As I was browsing the Media Literacy book written by James W. Potter, I chanced upon this very interesting analogy he made. And I’d like to share it with you.
Candy as an Analogy for Media Effects
Many people think of media effects as if they were candy.
As we walk down the street, there are people passing out all kinds of candy for free. They want us to taste their sweets, then come into the store and buy something. We are tempted. When we take a piece, it tastes good and makes us want another piece. Often we sneak another piece or two, thinking it can’t hurt. But then a few minutes later, we experience a sugar rush followed by a crash of energy. Also, there is this lingering sweet taste in our mouths that becomes unpleasant as time goes by. We envision sugar eating holes in our teeth. If we have kids with us, we find the rambunctious and whine for more candy. And now we have to act like the bad guys and tell them no; it will spoil their dinner.
A lot of people think of the media as a candy store. Their messages are tempting, and we let ourselves sample and often like the experience. But afterwards, we feel guilty. We feel we should have been doing something more substantial or productive with our time. We feel that those messages are now eating holes in our brains as we can’t get a jingle, a song, or stupid joke out of our minds. If we have kids with us, we fear that they are soon going to imitate the bad language, bad attitudes, or bad behavior they have seen in the messages.
Yes, the media do offer lots of “candy messages”. If we indulge ourselves with a steady diet of candy over the years, we will clog up our arteries with fat and experience all sorts of negative health effects. But the media offer many other kinds of messages. If we can resist the initial temptation of candy and instead find the more nutritious messages in other parts of the media cafeteria, we can consume a more balanced and full range of vitamins and minerals. To live a more healthy life, we need to know what to consume and exercise some self-discipline.
I strongly agree with Potter when he said that media offer lots of candy messages. These candy messages are what we perceive as something that is just entertaining without realizing the negative effects which may result from our exposure to that message. For instance, one may get hooked to a song because of its catchy tune but may not realize that the song has vulgar lyrics. This is especially true among the young who mindlessly sings the songs in the hit chart without taking time to really understand what the song implies. Although it is just a song, continuous exposure to those kind of songs may influence the way a person thinks and behaves. For example, after listening to many songs about sex and drugs, one might begin to believe that it is ok to have pre-marital sex and that the sure way to happiness is to take drugs. There are several studies on media effects that would explain to you how media shape one’s opinions, beliefs, and values and influences the behavior and attitude of a person.
We must then be critical with the media content we are consuming. I remember my favorite quote from Fr. Stephen Cuyos, MSC. He was one of the speakers during the recently concluded 1st Catholic Social Media Summit. He reminded us, “You are what you consume.” Whatever we watch, read, play, and listen to reflects who we really are. So it is very important that we carefully choose the media content we expose ourselves to. We must not be easily swayed by the cool and attractive packaging of the candies. As James W. Potter said, we must find the more nutritious messages in other parts of the media cafeteria so we can consume a more balanced and full range of vitamins and minerals. It’s time for us to live a healthy media life!