Medium vs Message

Published February 15, 2012 by proxycore

Greetings minions. Your overlord has decided to create a new section on this blog. This section will more or less act as a thought journal, also known as a fancy way to call “Jellyfish’s Rants”. Some days it may not even be rants though, just a place to store my thoughts. This post will probably be longer and more serious than the usual ones. For those who don’t want to read the entire post, the first two paragraphs after this one does a good job summarizing it all (Your overlord recommends you read all though). Now onto the content.

A few days back, I was having a conversation with my friend, and like nearly all good conversations that I have it ended up being about epistemology. My friend brought up the fact that he didn’t understand why during a documentary watched in Social Studies in the previous year, that everyone had left crying. The documentary was about child soldiers in Africa, called “Invisible Children” (For those who have not seen it, the link to the first part of the documentary is here). The documentary is truly moving and I would recommend you to watch it before continuing to read this post as it may give you better insight. At least I found it moving, as well the majority of my classmates. I did end up crying quite a bit by the end. And this was exactly what puzzled my friend. He found it hard to understand why some people would cry after watching something like this. And just when remarked that “It’s not like we don’t know about this already, why is everyone being so unnecessarily dramatic and emotional?” I was pretty sure I was about to hit him.

But he then brought to the table an interesting point. Would people have cried the way they had if the message was presented in a different way? What if, you got all the facts that you did in the documentary inside a pamphlet instead. Would you still be moved to tears? As we further discussed this, I tried to justify the importance of medium in this world, which brought me to what I perceive to be a great concern in the world. The world right now is so focused on the way things are presented; sometimes the message behind it can be obscured. The way information is presented is manipulated so it can target our emotions and connect with us. In documentaries like “Invisible Children”, they gave us an up close look at how life is with the children. Seeing this, people may think and remember how their lives are so much luckier and sympathize. But suddenly, if instead of a walk-through of a Child Soldier’s life, you receive a pamphlet with statistics on it, the visceral impact is severely lessened despite the message being just as clear and important; just because one may make less of an emotional impact doesn’t make the situation any less real or any less important.

In society today, touching media is used (in the domain of charity work at least) to give incentive for people to get involved and to spread awareness. But in reality, what tends to happen is that problems surface and people do help, but only to give themselves self-satisfaction. An example would be the earthquake in Haiti. We can all remember when the earthquake first happened; it was all over the news and attention was brought to it in all forms. As a result, help was coming in from everywhere. However, after a few months, the hype started to die down. And within a year it was almost completely wiped out from news. People who were extremely concerned at first were starting to forget about the whole situation, yet Haiti was not yet fully on its way to recovery. Information and news about Haiti was presented all at once, and when the information was no longer presented, people forgot about it. Again, this example illustrates the idea that just because it isn’t mentioned doesn’t mean that the problem doesn’t exist.

Our generation is controlled by the media; it permeates every aspect of our lives and our hearts and minds so easily swayed by it. Every day we are bombarded with different images; all of which come together and allow us to form an idea of who we are and who we should be. And when it comes to charities, with the amount of causes out there, there is a surprising amount of competition. While this is undoubtedly a positive thing, an unfortunate side effect is that only larger charities are brought forth. Many people are aware of the bigger organizations like World Vision and Red cross (which do amazing work by the way, Jellyfish overlord recommends you get involved), but they may not be aware of smaller organizations which support an equally as important cause. Now I am not at all saying that all charities must stop using emotional mediums to get attention to their cause, neither am I saying that we must ignore all the large charities and search for smaller ones. An emotional medium is the most effective way to get movement from the masses. In our busy (and perhaps IB) lives, sometimes a strong impact is needed to drive our attention to someone else. But sometimes, you should wonder why the cause alone is not enough incentive to get people involved, and that an emotional medium is needed in the first place. And even then, sometimes it is because we are so exposed to these same issues that we become apathetic. We don’t feel the need to help poverty or women’s rights in Africa because there is so much media out there about it that we become indifferent towards these atrocities.

If you think back to why you helped a cause, it is oftentimes because you saw an advertisement or some form of informative medium and it moved you (or because you were forced to by your school to do charity work, but that’s beside the point). Usually, after you do something about it to help out, you just forget about it (or complete your CAS/volunteering hours….).When was the last time you’ve supported a cause for the sake of supporting a cause? When was the last time you truly believed in it rather than just doing the charity work for doing charity work? When people aren’t inflicted by something directly, it sometimes takes much more for them to get involved. In Chinese, there is a saying that reads “针不刺到肉,你不知痛”. Roughly translated, it says “If the needle does not stab your flesh, you do not feel the pain.” It means you don’t truly understand the severity of a situation unless it directly involves you. But more people should be getting involved for a cause, not just the ones affected by it. And if you are not affected by it, while you are helping, you should focus your intentions to truly help the cause, and try not to only be doing it for self-satisfaction. So although medium is a very sharp tool in terms of getting awareness and giving incentive for people to help, don’t let the medium be the only thing to affect your decisions. When you want to help out a cause, help out for the sake of the cause, not just because the medium influenced you to.

Now as the hypocrite that your overlord is, I will be bringing to the spotlight certain charities from time to time and I hope you guys will all be inspired to get involved. So show some love when time comes. Until then!

Jellyfish out~

*Reproduction not permitted. Credit must be given to creator.

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