People connect each other by using text messages or making phone calls without being addicted to the mobile phones (smart phone is another issue which I will talk about later). Imagine that prior to the invention of computers and mobile phones or even telephones, you cannot reach a person without writing a letter, which will take days to actually contact him/her, or knocking on one’s door. The instant contact of mobile phones make people closer and easier to reach and make appointments that indeed improve humans’ relationships.
Although one may argue that many relationships are broken up because of the phone, which is mentioned in Archambult’s article about couples splitting up because of some stupid text messages from other girl or boy (Archambault 2011: 444), I argue that it is not the essence of the mobile phone. Every media has its own issues and will cause its own cultural anxieties (Baym 2010: 22), but what I am arguing about here is that the issues and anxieties in this situation are caused by many complex contexts and problems, including personality, trust, past relationships and privacy.
Instead of only investigating on the result and blaming on mobile phones, what we should really concern about is the intrinsic value of mobile phones, which is that it succeeded to have real-time conversational interaction at a distance (Katz and Aakhus 2002: 1). Internet Compared with television and mobile phone, Internet is a medium of which you can be the creator of the contents. You can establish a website, write a blog, make comments on friends’ article. You can actually participate, interact with others and maintain your relationship.
You have a level of choices in the internet while you can only choose the frame, which I mean television programs and channels, but not the contents of television. Going beyond mobile phones, Internet provides more options of communication, such as Skype, Facebook, chatroom, blogging and email. This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, people have much more choices to participate in a relationship, enhancing the level and degree of communication (Horst 2010: 99) and thus have higher chance to build up new relationship by the wide variety of choices.
On the other hand, with the induction of the Internet, it is becoming the way people prefer to meet or seek their soul mates, confidants, friends and romantic interests. People spend more and more time on online chatting and instant messaging. For some people, what is important to be constantly on the internet is not because of “contact” but the “possibility of contact” (Nicolescu 2012). You will have higher chance to engage with the relationship that you want when you spend more time on the internet.
Because of such frequent use of the Internet, less time is being spent with family and friends. According to a nationwide survey of about 4000 people in the U. S. , it concluded that heavy Internet use resulted in less time associated with family and friends (Bargh and McKenna 2004: 582). The multi-communicative function of Internet contrasted to the function of mobile phone is too much and dazzling that obscure our original destinations, which is to increase the level of communication rather than totally replace face-to-face communication with online communication.
According to Jeffery McQuillen, “the absence of the characteristics associated with face-to-face communication can result in a loss of fidelity and an increase in the psychological distance between interact ants (McQuillen 2003: 616). ” The way we used to meet our companions and friends has gradually been replaced by email or “Skype”. The bonds that we once shared are being challenged by online relationships. Moreover, physical contacts and other sensations cannot be transmitted through the Internet on account of all the way of its representation is limited to visual contents and aural transmissions.
A handshake, a cuddle, a kiss, the smell of one’s perfume, all of these cannot be achieved, cannot be felt behind the screen. The physical manners are losing as we hook on the convenience of Internet, and it builds up an awkward barrier between people when they physically meet each other in reality, creating a shift in society that is featured by physical isolation and separation (Horst 2010: 99). Facebook Facebook is a small part of internet, but I would like to discuss independently seeing that it has been so popular since it was created and it has made a profound impact on people’s relationship.
What makes it so extraordinary is the instant information sharing of everyday life issues and informal ways to leave messages and interact with friends. It is a refashioning medium of blog and email which rises the frequency of human interaction. Compared with blogs, Facebook simplifies the mechanism of making comments. If you don’t really know what to say or you want to say something to someone you are not really close to, you can plainly press “like it” to the text, article or picture.
Notwithstanding you didn’t communicate, you could feel a kind of interaction in the process. Such trivial nuances enchanted many people and attracted thousands of users. As more people are using Facebook, it grows faster and creates a powerful social network which allows you to reach literally anyone, even to whom you lost contact in the past. But once again, the same as Internet, the interaction and relationship in Facebook are based on cyberspace, which is an intangible psychological and social domain (Aharon 2004: 1-2).