Violence and the Digital Media: How does it make us feel?

By Michael Zaidel

Digital media has changed human social systems for better or worse. Has digital media changed the way that people view violence? Evidence shows that young people have become less sympathetic when viewing violence through media. The Psychology of Popular Media Culture journal completed a study where teenagers are shown violent scenes then are given psychological tests. The journal describes, noted here as well:

“Typical tests for post-play aggression include how loud a noise blast a player administers to an unseen (fictitious) subject; how much hot sauce he or she adds to food that an unseen subject will eat; and questionnaires designed to find out if the viewers or players are having aggressive feelings or thoughts.”

Teenagers that were not shown violent scenes played music quietly, used less hot sauce, and answered the questionnaire, giving non-aggressive results. Teens who were shown violent scenes played music loudly, used more hot sauce, and answered the questionnaire aggressively. These tests illustrate how teenagers in particular react to violence. Reactions can be closely associated with actions and thoughts.  An individual’s reaction can also uncover feelings, such as sympathy.  In people’s minds overall, violence is scary. It leaves a lasting impression on a conscience and thought process.

Some may argue that digital media makes people more sympathetic to violence acts of and scenes. However in younger ages, violence in the digital media is more likely to frighten the individual. This is especially true when “fear mongering” is used. Fear mongering occurs when an information source uses scary facts, usually negative, to frighten the individual. The scary facts overpower reasoning and logic, causing an individual to feel worried and to feel less sympathetic in general. Fear mongering’s effects can be seen in media recently, due to Ebola outbreaks. Media spits out statistics and quotes, while scary, not all may be true.

Later in life, a person will not see these acts of violence as social ills or negative acts.  If the individual was raised to reject violence and be sympathetic, then violence in the digital media will cause him or her to act sympathetically towards violent acts.

Violence will not cease to exist in the world, and the media will undoubtedly report on it. To increase our sensitivity to violence, we must first teach and empower our children to decide which sources will give legitimate information. Lastly, fear mongering must be condemned and avoided.