We’ve all survived high school. You deserve a pat on the back for that alone. You made it out relatively unscathed, and yea, you may have a few more scars that you did upon entry but congratulations, your diploma’s getting dusty somewhere. In addition to enduring those dreaded hallways, you have somehow made it into a very prestigious university, no doubt a result of your intelligence, hard work, and (especially) good decision making. This good decision making is an imperative virtue, and has indubitably been on display since your arrival at Trinity, despite all the new freedoms that come with moving away from Mumsy and Popsicle. The point is, none of us are strangers to the world of peer pressure; we’ve been exposed to it countless times. But unlike most, YOU are quite proud of your first semester and have never faced the shameful task of untagging questionable portraits of yourself exhibited on Facebook. You’re not one to give in easily (never have been). And after all this virtuous behavior and exhausting back-patting, you decide to sit yourself down for a nice, relaxing evening on the couch and catch the latest episode of your favorite TV show.
You watch for a while, laugh every now and then (On your own accord, take that laugh tracks!), and then the episode breaks for commercials. You watch the bare bodies (Apparently you REALLY need to buy some Axe), the emotional public service announcement (You’re tough, you didn’t change the channel), the “funny” Bud Light commercials (There’s no laugh track, so it’s hard to be sure), and the scary ADT commercials. You can easily recognize that each one is attempting to persuade you buy their product or join their cause based on a certain appeal: To sex, pity, popularity, and fear. You brush them off as persuasion tactics that are not going to bust you. You’re one tough cookie. You know that wearing Axe doesn’t bring girls swooning from all ends of the earth or buying Bud Light makes you any more popular than those Keystones you’ve grown so fond of.
Unfortunately, they’ve still gotten you. Not through the surface level, simple tactics attempting to get you to buy a product. Those are easily identified and protected against. I’m talking about the deeper, less obvious statements about society that are being broadcast and impaled into your brain not just during commercial breaks, but throughout your TV show as well. Mediated communication provides certain views through its portrayal of “normal” relationships, jobs, interests, and lives. It sets a certain standard for each individual to live up to through the countless subliminal messages being conveyed or portrayed every second your television or radio is on. The general format of these messages goes something like “People in your age group/society/race/gender approve of X, therefore X is true.”
Unfortunately, while you may not buy the product that is being advertised via naked girl,
you haven’t beaten it. The ad still conveys the message that as a male, it is perfectly acceptable to belittle women and reduce them as objects and as a female, it’s ok to behave in such a manner because that’s simply the way society is. This is the way all males act and this is the way all females act; therefore, it must be correct. Parties have an incredible amount of beer and pretty girls, if yours doesn’t, you’re not too popular. Any good athlete wears fancy running gear (Shirt, shorts, shoes, sweatband, wristwatch, the works) and if you’re not a good athlete (God forbid) you’re fat and lazy. While you may not openly go through that though process verbatim, it’s only a matter of time before those messages begin to seep into your consciousness and you form a skewed reality of the world based on subliminal media biases. Society as a whole, accepts this appeal to the general popularity of an idea, despite the fact that it may or may not be true and you, master of your own domain, never even caught it.
So how do we play defense? Unfortunately, this sneaky portrayal of society is hard to combat because it attacks your subconscious and convinces you to create a view on society based on information that is simply incorrect. The idea that general acceptance of an idea is enough to make it correct is a logical fallacy. The best way to combat it, like many manipulative media techniques, is to be aware of it. Realize that the Huxtables are not the perfect family (yours doesn’t have to look/act like them),
June Cleaver is not the perfect mother (Yours doesn’t have to look/act like her), the guys on Insanity infomercials do not have the perfect bodies (Yours doesn’t have to look like theirs),
Megan Fox is not the perfect girlfriend (Yours doesn’t have to look/act like her), and your friends do not love you based on what goods you consume (At least they shouldn’t.. Awkward.) Having a real sense of who you are and what you believe in, based solely upon yourself is the best way to combat this media peer pressure. That’s all it really is. Media attempting to convince you that this is what everybody else is doing, so it’s correct. My mommy told me that’s not true.