Consumption of Mass Media
Consumption of Mass Media
The consumption of media has greatly changed over the past few decades. The differences have often resulted in older people expressing mixed reactions on how the younger generations consume the mass media. In the contemporary society, the young people mostly use the social media: notably, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. On the other hand, the older generation consumes film, television, radio, and newspapers. To establish the difference in the use of mass media between different timespans, I interviewed my grandfather to find out how he consumed the mass media when he was young. It was interesting to note that while the mass media in the United Arab Emirates was not as developed as it today, there are strong similarities between the 1960s and today’s media use among the young people. Therefore, while there is a huge generational gap in the use of media between the 1960s and the modern times, the youth have embraced advancements in mass media in almost a similar manner.
Radio was the most common form of mass media during my grandfather’s youth. He revealed that the Abu Dhabi Radio was the first ever modern mass media station. Similar to other established media centers in the developed parts of the Gulf Region, the radio served as the official mouthpiece of the government that sought to quell any foreign propaganda (Abu-Lughod, 2015). When asked what he remembers most from his favorite radio station, he said, “It was the first time I could listen to a large variety of music from all over the Middle East.” Since it served as a source of entertainment, the mass consumption of radio in the UAE during the 1960s can be likened to the use of YouTube by the young generation in the contemporary world. As indicated in the article, Time Spent Online ‘Overtakes TV’ Among Youngsters, YouTube is among the most popular destinations for young people that go online to listen to music and watch videos (Coughlan, 2016). While most of the present-day smartphones have radios, the young prefer to stream music from YouTube as it gives them the opportunity to select and create their own playlists. Thus, the use of radio and YouTube as sources of entertainment for the old and the youth is a major similarity in the mass media consumption during the 1960s and the present times.
The mass media consumption is greatly influenced by the portability of the devices. During the interview, my grandfather revealed that he preferred the radio since he could easily move with it and listen to his favorite programs. When I asked him what else he listened to apart from news and music, he said that he also enjoyed readings from the Qur’an. At the time, the religious teachings were regularly broadcasted to appease the infuriated conservatives (Martin, Martins, & Wood, 2016). I asked whether he read the Al-Khalij daily newspaper, and he openly stated that having been born to an affluent family, he was comfortable and, therefore, he did not advance his studies beyond the primary level. “As long as I knew how to read the Qur’an, everything else seemed unnecessary,” he quipped. Unlike most of his age mates who walked around with newspapers and old magazines, he had a battery-powered Walkman wherever he went. Similar to the Walkman, smartphones provide their owners with the convenience of accessing whatever they want with a high-level of portability, ease, and efficiency. They provide today’s young generation with the option of installing a variety of applications that appease them the most, which explains why a majority of them have the most popular social media applications on their mobile phones. The ease at which my grandpa tuned into his favorite station on his Walkman can be equated to how easily young people can access their social media accounts on their smartphones, which offers a great insight to the high levels of mass consumption between the young people of two different periods.
Youths choose the most popular forms of mass media based on the type of information they provide. For my grandfather, the radio provided him with updates on current affairs, religious teachings, and entertainment. In fact, the regular Qur’an passages on radio impressed him and proved that the gadget was a valuable investment. As the radios gained more popularity and introduced a variety of different programs, he bought a small, portable radio that would allow him to listen to his favorite station without interruptions. “Being a father of three children in my mid-20s meant that I had a more mature preference to that of my family. Having my own radio meant that I could listen to whatever I wanted without having to worry that I am forcing my preferences down my children’s throat,” he stated. An almost similar observation can be made among the youth who prefer social media over other forms of communication as it allows them to receive instant news updates from all over the world. While they may not necessarily be interested in news on politics and international relations, the social media offers them a platform through which they can catch up on the latest news about their favorite celebrities and interact with them through status updates, likes, and comments on their social media pages.
Young people have always been open to embrace new forms of social media as soon as they get to the market. A few years after my grandfather bought his radio, he was not hesitant to purchase a television for his family. He says that he was psychologically prepared to accept the TV as the new form of entertainment and recreation. When I asked why, he responded, “The radio had opened my mind to endless possibilities. I was not going to get in the way of my family getting their entertainment.” By then, the government had already proved that it could provide entertainment to the people without conflicting with their Islamic faith (Martin, Martins, & Wood, 2016). His young family was particularly thankful for the black-and-white television set as it allowed them to emerge from an era of social isolation. As such, the possibility of seeing what was going on around them and in other places that they had never heard about was quite fascinating (Abu-Lughod, 2015). “At that point, I knew that I was ready for whatever form of mass media that would be invented. It is the reason why I have been able to speak to you through Skype today,” he joked as I bid him farewell. An almost similar situation can be observed among today’s youths. Among the current generation, the rapid advancement of computers and other technological inventions have propagated the consumption of modern-day mass media. While email was the initial form of social media, it has evolved to chat rooms, text messages, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest, among other forms of social networking sites. Therefore, it is understandable why the young people in the present-day society are so quick to embrace new forms of social media as soon as they are introduced into the market.
Taking all the aforementioned into consideration, I can now understand why the young generation is so taken with the consumption of social media. In the years before the emergence of personal computers and the advent of the Internet, young people used television, radio, and newspapers to remain in touch with what was happening around them and in other parts of the world. Ideally, these were the most advanced media technologies of the time. In the contemporary world, young people use the social media as a source of information, entertainment, and communication. The consumption of media among the youth seems to be primarily influenced by how much it allows them to feel connected to the rest of the world. The level of technology also plays a major role. For instance, as captured in the interview, my grandfather bought radio when it was the main technological gadget for the mass media in the UAE. He later embraced and purchased the black-and-white television since it was an advancement of the radio. Therefore, as technology continues to evolve, one can easily predict that the youth will keep changing their mass media preference depending on the latest trends and technological advancements.
Abu-Lughod, L. (2015). 2 Managing religion in the name of national community. Islamism and Cultural Expression in the Arab World, 35(1), 60.
Coughlan, S. (2016). Time spent online ‘overtakes TV’ among youngsters. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/education-35399658.
Martin, J. D., Martins, R. J., & Wood, R. (2016). Desire for cultural preservation as a predictor of support for entertainment media censorship in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. International Journal of Communication, 10(2), 23.
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