Multimedia studies help us understand the benefits and drawbacks of mass media.

There are more than 32,000 broadcast radio and TV stations in the U.S.,* along with hundreds of cable TV and satellite radio stations. On top of that, we have daily newspapers, magazines targeting all kinds of readers, and, of course, the immeasurable breadth of the internet. All told, we have more ways to reach more people than we’ve ever had in the history of humankind. But is this a good thing?

Those involved in multimedia studies have been answering this question in different ways for many years. In short, the effect of mass media’s influence is complicated. Which is to say, mass media simultaneously benefits us and creates new problems. Here are a few of the pros and cons.

The Pros of Mass Media

It Can Keep Us Connected

Before mass media, you could live your entire life knowing nothing about the world outside of your village. Now, we are all connected. And this can be a very good thing. For instance, when a tsunami strikes, people all over the world hear about it within moments and can mobilize immediately to help. Without mass media, we would have far less ability to understand how we’re all connected and how we all need each another.

It Can Spur Business

Where would business be without advertising and marketing? Thanks to the business communication made possible by mass media, businesses can reach potential consumers faster and easier than ever before. This helps keep our economy going.

It Can Spread Art and Culture

On the internet, you can see all of the world’s artistic masterpieces or learn about the particularities of a culture far removed from your own. In addition, numerous TV and radio programs devote themselves to exploring the world, offering us the chance to discover new things and new ideas, and enlighten ourselves in the process.

It Can Give Voice to the Voiceless

From reporters bringing us stories of people in difficult situations to social media allowing one person’s thoughts to go viral and spread across the world, mass media can lift up an individual voice that would otherwise have gone unheard.

The Cons of Mass Media

It Can Empower the Already Powerful

While mass media can create opportunities for anyone to share their story, the vast majority of our mass media is bought. And because it’s bought, those with money can deeply influence what we see and hear. This gives the rich—and those connected to the rich—a far louder voice than the rest of us. At its best, this is unfair. At its worst, it’s a way for a tiny minority to seize power over the vast majority.

It Can Be Used for Disinformation and Hate

How do you know what you’re seeing or hearing from mass media is true? While some sources of information are far more trustworthy than others, mass media as a whole is vulnerable to propaganda and its lies. Totalitarian regimes have used mass media for nearly a century to control what their people believe. With the rise of the internet, even those in democracies can be easily exposed to media designed to drive us to hate or believe in lies.

It Can Homogenize Culture

Before mass media, art and culture were more localized, so they reflected diversity in how people spoke, dressed, and entertained themselves. Now, the entire world often sees and hears the same cultural influences. While diversity still clearly exists, there is the risk that mass media might reduce cultural variety, leaving us with less art and fewer inspirations.

It Can Overtake Personal Connections

We’ve all seen it or been a part of it: a group out to dinner where everyone spends much of the evening staring at their phones or gazing at a TV in the corner. As much as mass media can connect us with people all over the world, it can disconnect us from the people right in front of us.

How Can You Learn More About Mass Media?

If you’re interested in mass media, there are plenty of opportunities to make this field a career. While some enter the field with a business degree, a communication degree may better prepare you for the full breadth of careers available in mass media. In particular, you should consider earning a BS in Communication. With a bachelor degree in communication, you can gain the knowledge you need to work in a wide variety of communication jobs.

You don’t even have to give up your current job to earn your bachelor’s degree. Numerous online universities offer communication degree programs, giving you the flexibility you need to complete your coursework from home and on a schedule that can let you continue working full time.

While it’s true that mass media has its positives and negatives, it’s also true that mass media isn’t going away. If you want to put yourself in a position to succeed in this large and important field, there’s no better choice than earning a BS in Communication.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online BS in Communication degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*Federal Communications Commission, Broadcast Station Totals as of September 30, 2016, on the internet as a PDF at https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-341807A1.pdf. 

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