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Subjective: The Communication Theory - Social Media as the Sender

Many may agree that effective communication is a vital practice to master in order to achieve goals in society. To be understood and to understand others is something many of us strive for in life. For a teenager gaining access to social media, the type of simulation of practicing the basic principles of effective communication becomes apparent. This is the beginning of creating a network, creating an identity, a persona, and identifying sourced information. These are all reasons why social media has such a huge role in how we perceive effective communication to be in today’s society.​

The Communication Theory is comprised of two important entities, the sender and the receiver. These roles in effective communication can be identified from between as many as one or two persons to countless individuals at a time. Between these two entities, the goal is to relay information in many facets to and from through a channel. The channel is another key part in this theory. It is the form in which these entities communicate within, such as face-to-face in a room, text messages, maybe FaceTime, or email messages. In the channel, the information, that is either a message from the sender or feedback from the receiver, can be presented. The mission of the sender is to ensure that the information is encoded, or presented in a clear manner. The mission of the receiver is to attempt to decode, or accurately perceive the information that the sender has relayed. The sender, the receiver, the channel, the encode, and the decode are the five key parts of the theory. This five-part series of essays will identify the five key parts of the Communication Theory as it relates to social media.

​Social Media as the Sender

Here, in The Communication Theory: Social Media as the Sender, I am presenting three main categories of social media, The Soap Box, The News, and The Entertainment. The Soap Box, is a category comprised of influencers, and creators. Platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are popular examples that have made this kind of platform accessible to many of us in modern day society. Next, the News, is a category comprised of traditional reporting news and broadcasts media along with documentaries. Lastly, The Entertainment is a category comprised of movies, music, and shows. In investigating more of the intent and motive of the senders who use these platforms, we can then venture into identifying how efficient each platform can be in sending messages through the channels that will be identified in the following essays.

I identify the soap box as a reference of imagery from times traveling, when I would see someone in a crowded public city central, standing tall on top of a crate, with a loud voice, enthusiastically presenting their idea, their art, their message. Ten years later, it seems that most things found exciting or entertaining are accessible more so easily through a screen; a phone, a TV, an iPad maybe. So instead of a passionate person, braving the strange looks or indifference of passing pedestrians on central square, it’s preferred measure is to stand or sit in front of a recording camera, and speak, or preform. The sender my choose this sort of platform for its informal and leisure appeal. They could be presenting for their peers, friends or loved ones, rather than mass public, open for critic. There is an air of independence or alternative to other mainstream media industries who are quality checked by producers, managers and directors. Without those possible restrictions or barriers, the sender can present their message more authentically. These types of platforms allow for interpersonal, group, public and mass communication.

The News is a form of media that intentionally informs the public on many ideas, and events that are factually based. It is not so much aimed at entertaining or evoking emotion, although many topics of the news can easily create this effect. It’s intent generally is to provide awareness for the population of society who actively participate and take interest in the affairs. News and documentaries exist in many different fields of interests outside of mass communication. There are news rooms that focus on current events strictly related to topics such as politics, education, and sustainability. There is on-going speculation that some intent behind news platforms are agenda-based or propaganda based to sway the general public’s collective perspective on certain national or global topics.

The Entertainment is a category of social media that many may overlook. Like the speculation of news’ intent, the arts can influence viewers in their presentation. It may be perceived as great leisure product, but the intent is not always just to entertain. The emotional appeal of this sort of social media, carry great tactics in conveying an important message. This strategy along with the incorporation of advertisement, in commercials and side bars online, display the incentive to persuade viewers through rationalization in storytelling and modeling a product while entertaining. The leverage of artists and creators in these industries add a considerable amount of power when analyzing which social media platform conveys their message most effectively. The Soap Box, The News, and The Entertainment all provide great channels for encoding and decoding messages to the viewer depending the form that each individual prefers.

Discussion

An article from The New York Times, Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs with Smartphones by Matt Ritchel was released with a few great points regarding the uprising trend of dependencies on smartphones. His argument included sensation-stimulation, independence, and education campaigns to help enforce the ideas presented in the article. The sensory stimulation of social media can be an experience that helps the individual take a break from the stressors of their life, the same as how a drug could. Social media makes it possible to disassociate from certain aspects of virtual reality and the actual reality simultaneously. There is an illusory safety net between the individual and the participation of whatever online activity. It initially appears to be a safer way to interact with others while allowing for the psychological and emotional resonance of acceptance and attention.

Drug and alcohol use could have traditionally been introduced through social events or peer influence as a tool to fit in, or to ease the social anxiety. Those tools could then foster into habits and addictions depending on the frequency of use and how much the individual prefers its contribution to their perceived personality. Rather than finding identity and forming personalities through experiences that revolved around events that persuade on the use of drugs or alcohol, it is formed by a distanced yet personal engagement on social media. It allows the same contribution to a teenager’s personal development socially, yet with an apparently less negative consequence.

One question stemming from Ritchel’s statement was that teenagers are being “constantly stimulated and entertained by their computers and phones.” What is more entertaining now, social interaction face to face, or social media engagement? There may be a quicker, more instant gratification and payoff in participating on interactions via platforms on social media, rather than actual interpersonal communication. If that is true, teenagers may not hold social events that make drugs and alcohol easily accessible, in as high regard as their previous generation did.

When I think of the reasons that teenagers typically would practice use of illicit drugs, it would have been primarily because of peer pressure. It was a kind of rebellious habit that otherwise could be expected from individuals who were constantly governed by authoritative parents and an institutional educational construct. Although now, seemingly less rebellious, depending on the online activity, there is a suggestive influence amongst these young age groups to interact with each other on social media, including networking apps and games. The thing to do outside of class could be planning an interesting skit for a social media post, or gaming together, rather than experimenting with drugs or testing their alcohol intake limit. The ventures now accessible online can help create a safer alternative in demonstrating their own independence of interest and activity outside of a school setting.

Social media allows the user to seek out individuals who are similar to their aspired personality or interest in hobbies. For some, connecting to others with those same interests could be intimidating in person, or harder to find. For that reason, the access to reach out to so many others with a profile name and picture through direct messages or open forums, could be very appealing. Parties, extra-curricular activity meetings or practices, along with school dances and games, hold less weight when their social circles extend way beyond school grounds or state lines. There is a greater sense of independence in that privilege.

The anti-drug education campaigns have gained an advantage in the last ten years as well. One commercial on daytime television that actually appeals to a younger generation can help effectively influence a teenager’s perception of drugs. During a commercial, it is less likely that suggestive commentary or sarcastic side notes would be added during the important announcement compared to a classroom setting for a D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) session. A commercial gives the impression that the opinion presented is somewhat universal, and popular; backed by a large quantity of supporters. If a teenager perceives the commercial as such, then they may be more likely to consider that perception rather than a ‘nagging’ parent or teacher.

It was interesting to Dr. Sion Kim Harris’ point noted in this article, that drug use has not declined for college students, as opposed to the individuals ranging from ages 12 to 17. This may be that traditional social activities in a college environment incorporate a subtle influence or encouragement of drug and alcohol use. Another reason could be the increased levels of stress that could come with heavy course loads, financial burdens, and the extended distance away from familiar faces.

While reflecting upon this article, I realized how one great benefit of redirecting attention to a seemingly less intimidating social environment allows individuals to practice skills in the fundamentals of communication. However, following essays may suggest that the same benefit could result in hinderance or a crutch to those who are expected to further develop their skills in effective communication.

References

Ritchel, Matt. "Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs with Smartphones?" The New York Times. 2017.

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