Television will create a numb society, the (smart)phone will stop people from having face-to-face contact and internet will keep us forever glued to our screens. Concern has been widespread about every type of mass medium known to man. Why are we so afraid to loose ourselves in mass media?
The likely answer is because of a lack of control. Exposure to any medium will have some sort of effect on the person exposed to it. And although the overall topics mass media addresses are things we as a human race share, such as a love to laugh or a wish to be moved, the result of such exposure is highly individual. Some people will use a movie to enjoy themselves for ninety minutes, others will dive into the main character and live out their lives in less than two hours. Most of us will be able to distinguish between real and make-belief, some of us will not. And none can tell you what a persons responses will be without extensive psychological testing beforehand. We do not so much have to trust the media, we have to trust the masses.
Most of us will be able to use the escaping in media entertainment in much the same way as we use fantasies, dreams and even conversations. We try new things, put on different roles and get to practice with skills we do not really have. Viewed like this we are practising rather than escaping “Functional feedback to a basic social role surely is not escape” (Katz & Foulkes, 1962). The same flaws that make someone completely identify with the leading lady in ‘Becoming Jane’ will make that person do the same thing with the main character in Brönte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ or the heroin of ones own daytime fantasies. To escape all one really needs is a creative mind. Mass media offers instant fantasies and ready-made story lines for those who seek them and who might be less creative.
The media provide the masses with stories containing ample opportunity to identify and flee, but they do not have some sort of sole right to escapism.
Katz, E. & Foulkes, D. (1962). On the use of the mass media as “escape”: Clarification of a concept. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 26(3), 377-388.