I want to be engaged.

My problem is that I really, really, really want to be engaged! I don’t think that is a weird or strange thing. That’s just how I am! Am I just another Grover seeking out my future spouse while here at college? No. No I’m not. I’m not talking about being engaged in anticipation for marriage. I’m talking about being engaged in this world. I want to be present and influential in my culture. The question is not whether or not a Christian can engage culture. The question is: how?

We are going to engage culture whether we want to or not. It’s nearly impossible to live such an isolated life that culture does not influence us in any way, unless maybe you are a tribe in the depths of Africa or in an Amish community in Lancaster. If you are reading this, I doubt that’s true for you. In general, culture will be an influential force in your life. So, how do you respond to it? How do you engage? Especially if you are a Christian… How does a Christian engage in the culture of this world successfully, being able to influence this culture while remaining set apart from it?

I think that the only way for a Christian to engage in culture successfully is by maintaining a biblical worldview and keeping their eyes focused on Christ.

This website talks about how it is both “necessary and dangerous to engage culture.” Of course it is! Our sinful nature makes it easy for Christians to wander into the temptation of the world when engaging in culture, especially because lines are sometimes blurred between being “in the world” and “of the world.” That’s why it is so important to do so biblically, while maintaining a clear gospel proclamation in the midst of so many other false proclamations of the world.

This other website gives 8 ways to for Christians to engage in culture. I like this because these are such simple things that we can do in everyday life that will successfully engage culture:

  1. Start conversations – talk to people about Christ!
  2. Hang out with people who enjoy the same things you do
  3. Volunteer somewhere – share God’s love by serving others
  4. Tell stories – talk about Bible stories as well as your own personal testimony story
  5. Get to know your community by asking questions – become an expert on your home in this world in order to influence it
  6. Invite others to join you – God has called us to fellowship
  7. Pray with others
  8. Address physical and spiritual needs around you – just do one thing a week!

 

Moral of the story: the best way Christians can engage culture is in small, simple ways that will share the gospel to the world by remaining biblically focused!

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Consume, consume, consume.

We as Millennials have been fed the idea that advances in technology is a sign that society is progressing. Consequently, more technology means society consumes more media. This begs the question: does consuming more media help or hurt society as a whole? On one hand, society should certainly be educated on current events and understand what is going on in the world. On the other hand, we should refrain from being fed biased views or slanted opinions that influence the way we think.

With the rise of technology, I do believe that our society consumes too much media, except I don’t think it’s our fault. Technology makes media so available that it’s almost hard not to consume. Throwback to my post about my Media Fast. I found it extremely difficult to isolate myself from the influences of media that I passively feel in my everyday life. Imagine how much media I consume actively! CNN posted an article about this very topic saying how teens spend 9 hours a day using media. That’s crazy!

It lends the question: what kind of life are we living if our heads are being filled with the media for 9 hours a day? I wonder if, as Christians, this is something that God has intended for us. I don’t think so. I think God has called us to be in the world but not of the world, and media is very much of the world – it’s a direct product of the world. Therefore, we should engage it and interact with it, but also remain separate from it, understanding its fallen nature. It becomes quite a balancing act that doesn’t have extremely clear guidelines. How much media should we consume? How do we limit ourselves? What is ok for Christians to engage with? This website highlights some ways to consume media that may be helpful to you if you’re struggling with this concept like I am.

Blog 7

I’m not going to lie. I took this class as an elective. I’m a Biology major so Communications classes aren’t exactly at the forefront of my mind. I’m much more interested in Cellular Biology and Genetics. However, I had never taken a Comm class before and was open-minded. I had no expectations of actually learning anything valuable and I was very content with just learning about whatever communication concepts I had to.

I have come to realize the vast importance of learning some of these concepts. I had absolutely no idea how influential media was until my mind was opened to the idea. I also never even considered how I may be persuaded by large-scale corporations or how advertising companies may influence me without me even knowing it. I also never even thought about how media may influence my worldview.

Basically, the things that I’ve been learning in this class actually interest me and I’m extremely happy I decided to take this class.

Are we unknowingly persuaded by the Advertising/PR industry?

It seems to me that the producer’s perspective on the Advertising/PR industries seems to be negative. I think his belief is that they are manipulating the masses into purchasing their products through psychological influences. They have products placed within an entertainment context so people essentially are watching advertisements without even being aware of it. Due to how the producer has portrayed this documentary, I think he believes that this isn’t okay and people should be aware of it so they aren’t unknowingly influenced into purchasing these products.

The professionals that are doing this kind of manipulating honestly believe that they are essentially finding the best way to give people what they want. An example of this was shown by the psychiatrist named Rapaille. He believes there is a subconscious code that lies behind consumers’s decision making. He is apparently able to tap into this code and sell it to marketers who then make a profit by centering their advertisements around such a code. Rapaille is extremely successful, cashing in on this philosophy, as well as most of the corporations he helps. The whole point of his philosophy is that he believes he is helping to give the people what they want even though they aren’t even aware that they want it. It’s almost as if people are like sheep aimlessly bopping around, totally ignorant to their needs.

That scares me personally because it means people that I’ve never even met are making decisions about me, thinking that they know what is best for me (similar to Bernay’s concept of “invisible managers”). That is terrifying. I’d like to think that I know what’s best for myself and can gauge what to buy to satisfy my needs. This whole concept calls into question how in control of my own likes/dislikes I am and how influenced I am by these people in power. Do I even have any control? If corporations really have this much control over consumers, they need to have some sort of check/balance system for their actions or at least need to be responsible for acting ethically. But who oversees the people who oversee the masses? Will we even know if they’ve gone too far? If not, that’s scary.

Is the world actually a dangerous place?

The Mean World Syndrome is the idea that viewers who consume a lot of violent content from mass media believe that the world is a much more dangerous place than it actually is. This term was coined by George Gerbner, who studied this phenomenon in our culture. Specifically, he believes that people who watch more television tend to think the world as a violent and dangerous place.

I agree that people who consume more media, especially news on television, believe the world is a much more dangerous place. I think most specifically about my mom and step-dad. I love them, don’t get me wrong, but they both are constantly watching news on TV. I think it’s good that they want to be informed about what is happening locally, nationally, or internationally, but a lot of that information is predominantly negative. We as a society are bombarded with news about bombings, natural disasters, or criminals on the loose, in addition to a litany of other societal ills. I definitely believe that because my mom and step-dad watch a lot of news and essentially consume the highlights of humanity’s worst deeds they, in turn, hold the pessimistic view that the world is an extremely dangerous place. Honestly, how can you think the world is a nice, pleasant place when you’re being told about acts of terrorism in the Middle East, a hurricane that destroyed a foreign country or the levels of poverty in our own country? It makes sense to me that my mom and step-dad along with millions of other people hold this kind of viewpoint.

Unlike my mom and step-dad, as a college student, I use media mostly for communication and entertainment. More often than not, I use my phone to communicate with friends or family or as a distraction from my studies. If I’m using the internet, it’s either to go to Netflix or to google a concept for Cell Bio that I didn’t fully understand by reading the textbook. I rarely read newspapers or read about current events on the internet. I also never watch television, especially the news. My stance on the world, as a result, is much different than my mom’s and step-dad’s.

 

Demonization and its influences on widely-held stereotypes

“Demonization” is one key idea from Schultze’s Communicating for Life that has resonated with me. “Demonization” is basically when media exaggerates any negative stereotypes about a people that masses either fear or dislike, usually minorities. This includes anyone who is different such as different races like African Americans or Mexicans, different religions such as Buddhists or Muslims, or handicapped people, either mentally or physically. All of these types of people are minorities and are thus ostracized to the outskirts of society. Schultze argues that this happens because the media has a need for victimization due to the lack of heterogeneity and fallen human nature.  This propagates these negative stereotypes because the masses are consuming the exaggerated stereotypes and then, in turn, applying them to people in everyday life.

This made me think about Grey’s Anatomy, specifically the character known as April Kepner. In this show, April Kepner is portrayed as a Christian, but also as being extremely eccentric and arguably irrational. It always bothered me that Kepner identified as a Christian but was so utterly annoying. It made me angry because people would watch that show, see the annoying Christian, and then stereotype all Christians as being crazy. Now, after learning about demonization, I see how the media can manipulate entertainment like this to further a certain agenda.

I also think a lot about the show Modern Family simply because it casts such a diverse group of characters and pulls in a lot of stereotypes. You’ve got the stereotypical gay couple with a little girl, the average white family, then an older man married to a younger foreign woman with a child. While I don’t necessarily think that the stereotypes  shown in this comedy are overwhelmingly negative, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people are upset that these characters are portrayed in certain lights. I mean not all gay men are flamboyant and act femininely.

I just think that demonization is an important consideration to make while consuming mass media, especially anything in the entertainment industry, and I am now certainly more aware of these influences.

No, Brooke! Don’t look at your phone.

On Tuesday, February 2, 2016, I participated in my first ever “Media Fast.” A Media Fast is a period of time spent disengaged from all types of media, including things such as computers, television, newspapers, magazines, cell phones, or radio. I tried to ignore any medium that distributed information to the masses. However, in this modern culture, I found it extremely difficult to completely isolate myself from the influences of media. For example, I take notes on my laptop for some of my classes and sometimes I download the lectures used in those classes. Accessing my laptop and downloading those lectures was a form of media consumption.

I also found it very difficult to fight the urge to use my cell phone. My cell phone is the fastest, easiest and most used method of communication for me. Conversely, it is the medium that most people use to communicate with me. I decided to turn my phone off for this time period because that was a simple way to disengage myself from media. I found that even though I was content only communicating with others face-to-face, I missed out on a lot of communication through my cell phone, such as missed text messages, a few unread emails, and a missed call. I hadn’t known before this that I used my cell phone as such a primary means of communication.

Overall, what I learned from this experience is that it is extremely difficult to completely isolate oneself from the influences of mass media in this modern society. Our lives are so saturated in the media, especially social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, that avoiding them is like ignoring a whole thriving facet of culture.

This leads me to wonder about the difference between being “in the world” verses being “of the world.” As Christians, we are told to be in the world but not be of the world. Does this mean Christians shouldn’t engage in mass media (or at least attempt to avoid it) in an attempt to not be “of the world”? Where do we draw the line? Should we draw a line?