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The media use of American youngsters in the age of narcissism Surviving in a 24/7 media shock and awe-distracted by everything#

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  See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/220453754 The media use of American youngsters in theage of narcissism: Surviving in a 24/7 mediashock and awe - Distracted by everything  Article   in  Telematics and Informatics · May 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.tele.2010.09.005 · Source: DBLP CITATIONS 10 READS 134 2 authors:Some of the authors of this publication are also working on these related projects: The unbearable lightness of Communication Research   View projectPatchanee MalikhaoUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst 16   PUBLICATIONS   43   CITATIONS   SEE PROFILE Jan ServaesUniversity of Leuven 171   PUBLICATIONS   744   CITATIONS   SEE PROFILE All content following this page was uploaded by Jan Servaes on 21 October 2014. The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file. All in-text references underlined in blue are added to the srcinal documentand are linked to publications on ResearchGate, letting you access and read them immediately.  The media use of American youngsters in the age of narcissism q Surviving in a 24/7 media shock and awe – distracted by everything Patchanee Malikhao a, ⇑ , Jan Servaes b a School of Public Health and Health Sciences, USA b SBS Center in Communication for Sustainable Social Change, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA a r t i c l e i n f o  Article history: Received 22 June 2010Received in revised form 12 September2010Accepted 24 September 2010 Keywords: Digital generationYouthMedia useInternetSocial networkingCultural impact a b s t r a c t Digital life in the age of nonstop connection is not easy, especially not for the so-calledMillennials, youngsters born after 1980. Research findings, such as the recently releasedcomprehensive reports by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Pew Foundation, highlightthat media are among the most powerful forces in young people’s lives today. Eight- totwenty-somethings in the US spend more than 50h in front of a screen each week. Thatis more than a regular working week. The TV shows they watch, video games they play,songs they listen to, books they read, text messages they send and websites they visitare an enormous part of their lives, offering a constant stream of messages about families,peers, relationships, gender roles, sex, violence, food, values, clothes, and so on.Earlier claims that they associate with and through media in different ways as the oldergenerations, and therefore are better at multi-tasking, seem not to be supported by newfindings.Among American youth, there is evidence that increasing globalization within mediasystems has shaped a high degree of individualism in society. High individualism can leadto narcissism, whichleads toavery positive andinflated viewof self. Thisvalue is growingrapidly in the American culture fueled by the mass media, including the new media andsocial networks, and contributes to new attitudes toward sex, sexuality, and individualidentity.   2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction Americancultureinthepost-modernperiodisfueledbyadvancedcommunicationandinformationtechnology.Weexpe-rience the compression of time and space, which are the symbolic representation of a post-modern ‘culture industry’ wherepeopleareintroducedtoasymbolizationof thecapitalisticmarket economysuchas textsinadvertisements, imageportray-als in films and movies (Tomlinson, 2001: 19). Taylor (1997: 20) explains that post-modern cultural forms are more con- cerned with forms rather than content and have become  commodified . This is due to the impact of the mass media in thecontemporary globalization process.A poll for the BBC World Service (2010) suggests that almost four in five people around the world believe that access tothe internet is a fundamental right. The survey – of more than 27,000 people across 26 countries – found strong support fornet access on both sides of the digital divide. In this sense, the expressed need for digital interconnectedness seems to have 0736-5853/$ - see front matter   2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.tele.2010.09.005 q An earlier version of this article was presented as a keynote at the Community-Oriented Media Conference of the Media Expertise Center in Mechelen,Belgium, on May 20, 2010. ⇑ Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 4132301772. E-mail addresses:  pmalikhao@gmail.com, csschange@gmail.com (P. Malikhao). Telematics and Informatics 28 (2011) 66–76 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Telematics and Informatics journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/tele  universal appeal. However, the digital gap remains and, according to some scholars, is even widening (see, e.g., Broos, 2006;Dailey et al., 2010; Mertens and Servaes, 2010, or Zittrain, 2008). In this article we attempt to present some data which characterize the cultural environment of so-called American Millennials  – the American teens and 20-somethings born after 1980 who are making the passage into adulthood – andhowtheydeal withtheglobalizeddiffusionandlocalizedappropriationof mediaproductsandprocesses. Wetrytodescribethe kind of culture they are communicating in and the possible implications this may have for their identity formation andself-esteem. 2. Globalized diffusion and localized appropriation Globalization  is about the emergence of completely new social, political and business models that interlink governmentsand big businesses and that have a great impact on every aspect of society down to the nature of the social contract(Friedman,2007:48). AccordingtoAppadurai (2001: 17), globalizationisaninteractiveprocessinwhich‘locality’and‘glob- ality’ interact via the shrinking of space–time in the world system. Not only can globality influence locality, the latter canalso induce changes in the global arena and this process is called globalization from below, local globalization or grassrootsglobalization.  Grassroots or local globalization  isthecapacityof localgroupstouploadtheirknowledgeandopinionsandpro-videservicesontheinternet(Friedman,2007).Nash(2000:53)explainshowthemassmedia–forspecificdefinitionsof‘old’ and ‘new’ mass media, see McQuail (2005: 51–52) – play an important role in the contemporary globalization process. Hestates that the mass media helpcreate a global consciousness, by whichpeople cancomparehowothers live withtheir ownlocal livingconditions. Thompson(1995) states that, althoughthe mass media diffusetheir messages globally, consumersof the mass media consumethe messages locally. This creates a process that he calls  the axis of globalized diffusion and localizedappropriation . Thus, the mass media (and communication in general) are inevitable in the globalization process.Hassan(2008:27)statesthatglobalizationfueledbythemassmediaandinformationtechnologyadvocates‘‘vastexpres-sion of access to information, the centrality of the internet, and networked communities” while at the same time the infor-mation received can be meaningless; the loss of real community is evidenced; the lack of time for reflection can causesuperficialandhurriedculturalforms.Moreover,therearisesanewproblem:theso-calleddigitaldivideengendersaninfor-mation gap between those who can afford the hardware and software and access the internet, and those who cannot affordsuchaccesstoinformation(Scholte,2005:36).Therefore,arecentreportbytheSocialScienceResearchCouncil(Daileyetal., 2010), commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), concluded, among other findings, that broadbandaccess is increasingly a prerequisite for social and economic inclusion, not an outcome of it. 3. American culture rooted in protestant puritanism Culture can be described as a framework with four distinguishable but interrelated analytical components: a worldview( Weltanschauung  ), a value system, a system of symbolic representations, and a social organizational system (Servaes 1999:12). Not only the mass media and the globalization process affect American culture, religion and other deep-rooted valuesalso affect the culture a great deal.Berger and Luckmann (1966) discuss in ‘The Social Construction of Reality’ the interaction between thinking and action.Socialization within a tradition and culture shapes an individual’s thinking, and at the same time, this internalized form isreflected in the manifestation of culture (Holm 1997: 75). This model stresses the importance of religion, as it provides asymbolicuniversewhichexplainsbirth,life,anddeath,aswellasprovidingtheindividualwithanidentity.Religionexplainstheworldthroughmythsandlegendsandalsothroughrational discourses. Therefore, Robertson(1972: 47) defines religiousculture  as: ‘‘ . . .  aset of beliefs andsymbols(and values derivingtherefrom) pertainingto a distinctionbetweenanempiricaland a super-empirical, transcendent reality; the affair of the empirical being subordinated in significance to the non-empirical”.Inotherwords,religionisanattempttomakesenseofrealitythroughthedevelopmentofasubjectiveworldview(Bergerand Luckmann (1966), quoted in Marsh 1996: 481). Worldviews integrate expressions of religions and ideologies (Smart 1983: 2), which make the Hoppers (Hopper and Hopper 2009) and Jacoby (2008) argue that the American culture is deeply rootedanddeterminedbyaprotestantpuritanism.AlsoSamuelP.Huntington(2000)describesthecoreoftheAmericancul-ture as an Anglo-Protestant puritan culture. He studied American history and concluded that non-white protestants havebecomeAmericansbyadoptingAmerica’sAnglo-Protestantcultureandpoliticalvalues(Huntington,2000:61). Whatdistin-guishes American protestantism from that of Europe is the manifestation of puritanism and congregationalism in the US,which Huntington calls  dissident protestantism . This later resulted in Baptist, Methodist, pietist, fundamentalist, evangelical,Pentecostal, and other types of Protestantism (Huntington, 2000: 65) in the United States. The central American values of individualism, achievement and equality of opportunity are based in this dissenting Protestantism (Huntington, 2000:69–71).Hofstede and Hofstede (2005): 121,124) studied collectivism and individualism along with other concepts such as mas-culinityand feminity, power distance anduncertaintyavoidance in 74different countriesand foundthat the USrankedfirstin individualism. For the individualistic identification, Hofstede and Hofstede (2005: 97) suggest the following key to mea-sure the concept on three dimensions: language, personality and behavior. P. Malikhao, J. Servaes/Telematics and Informatics 28 (2011) 66–76   67  4. The Millennials (born after 1980) The  Millennials  ‘‘are history’s first ‘always connected’ generation. Steeped in digital technology and social media, theytreat their multi-taskinghand-heldgadgets almost like a bodypart – for better andworse. Morethan8-in-10say theysleepwith a cell phone glowing by the bed, poised to disgorge texts, phone calls, emails, songs, news, videos, games and wake-up jingles. But sometimes convenience yields to temptation. Nearly two-thirds admit to texting while driving” (Taylor andKeeter 2010: 1).According to Taylor and Keeter (2010), Millennials have begun to forge their own personalities and identities:  confident,self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.  Theyaremoreethnicallyandraciallydiverse thanolder adults. They’relessreligious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in Americanhistory (Taylor and Keeter 2010: Chapter 4).However, in many of their lifestyle choices, Millennials are not much different from adults of other generations. And it’softentheirideologyorsocioeconomicstatus,ratherthantheirage,thatdrivestheirbehaviors. Forinstance,inareasasdiver-gent as gun ownership and going green, Millennials are in the mainstream. But in some corners of their lives, they find un-ique ways to express themselves. Technology usage is one. Body art with piercings and tattoos is another.Their entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the recent ‘Great Recession’, but they are more upbeatthan their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation.Theyembrace multiple technological modes of self-expression . It’snot justthesehi-techgadgets–it’sthewaythey’vefusedtheirsociallivesintothem.Threequartershavecreatedaprofileonasocialnetworkingsite.One-in-fivehavepostedavideoof themselves online. Millennials  have a distinctive reason for feeling distinctive. In response to an open-ended follow-up question, 24% say it’sbecause of their use of technology.  Generation Xers  (people born between 1965 and 1980) also cite technology as their gen-eration’s biggest source of distinctiveness, but far fewer – just 12% – say this.  Baby Boomers’   (born 1946–1964) feelings of distinctiveness coalesce mainly around work ethic, which 17% cite as their most prominent identity badge. For the  Silent Generation  (born between 1928 and 1945) it is the shared experience of the Depression and World War II, which 14% citeas the biggest reason to stand apart (see Table 1) (Taylor and Keeter 2010: Chapter 3). 5. The post-modern American youth’s consumption of the mass media and individualism, narcissism, sexuality, andhealth risk behaviors From a more critical and general perspective, Elliot and Lemert (2006) propose that globalization has a profound impacton the individual level, and that causes a new kind of individualism. They define this  new individualism  as a highly risk-tak-ing, experimenting andself-expressingindividual underpinned bynewformsof apprehension, anguishandanxiety. As eachindividual has become a consumer of the media conglomerate in a capitalistic society, the impact on each person’s experi-encesofgenderidentity,sexualityandfamilylifeisthetopicdiscussedbymanyscholars. ElliotandLemert(2006:114)notethatsexualityintheUSiscurrentlyframedandregulatedthroughmassmedia,advertising,andinformationcultureasacon-sequence of globalization and that various forms of sexuality can be called ‘ discursive sexuality’   among the new generation.This contributes to new attitudes toward sex, sexuality, and individual identity, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics(2001). Theirreportstates:‘‘AmericanmediaarethoughttobethemostsexuallysuggestiveintheWesternHemi-sphere.TheaverageAmericanadolescentwillviewnearly14,000sexualreferencesperyear,yetonly165ofthesereferencesdeal withbirth control, self-control, abstinence, or the risk of pregnancyor STDs. In a recent content analysis, 56% of all pro-grams onAmericantelevisionwere foundto containsexual content. The so-called‘family hour’ of prime-timetelevision(8–9pm) contains on average more than 8 sexual incidents, which is more than 4 times what it contained in 1976. Nearly onethird of family-hour shows contain sexual references, and the incidence of vulgar language is also increasing. Soap operas,whichare extremelypopular withadolescentsand preadolescents, might be one ideal venuefor responsiblesexual portray-als, yet a recent study of 50h of daytime dramas found 156 acts of sexual intercourse with only five references to contra-ception or safe sex” (American Academy of  Pediatrics, 2001: 191) (see also Collins, 2005; Hanson, 2007; Malikhao, 2010). Messages about sex and gender are all-over American popular culture. Levin and Kilbourne (2008) provide ample exam-ples and data for a variety of different media: advertising, fashion, films, the Internet, television, video games, magazines,music . . . Itleadstowhattheycalla‘‘gravedisconnectionbetweenthevaluescaringparentswanttoconveytotheirchildren  Table 1 What makes your generation unique? Millennial Gen X Boomer Silent1. Technology use (24%) Technology use (12%) Work ethic (17%) WW II, Depression (14%)2. Music/Pop culture (11%) Work ethic (11%) Respectful (14%) Smarter (13%)3. Liberal/tolerant (7%) Conservative/Trad’l (7%) Values/morals (8%) Honest (12%)4. Smarter (6%) Smarter (6%) ‘‘Baby boomers” (6%) Work ethic (10%)5. Clothes (5%) Respectful (5%) Smarter (5%) Values/morals (10%)Note:Basedonrespondentswhosaidtheirgenerationwasunique/distinct.Itemsrepresentindividual,open-endedresponses.Topfiveresponsesareshownfor each age group. Sample sizes for sub-groups are as follows: Millennials,  n  =527; Gen X,  n  =173; Boomers,  n  =283; Silent,  n  =205.68  P. Malikhao, J. Servaes/Telematics and Informatics 28 (2011) 66–76   aboutrelationships, sex,andsexualityandthemessagesconveyedbythepopularculture”(LevinandKilbourne(2008:162).According to the American Psychological Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, ‘‘Virtually every media form studied pro-vides ample evidence of the sexualization of women, including television, music videos, music lyrics, movies, sports media,videogames, the Internet, and advertising.” (Zurbriggen, 2007: 1). VanDamme (2010) confirms this in her in-depthanalysis of two popular US teen series.Among American youth culture, there is also evidence that increasing globalization within media systems in the US hasshaped the degree of individualism in society (Elliot and Lemert, 2006: 4–5) and contributes to new attitudes toward sex,sexuality, andindividual identity. Thelattermayimplythepositiveaspect of beingmorematurethanadolescentsfrompre-vious generations. Brownet al. (2005: 424) investigatedthe influenceof sexual media contentsthat adolescents consumeintheirprivaterooms. Theyfoundarelationshipofearlierpubertaltimingandincreasedinterestinviewingsexualmediacon-tentandincreaseexposuretoinformationaboutdating,birthcontrol,andsexuallytransmitteddiseases (STDs).Thefindingssuggest that the  mass media may replace peers in sexual related information seeking of adolescents in an environment of increas-ing physical isolation . Themassmediaaredubbedas a sexual super peer   forearlymaturinggirls.However,anegativeaspectisthat the ‘super peer’ can normalize frequent sexual activities portrayals in the media and, thus, encouraging early sexualbehaviors (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001: 192; see also American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,2010).Moreover,thenewidentityofadolescentsmaybeassociatedwith self-destructive behaviors  asaresultofmassmediacon-sumption. Escobar-Chaves and Anderson (2008) report research findings on the influence of the mass media consumptionamong adolescents and the five health risk behaviors, identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: obesity,smoking,drinking,sexualrisktaking,andviolence.Theresearchersfoundnoclear-cutresearchresultsthatsuggestanyrela-tionship between electronic media use and obesity (Escobar-Chaves and Anderson 2008: 154). However, they report thatlongitudinal, experimental, and cross-sectional studies suggest strong links of viewing smoking favorably and becomingsmokers, with exposure to smoking in the media. Other research findings strongly suggest that there is an association be-tween exposure to alcohol advertising and to alcohol consumption portrayed in TV and movies and the increase of adoles-cents’ alcohol use (Escobar-Chaves and Anderson 2008: 162). It was also found that sexual content exposure through radio,CDs, and tapes contribute to initiation of non-coital sexual behavior among adolescents (Escobar-Chaves and Anderson,2008: 165). Collins et al. (2004): 288) could not find clear-cut findings about exposure of sexual contents on TV but they suggested that exposure to sexual talk and behavior on TV is likely to advance the initiation of both coital and non-coitalsexualactivities.Ontheotherhand,recentstudiesalsoshowthatincreasedsexualknowledgeoraccesstobirthcontroldoesnot necessarily lead adolescents to earlier sexual activities behaviors (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008: 192).Last but not least, research evidence shows clearly that exposure to violence through media is a causal risk factor foraggressive and violent behavior. It is expected that the long term effect of violent video games will be larger than that of TV but smaller that that of gang membership (Escobar-Chaves and Anderson 2008: 169).High levels of individualismcan lead to  narcissism . Twenge and Campbell (2009: 19) state in their book, ‘‘The NarcissismEpidemic”, that the central feature of narcissismis a very positive and inflated viewof self and this value is growing rapidlyintheAmericanculturefueledbythemassmedia,includingthenewmedia,andchangesinparentalapproachestoupbring-ingthatemphasizesself-expression.SymbolicrepresentationsofthenewAmericancultureofselfexpressionaretheempha-sis on celebrities in the media, the success of MySpace and Facebook as social-networking sites, the uploading of personalvideos on YouTube, twitter (micro-blogging and text-based social networking or SMS on the internet via its own website)andblogging(TwengeandCampbell2009). WhichleadsBarbaraEhrenreich(2009)towonderhowtherelentlesspromotion of positive thinking has ‘ undermined ’ America. 6. Basic data on young adults and their on- and off-line life Research findings, such as in the recently released comprehensive report by Rideout et al. (2010) for the Kaiser FamilyFoundation, Steinfield et al. (2008), Subrahmanyama et al. (2008), and reports by the Pew Center (for instance: http:// www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Social-Media-and-Young-Adults.aspx), highlight that media are among the most pow-erful forces in young people’s lives today. Eight- to twenty-somethings in the US spend more than 50h in front of a screeneachweek.That ismorethanaregular workingweek.TheTVshowstheywatch,videogamestheyplay, songstheylistento,books they read, text messages they send and websites they visit are an enormous part of their lives, offering a constantstream of messages about families, peers, relationships, gender roles, sex, violence, food, values, clothes, and so on.The study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (2010) found that the use of every type of media has increased over the past10years, withthe exceptionof reading. Injust the past five years, the increases range from24mina day for video games, to27min a day for computers, 38min for TV content, and 47min a day for music and other audio. During this same period,timespentreadingwentfrom43to38minaday;notastatisticallysignificantchangethough.Butfocusingon different typesof print   does uncover some statistically significant trends. For example, time spent reading magazines dropped from 14 to9min a day over the past five years, and time spent reading newspapers went down from 6 to 3min a day; but time spentreading books remained steady, and actually increased slightly over the past 10years (from 21 to 25min a day) (Rideoutet al., 2010). P. Malikhao, J. Servaes/Telematics and Informatics 28 (2011) 66–76   69
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