Media consumption

Media consumption or media diet is the sum of information and entertainment media taken in by an individual or group. It includes activities such as interacting with new media, reading books and magazines, watching television and film, and listening to radio.[1] An active media consumer must have the capacity for skepticism, judgement, free thinking, questioning, and understanding.[2]


For as long as there have been screens, cameras, and photos, the people of the world have been consuming media. Around 1600 the camera obscura was perfected. Light was inverted through a small hole or lens from outside, and projected onto a surface or screen, creating a moving image. At this point in time, media consumption had a very small effect on society compared to today.

In the 1860s mechanisms such as the zoetrope, mutoscope and praxinoscope that produced two-dimensional drawings in motion were created. They were displayed in public halls for people to observe.[3] This was one of the first displays of media to the public in the way that it is consumed today.

Around the 1880s, the development of the motion picture camera allowed individual component images to be captured and stored on a single reel. Motion pictures were projected onto a screen to be viewed by an audience. This moving camera affected the progression of the world immensely, beginning the American film industry as well as early international movements such as German Expressionism, Surrealism and the Soviet Montage. For the first time people could express themselves through the medium of film, and distribute their works to consumers worldwide.

In San Francisco on Sept. 7, 1927, the electronic television was first successfully demonstrated. The system was designed by Philo Taylor Farnsworth, a 21-year-old inventor who had lived in a house without electricity until he was 14.[4] By 1941 the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) was broadcasting two 15-minute newscasts a day to a tiny audience on its New York television station. However, the television industry did not begin to boom until the end of WWII.[5] Eventually television began to incorporate color, and multiple broadcasting networks were created.

In the 1960s the first computer was created. in 1975 the first computers made for consumers were released by IBM. Two years later Apple, a new competitor, came out with their first computers.

On August 6, 1991 the internet and World Wide Web became available to the public. This was the start of the easily formatted internet that people use today.[6]

In 1999, Friends Reunited, the first social media site, was released to the public. Since then, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks have been created. Facebook and Twitter are the top social media sites in terms of usage.[7] Facebook has a total of 1,230,000,000 consumers while Twitter has 645,750,000. Both companies are worth billions of dollars, and continue to grow.[8]

Overall media consumption has immensely increased over time, from the era of the introduction of motion pictures, to the age of social networks and the internet.

People involved

Media is the sum of information and entertainment media taken in by an individual or group. The first source of media was solely word of mouth. When written language was established, scrolls were passed, but mass communication was never an option. It wasn’t until the printing press that media could be consumed on a high level. Johannes Gutenberg, a goldsmith and businessman from the mining town of Mainz in southern Germany printing press.[9] His technology allowed books, newspapers, and flyers to be printed and distributed on a mass level.

The first newspaper written on paper was done by Benjamin Harris in the British-American Colonies.[10] The invention of a newspaper was one of the most influential pieces in media consumption history, because it pertained to everyone.[11]

Eventually communication reached an electronic state, and the telegraph was invented. Harrison Dyar, who sent electrical sparks through chemically treated paper tape to burn dots and dashes, invented the first telegraph in the USA.[12] The telegraph was the first piece of equipment that allowed users to send electronic messages. A more developed version came from Samuel Morse, whose telegraph printed code on tape and was operated using a keypad and an earpiece.[12] The pattern of communication soon became known as Morse Code.

Inventors Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell both independently designed the telephone.[13] The telephone was simple enough for everyone to use and didn’t require learning a code.

Soon after the telephone came the radio. Combining technology from both the telegraph and telephone, Guglielmo Marconi sent and received his first radio signal in 1895.[14]

Finally in 1947, after a long period of development, television exploded as a medium. Not one person is responsible for the creation of the television, but Marvin Middlemark invented "rabbit ears" in 1930, which allowed for televisions to be a commercial product.[15] The television has by far been the most influential consumed media, and allowed news to spread on a visual level.

In 1976, Apple created the first consumer computer.[16] The computer was the start of mass written communication using email. Apple continues to be a leading company in computer use.

Increase in media consumption

Among other factors, a person's access to media technology affects the amount and quality of his or her intake.[17] In the United States, for instance, "U.C. San Diego scientists in 2009 estimated the 'average' American consumes 34 gigabytes of media a day." [18] The amount of media consumption among individuals is increasing as new technologies are created. According to, a new study done by a researcher at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, says that by 2015, the sum of media asked for and delivered to consumers on mobile devices and their homes would take more than 15 hours a day to see or hear,[19] an amount equivalent to watching nine DVDs' worth of data per person per day.[19]

With social media networks rapidly growing such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, our world of media consumption is reaching a younger and younger age group, making our consumption that much larger as a country.[20][21][22] With mobile devices such as smartphones, news, entertainment, shopping and buying are all now at the tip of our fingers, anytime, anywhere.[23]

Positive effects

There are many positive effects of media consumption. Television can have positive effects on children as they are growing up. Shows like Sesame Street teach valuable lessons to children in developmental stages, such as math, the alphabet, kindness, racial equality, and cooperation.[24] Dora the Explorer introduces foreign language to children of all backgrounds in a fun, cooperative environment.[24]

Media relating to advertising can also have a positive effect. Some alcohol manufacturers are known to spend at least ten percent of their budget on warnings about the dangers of drinking and driving.[24] Also, studies show that milk consumption (though controversial) shot up in children fifteen years of age and younger due to print and broadcast advertisements.[24]

Many video games can also have positive effects. Games like Wii Tennis and Wii Fit improve hand-eye coordination as well as general mental and physical health.

The internet itself is a huge positive for people of all ages, as it now is a personal library for anyone who has access.[24] The number of educational websites and services offered are so immense that research has become a task much easier than it was in the past. Social media has also provided many benefits for people over time, as it has been evaluated as a prosocial way of interacting with people all over the world.[25]

Negative effects

Many believe that there is a wide range of negative behavioral and emotional effects that media consumption can have.[26] There are many instances of violence in movies, television, video games and websites which can affect one’s level of aggression. These violent depictions can desensitize viewers to acts of violence and can also provoke mimicking of the acts. Since violence is so rampant in media, viewers believe they live in a more violent world than they actually do.[26]

Media consumption can also have a negative impact on people's body images, mostly women. After seeing beautiful and thinner than average women in the media, many viewers feel worse about themselves and sometimes develop eating disorders.[27] Some believe that the reason obesity rates have greatly increased in the last 20 years is due to increased media consumption. This is due to the fact that children are spending much more time playing video games and watching television than exercising.[28]

Another problem that has developed due to increased media consumption is that people are becoming less independent. With text messaging and social media, people want instant gratification from their friends and often feel hurt if they do not receive an immediate response. Instead of having self-validation, people often need validation from others.[29] Another issue with independence is that since children frequently get cellphones when they are very young, they are always connected and never truly alone. Today, many children do not have the rite of passage of being on their own because they can always call their parents if they need help or are frightened.[29]

Semiotics of American youth media consumption

American youth have personal television sets, laptops, iPods and cell phones all at their disposal. They spend more time with media than any single activity other than sleeping. As of 2008, the average American age 8 to 18 reported more than 6 hours of daily media use. The growing phenomenon of "media multitasking" — using several forms of media at the same time — multiplies that figure to 8.5 hours of media exposure daily. Media exposure begins early, increases until children begin school, then climbs to peak at almost 8 hours daily among 11 and 12-year-olds. Media exposure is positively related to risk-taking behaviors and is negatively related to personal adjustment and school performance.[30]

Of teenagers ages 12 to 17, 78% have a cell phone, and 47% of those own smartphones. 23% of teens have a tablet computer and 93% have a computer or access to one at home. Of teenagers ages 14 to 17, 74% access the Internet on mobile devices occasionally. One in four teens are cell-mostly users, meaning that when accessing the Internet, they mostly use their cell phones.[31]

Media consumption, especially social media consumption, plays a major role in the socialization and social habits of adolescents. Socializing through media differs from socializing through school, community, family, and other social situations. Since the adolescents have a greater control over their media choices than over other social situations face-to-face, many develop self-socialization. This is where we actively influence our own social development and outcomes because of the vast array of choices. Adolescents can choose media that best fits their personalities and preferences, which in turn create youth that have a skewed view of the world and limited social interaction skills. Socialization can be awkward for youth, especially with the integration of media. Media, parents, and peers may all convey differing messages to adolescents. With multiple views of how to approach a situation, confusion can be apparent and the youth may often give up or internalize their social situations.[32]

Social semiotics make up a large part of how adolescents learn and employ social interaction. Impressionable adolescents regularly imitate the sign systems they see in the media. These semiotic systems affect their behavior through connotations, narratives, and myths. Adolescents are shaped by the sign systems in the media they consume. For example, many young girls in the 1990s dressed and acted like the Spice Girls, a popular band. Similarly, boy bands created a trend of many teenage boys frosting their hair in the early 2000s. With more exposure to the media and images of models, young women are more likely to conform to the ideal of being thin. Anorexia, bulimia and models smoking convey to girls that a feminine person is thin, beautiful, and must do certain things to her body to be attractive. A code of femininity (see Media and Gender) implies today that a “true” woman is thin, girlish, frail, passive, and focused on serving others. On the other hand, the code of masculinity for a young boy growing up in our culture may include the ideals of cowboys and secret agents. The images, myths, and narratives of these ideas imply that a “true” man is a problem solver, physically strong, emotionally inexpressive, and a daredevil who doesn’t care about rules.[33]

The flood of signs, images, narratives, and myths surrounding us influence our behavior by the use of codes. Codes are maps of meaning, systems of signs that people use to interpret their own and others’ behavior. Codes connect semiotic systems of meaning with social structure and values. The idea of being judged on femininity or clothing relates to experiences later in life with job interviews and being successful.[34]

Signs, myths, and codes do not affect us physically like a drug, but psychologically. We think with signs, though we don't eat, breathe, or physically interact with them. The power that sign systems have is their role in generating and maintaining shared expectations and shared interpretive frameworks. Signs do not force us to have certain interpretations. They open a door, creating the context for other people's interpretations of us, and even more importantly, our own expectations of what others think. Sign systems are merely tools, but they have become the common currency for communicating. Signs have become something we can accept or criticize, but not ignore.[34]

Media consumption has become part of our culture code and has shaped the youth through socialization and how they interpret the signs and world around them. For example, older generations see the symbol for a phone and think that it is something to call someone with. The younger generations, especially the youth now, see a phone as a mini-computer and a way to avoid physical contact or face-to-face communication.

See also


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  19. 1 2 Zverin, Jan. "U.S. Media Consumption to Rise to 15.5 Hours a Day – Per Person – by 2015". UC San Diego New Press. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
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Further reading


Media diets of notable people

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