Becoming a media master: How U.S. election years influence people through media

You may have seen Biden’s bizarre social media post following the Chiefs victory in Super Bowl 58. Youth targeting, division, misinformation and polarization thrive during election years, as we are months away from voting. 

Society has never been more overstimulated with news, entertainment, artificial intelligence, video games and virtual reality. Election years are met with increased political coverage on the news, so it is crucial that you can identify bias and catch fallacies in one’s argument. 

In order to get support for their preferred candidates, misinformation and purposeful disinformation spread quickly. Campaigns, political fanatics and special interest groups use these tactics to sway public opinion on the Internet and television. 

Donald Trump is no stranger to trying to influence young voters as well. Ad hominem attacks using Gen-Z slang calling Biden “Sleepy Joe”, as well as support from some of the media industry’s biggest stars such as UFC president Dana White, Kanye West, Kid Rock, country singer Trace Adkins and more. 

To combat this, companies like Meta and X have implemented ways to curb misinformation, such as Facebook’s fact checking process and X’s community notes. Despite their efforts, misinformation still slips through the fingers of these businesses. In fact, these platforms profit from false facts. Shares, likes, comments and engagements on controversial posts keep users hooked for longer, thus increasing advertising revenue and possibly creator revenue. 

Artificial intelligence used on social media has fooled millions of people already with computer generated images, news and celebrity voices. However, things have potential to get a lot more confusing for consumers. OpenAI founder Sam Altman unveiled his new AI video generation ‘Sora’ on Thursday, demonstrating its hyperrealism and near-unlimited potential. In the midst of fears that AI will tamper with the election in 2024 and in the future, big tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, Meta, OpenAI, X and more signed a deal the day after Sora was previewed to combat AI-generated election manipulation. 

Thanks to the corporate media machine and the public forum of the Internet, less and less people will get their election news from mainstream sources. After laws were put in place in the 1980s to relax media regulations by the Reagan administration, broadcast news switched focus to ratings and numbers, as opposed to truthful, unbiased reporting. Focusing on TV ratings instead of the truth damages the press because news stations would rather cause division or push the same narrative to increase their profits. Because less people care about the news and have other ways to access it, there are many fewer people studying journalism now. What were once news stations full of bright and professional journalists, are now begging for any mass communication students to apply. 

Even the most centered news organizations still have their biases, even if it is to a small extent. Regardless, fact check everything and cross reference between multiple sources to see if there are any inconsistencies or additional information. 

Although news faces many issues that make George Orwell’s 1984 seem like it’s coming true, the TV model is not going away. Streaming services are now using the broadcast model of ‘content-commercial-content-commercial’ because of how profitable it is. Netflix’ basic subscription with ads plan launched in 2022 at $6.99 per month and costs $15.99 per month for its ad-free version. Although traditional television may end within a decade or two, it is merely a death and rebirth like the phoenix, as the TV model continues. 

There’s not much we can do about modern press, but being informed and encouraging media literacy are necessary steps we must take to fix this devolving-from-truth platform. According to a 2023 study from Tufts University’s civic learning and engagement center, Gen-Z voted at a higher rate than previous generations such as Gen X and Millennials. Fortunately, you can be the change by staying informed and holding those accountable who are deceiving the masses. 

Election years are crazy, take care of your mental health regardless of the outcome and stand up for what you believe in with your First Amendment right, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

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