Author: Zixin Li (Suzie) Publish Date: December 7, 2023
With the advent of the Internet age, some people believe that the emergence of digital media has promoted their relationship because online media has enriched the public social way and established a virtual social community for users by providing a platform. Others believe that the Internet has alienated their relationship due to the public’s excessive dependence on social media, the false information spread by the media and the government’s control over it. This paper discusses this controversial topic using actual news cases and draws the central argument that the emergence of online media has alienated the relationship.
In 1999 Tencent QQ became China’s most widely used online chat software. Before Tencent QQ, people kept in touch with each other by phone call, SMS or offline face-to-face chat. The appearance of social media, such as Tencent QQ, in the Chinese market has subverted the communication habits of the public. After that, a variety of online social media have sprung up. It is no exaggeration to say that the Public can find any suitable online software according to its needs. The mobile Internet enriches the public communication mode and narrows the distance between them. Online social media provides a platform for participants to communicate, allowing users worldwide to gather with like-minded participants according to their preferences, forming a virtual community culture (Castells,2002). Users express and convey their views and national culture through online communication, thus breaking the prejudice and stereotypes between people with different cultural backgrounds and promoting the vigorous development of multiculturalism. In addition, online media enhances the enthusiasm of online politics and citizens to participate in political activities (Boulianne, 2020). The Public can participate in voting and express their views on policies through digital media. Many official media will also learn about the Public’s meaningful ideas through social platforms, which has brought the relationship between the government and the Public closer. In short, the appearance of media online has narrowed the distance between the Public and between the Public and the government because it enriches the social ways of the Public and provides a virtual platform for communication.
Even though social media users are far apart, and instant communication on the Internet makes the distance shorter, the distance that the public can communicate face to face becomes more distant.
With the development of media online, after the arrival of the information society, the alienation of the public and the reproduction of media mimicry environment are becoming more and more extreme. Many young people suffer from “information obesity” (Whitworth, 2009). An individual’s self-will and thinking nature are entirely digitized by online media. A large number of people, especially teenagers, due to lack of self-control, under the guidance of network media culture, pay extreme attention to individualism and liberal will, thus becoming exclusive to interpersonal communication in any real society, lacking perception of family ties and friendship in real life, refusing objective facts and sincere contact with others, thus becoming a cold “data carrier” with action consciousness. The continuous shaping of social forms by network media makes it inevitable for the public to communicate with a “data carrier” and even become a “data carrier”. China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) released the 43rd statistical report on Internet development in China. By December 2018, there were 829 million netizens in China, including 484 million online game users. The game addiction rate is 27.5%. It is equivalent to 130 million people’s game addiction, among which teenagers are the main force of internet addiction, and they think that their self-realistic interpersonal skills are deteriorating (Cyberspace Administration of China, 2019).
In the media industry, where false news frequently appears, media credibility is not only an essential factor for the media to play a public opinion-oriented role and a necessary means to integrate and influence society but also an important indicator to measure the audience affinity, market competitiveness and social influence of the media. The arrival of the media online era has broken this moral norm. With the appearance of online media, the receiver in the traditional media era also has the sender’s identity (McQuail, 2013). In addition, the booming individualism that online media has always advertised freedom of speech has led to the emergence of many personal content editors and publishers on the Internet. Which is called “self-media person”. “Fabricated things have become a profitable industry in the world because the public can easily access social media and reach millions of people with just a click of a mouse (Fitzpatrick,2018).” Since media people publish false or exaggerated information to increase the number of views and seek benefits, coupled with the wide channels for the public to obtain information in the online media era, which also reduces the resources of formal media industry practitioners. To gain attention and financial support, the staff in the newsroom become more critical of the event content and even prefer to broadcast curious events, exaggerate the facts and not verify the content. The distorted concept of event selection indirectly increases the probability of false information release. In July of this year, it was revealed in Australia that the boss of TikTok used fake news to target an incumbent senator, causing public anger (“Contempt for truth,” 2023).
Fake news strategy seems to be successful, but in the long run, this strategy strengthens the growing complaints of the public against the mainstream media and deepens the stereotype that the government does not act. In the long run, it will lead to a crisis of public trust in the mainstream media and the government (Fitzpatrick,2018).
Although online platforms provide opportunities for the public to participate in politics and communicate directly with government departments, online media are usually monitored and regulated by the government. The government’s initial goal of monitoring and controlling online media is to reduce false information as much as possible and protect the network security of netizens. However, the spreading nature of online media makes the channels for the public to obtain information extensive, which makes the public no longer wholly controlled by government public opinion, thus causing differences between the state and private media and media institutions (Gehlbach & Sonin, 2014). In the long run, the government’s image will be easily damaged, which brings a sense of crisis to the governments of those countries that implement centralized systems (O’Hara & Hall, 2018). In order to protect their image and interests, some governments often use their power to put pressure on online media and interfere with the editing operation and decision-making process of online media companies to control public opinion (Dragomir, 2018). “When a comprehensive consumer brand absorbs them, they lose their identity and policy autonomy (Marland et al., 2017).” Secondly, some mainstream media rely on government funds to survive, and the government uses state funds to manipulate the media and make the media obey national goals (Dragomir, 2018). Under the dual pressure of power and public funds, some official media may deliberately ignore the news of the government’s negative behaviour (Howard & Hussain, 2011), focus more on the negative information of rival countries, and even fabricate false information about other countries. “They decide what happens there, and we also decide what happens here (Sear et al., 2018, p2).”
For example, the Hong Kong incident in 2019. The information that can be seen in the Chinese mainland is that Hong Kong mobs rioted and beat police and mainland residents (“The latest situation”, 2019). However, I saw in the Australian news that the Hong Kong police beat Hong Kong residents for no reason during peaceful protests, and it was thought that the attitude of the Chinese government was bad (WSJ, 2019).
This inflammatory and biased news deepens the stereotypes and prejudices among citizens of all countries, increases the competitive mentality between countries, and even causes national hatred, thus alienating countries and nationals.
In conclusion, although the existence of online media provides a platform for the public to communicate, the appearance of online media still leads to the offline relationship between people, the relationship between public and media and government, and the relationship between countries and nationals has become more alienated because of public’s excessive addiction to online media, false information released by the media, and the government’s control of online platforms by using the network.
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