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  • Writer's pictureKayla Williams

Media and Its Distorted Views

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

Imagine you are walking down this long corridor for the subway that seemed to stretch for miles. You are heading home, and your ears are preoccupied listening to the vocal or instrumental sounds that blend in a pleasant way that helps keep your energy up on a cold day like this one. You are an African-American boy with your hands in your pockets, your hat on, and your jacket zipped. Nothing about you is threatening because you are no different from the average New Yorker. Or so you believe. As you are walking, you begin to notice a woman ahead. She looks back and nothing about that alarms you. She looks back again and this time you think, “Is something behind me?” You look in the same direction and you are met with nothing more than an empty corridor. It’s only you and her going down the same path. As you focus ahead, your eyes meet hers and the fear in her eyes is evident. She looks at you two more times and then proceeds to pick up her pace. As you watch this woman run away from you, you think to yourself “Am I really that threatening?” This was what Tyrese Spruill; an Alumni at LaGuardia Community College was thinking 6 years ago when this happened to him. What he wasn’t thinking about at the time, was the role the media played in that situation. Society’s resource for all information, especially now in the “information age” is media. We are constantly connected to our devices that share stories from a magnitude of different perspectives. Some can be left-leaning and some are right-leaning. All of the stories we are exposed to can impact how we think about ourselves and others, how we feel when we are walking down the street, and how we behave in our society. At times we don’t think about that until we are personally impacted. Today’s media — a form of mass communication — isn’t just something that is shared through news or a tweet. Just walking through Times Square you can consume an abundance of different forms of media. It can be something as simple as a picture that is projected to the masses. A picture can impact society just as much as a breaking news story can. Lori Dorfman of the Berkeley Media Studies Group stated in Addressing the Social Norms and Cultural Norms; which gives a better understanding on how social norms are related to violence and the media’s role in it. “that not having the full story generates misinformation synergy, creating distorted views of … race, and limits the opportunity to have a real conversation about what is going on.” This form of media can create an image in a society that enables people to believe in the false representation of a whole group of people. Miguelina Rodriguez, a sociologist who has been teaching various courses in her field at LaGuardia Community College for 8 years, addressed the impact of media on our understanding of society. She says, “I believe, not everyone but most … doesn’t have the critical lens to decipher what’s bullshit and what’s real news.” She goes on to say, “that’s really dangerous … you willhave a very monolithic one sidetrack view of immigration and you may think that all people… are one way.” Mila del-Prado, a Certified Nurse, spoke to me about the effect media stories have on her personally. She said the media stories that are often projected cause her to feel depressed at times. For her, it’s hard not to feel that way with the constant stories of innocent people being shot. She later expresses she feels unsafe with the news and that she is, “just a human being” and fears for her life. Similarly, the #MeToo movement that went viral in 2017 when Alyssa Milano tweeted #MeToo, impacts society, and the individuals. #MeToo has encouraged women to come out and share their stories. It created a platform where women can connect and demonstrated how much sexual harassment does happen in society. In the same sense, it can cause women to become fearful of men and in turn, men can become fearful of women. In Spruill's story he shared his personal experience with discrimination, he hinted how he wasn’t sure the fear the woman felt was because he is African-American or because he is a male. However, He did express that the action of her running away from him caused him to feel discriminated against as an African-American man. “I could see her having a level of fear towards me because she is a woman …there is a level of fear … because of the different attacks that have happened … so I understand what her point was.” The media’s negative portrayal of black men and coverage around sexual assault on women could have influenced how the woman reacted but the way she reacted definitely impacted him. This situation, Spruill mentioned, affected how he acted around Caucasian women for a full year. He became standoffish and didn’t know how to feel when he was around them. The media’s portrayal of black men in most cases is villainizing which causes them to make adjustments so that they appear less threatening or become hyper aware in situations that can end in violence with police. In this “information age” our society is impacted in different ways and the media that circulates is significant. It has the ability to shed a light on the different things happening but, when certain information is left out, told from the point of view of one, or sensationalized it can leave an impression in people’s minds. That impression can lead to changes in how we think about ourselves and others, how we feel, and how we behave in our society. We can think negatively about a group of people based on what we are exposed to in the media, we can start to feel unsafe in public spaces, and we can act in a manner that is reclusive because we are scared of how others may treat us. Rodriguez suggested that one of the ways to improve this problem of media influencing our thoughts and actions is to focus on healing ourselves, learning ourselves, learning our individual unique history, and working on forgiveness. She goes on to say that, “there’s a lot of … burned out revolutionaries because they give from this cup that’s half empty and you have to give from a cup that’s overflowing.” Most people have lost their trust in the polarizing media of our time and for the relationship to be repaired would take a miracle. It seems the only way to escape is when we fall asleep, but that’s not what Spruill did and that is not what countless others do. Every day we strive to be the best versions of ourselves despite the white noise around us. That moment he experienced didn’t stop him from graduating or producing content inspired by the music he loves. No matter how upsetting a situation maybe it is up to us to try to turn the negative into a positive and make a change in our lives and others. Resources: “Addressing The Social And Cultural Norms That Underlie The Acceptance Of Violence”. 2018. National Academies Press, doi:10.17226/25075. Accessed 12 Feb 2021. “”Me Too” Trend On Twitter Raises Awareness About Sexual Assault”. Cbsnews.Com, 2017, Accessed 12 Feb 2021. “Media Portrayals Of Black Men Contribute To Police Violence, Rutgers Study Says”. Eurekalert!, 1543, Accessed 12 Feb 2021.

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