*I took this image myself in Isla Mujeres (Mexico)
Winter is around the corner. Saint Nicholas and Black Pete are almost leaving the Netherlands and making place for Santa. Around Christmas and New Year a lot of people spend time with their friends and family. This means a lot of food, presents and quality time. What it also means is cold, rain, wind or even snow. For some people the winter period is related to depression. They just need to go to the sun and relax on a beautiful beach with a cocktail in their hand. The perfect recipe if you want to get rid of your winter mood. The only issue that remains is: which destination do you have to go to? Turkey, Greece, Indonesia or Mexico? That is the big question. Well if you would have a look at the media and want to go for ‘the safest’ option you can better stay home! In the following blog I am going to tell you why. It all has to do with framing. Can we avoid being framed by the media?
Nowadays the perception of humans is shaped (Louis, Burke, Pham & Gridley, 2013), this has all to do with framing. We pay special attention to aspects of a certain topic due to the emphasis approach of the media (Borah, 2013). Borah’s (2013) frames highlight certain aspects of reality while excluding some elements, which might lead individuals to interpret issues differently. All in all, the media is focusing on certain aspects that can lead the audience gets information on pre-chosen topics. Basically what framing is about is that the media decides what covers the news and influence how you think about certain aspects. As Scheufele (1999) stated, the concept of framing is embedded in the larger context of media effects research. Just a few examples of framing tools are headlines, subsets or photos. Based solely on this information people can form an opinion.
Imagine yourself in the following situation. It is Wednesday afternoon, you are sitting behind your desk and browsing on the Internet. You are thinking of going on vacation to Mexico; nice weather, good food and a lot of culture. Suddenly, you read the following headline of the ABC newspaper: “Missing in Mexico: Drug war means no-one is safe.” I am pretty sure that you are now wondering if it is safe enough to go to Mexico. Due to its history, Mexico already has a kind of reputation regarding the drug issues and its safety.
(1) Image taken from ABC Newspaper
Imagine reading the same article in the Belfast Telegraph with the headline: “Australian missing in Mexico planned to move there, says girlfriend.”
(2) Image taken from Belfast Telegraph
I am pretty sure that you get a total other view after reading the second headline. This is a great example of how the media can frame you and influence the way of how you think. Imagine your friends or even your parents reading articles that mention the current drug situation in Mexico and discuss some unsafe places up north in Mexico. I am pretty sure that they will ask you whether it is wise to go Mexico due to safety issues. This all has to do with the conformation bias, as a reader you want to read what is align with your attitude, values and beliefs. Luckily there are also articles which state that Mexico is a beautiful country to visit, cheap, good food, nice weather and a lot of culture. Those are the ones I read before I booked my flights to Mexico-city last summer.
Think about the following…
Did someone ever ask you the following: “Do not think about a pink elephant” and a few seconds later they ask if you thought about the pink elephant. This is just a simple example of how easy you get framed. As mentioned before, framing influences how we think about certain issues. Our perception is shaped, mass communication has influenced individuals and society (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976). Can we avoid being framed by the media? Some people say that by understanding the way media effects work, you can win back control of your perception about news issues. This phenomenon is called the third person effect (Salwen, Dupagne, 1999). Basically it says that the effect of framing only happens to other people and not to yourself because you are aware of how the media can influence people. I think this is not true, we are all victims of framing. In my opinion every piece of information is framed in a certain way, it cannot have no frame. Even if a journalist decides to show certain data or publish a certain picture, it is always framed. In the end it is up to you to decide whom you trust and who not. As Scheufele and Tewksybury (2007) stated in their paper, it would be interesting to find out how the media exactly shapes audience perception of the real world. I would like to end my story with the following message:
“It is just the way you say it.”