Friday, January 22, 2016

It's a Mean, Mean World of Navel Gazers

Greetings lovely readers,

So yes, I was going to blog about something else this week, but then something struck me as I was listening to a podcast the other day. Something that struck me so much that I decided to reserve my post on sex in the Middle Ages for another time. I know. You're all disappointed. You're thinking, "Damn, I so wanted to read about how those medieval folks got it on and got down and dirty." Not to mention what a woman could drag her husband into divorce court over (something that is actually still on the books in some areas of the world, including American states, today). But what I am blogging about today as me so excited that it just couldn't wait. I only hope that you are just as giddy and intrigued as I am.
I also think this will be a good segue into the victimhood portion of my Human Behavior Essays. And it's just really good brain porn.
Now, moving on.

When I was listening to a podcast the other day, I heard a term that really grabbed my attention. That term was Mean World Syndrome. It stayed with me to the point of my feeling compelled to look it up and my excitement when I found that it was actually a 'thing.' It has also been around for quite some time.
Now first, what is Mean World Syndrome? Well, it's a term that was coined by a man named George Gerbner, who used it to describe a phenomenon in which violence-related content of mass media can make a viewer/consumer believe that the world is more dangerous than it really is. It was part of his main conclusion of cultivation theory, a theory of which Gerbner was also a founder.
George Gerbner was born in 1919 in Budapest, Hungary. In 1939, he emigrated to the United States where, in 1942, he earned his bachelors degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkley, He wrote for a couple newspapers and even served in the US Military during World War II. In 1951, he earned his masters and then his doctorate in 1955. His dissertation, "Toward a General Theory of Communication" won USC's award for Best Dissertation. He was a very influential figure in the journalism and communications side of academia, and in 1968, he established the Cultural Indicators Research Project.  He did this as a way of documenting the growing trends taking place in a time when having a television in many American homes was still a fairly new thing. He observed what the current content being produced was, and how such programs (or, dare I say, programming) affects the viewers perception of the world. From this, he coined the term 'mean-world syndrome.' His theory argued that the individual who watches the largest amounts of TV tends to have a much darker and sinister view of the world. Those who tell the stories of a culture actually govern human behavior by selling ideas.

According to the mean-world syndrome/George Gerbner Wikipedia page:

 direct correlation between the amount of television one watches and the amount of fear one harbors about the world has been proven, although the direction of causality remains debatable in that persons fearful of the world may be more likely to retreat from it and in turn spend more time in indoor, solitary activity such as television watching.[1]
The number of opinions, images, and attitudes that viewers tend to form when watching television will have a direct influence on how the viewer perceives the real world. They will reflect and refer to the most common images or recurrent messages thought to have an impact on their own real lives. Gerbner once said: "You know, who tells the stories of a culture really governs human behaviour. It used to be the parent, the school, the church, the community. Now it's a handful of global conglomerates that have nothing to tell, but a great deal to sell.

Gerbner also stated that such views and perceptions have only intensified with newer technologies. And having passed away in 2005, he spoke mainly of VCRs, cable, computers (the budding wider-usage of the internet in the 1990s), and DVD players...he likely knew not of more recent technologies such as smart phones, ipads, extensive social media (what did we have in 2005? Mainly MySpace and LiveJournal, as opposed to the many social media outlets we have acquired in the last ten years) and other things we have now that keep us glued to the mass media 24/7.

Mean-world Syndrome Wiki says:

The 1930s behaviorism models, the Payne Fund Studies, show that the effect that mass media has on our behavior is considerable. This is called the hypodermic needle model: people are injected with appropriate messages and ideas constructed by the mass media.[3] Individuals who watch television infrequently and adolescents who talk to their parents about reality are claimed to have a more accurate view of the real world than those who do not, and they may be able to more accurately assess their vulnerability to violence. They may also tend to have a wider variety of beliefs and attitudes.[4]

I have seen (and participated in) debates and discussions online and in person over whether we really do live in a more dangerous world or if we only believe that we do because the latest technologies now enables and allows for constant mass media message being brought to us at all times. Whereas prior to all this technology, we could much easier shut off the television or put down the newspaper. Nowadays, it's as though no matter how hard you try, you just can't escape. According to Gerbner's Cultivation Theory:

 "The primary proposition of cultivation theory states that the more time people spend 'living' in the television world, the more likely they are to believe social reality portrayed on television."[1] Under this umbrella, perceptions of the world are heavily influenced by the images and ideological messages transmitted through popular television media.
 "Television is a medium of the socialization of most people into standardized roles and behaviors. Its function is in a word, enculturation".[4]

Now of course these days, this goes way beyond television. But let's now take a look at that word that seems to be at the root of cultivation and enculturation. And that word is 'culture.'

Before continuing any further, I will note that my point of this article is not to condemn all technology, television, or culture as wrong or evil. In fact, I think it all has its use. However, these are all things that - like lie spotting - are important to keep in mind. By becoming more aware of what all is shaping your thoughts, world views, and opinions, it is much easier to arm yourself accordingly and therefore become a more critical thinker than just settle for being a lemming.

With that said, let's take a look at the meanings of the words enculturation and cultivation. Enculturation is the process in which culture is established by a certain power. That established culture teaches and instills norms and values into an individual, therefore dictating what is right and what is wrong and what is acceptable behavior in the framework of their society.
Looking at the definition of cultivation is where things start to get interesting, because the definition of the word has a meaning steeped in agriculture. However, refinement and culture do come up. And it is being done by someone planting seeds and growing crops that meet their standards (now imagine that being the so-called 'trend-setters' cultivating the masses to their liking). It is a deliberate and calculated act associated with working on something or someone for the purpose of recruitment, obtaining information, or gaining control for these or other purposes.

According to Jamie Hanshaw's book, Weird Stuff: Operation Culture Creation, Thomas Mann said that at the root of culture lies "cult." And it is true. A large portion of society defines itself with logos and attitudes that creates something we refer to as our culture. Interestingly, the arts of a culture have historically been associated with religion, principles, doctrine, and ritual, Hence, culture has always been defined as a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, beliefs, and practices that characterize and organization or group. The term comes from the Latin cultura which stems from colere or "to cultivate." A person's behavior is controlled through culture. The media, corporations, and the powers that be rely on us to observe and think with our reptillian brain (and no, I am not talking about a horde of lizard overlords taking over the world), or the id.
Our id and the reptillian parts of our brains refer to our primitive and instinctive brain functions. It gives our survival instincts to ensure that our basic needs for security is met. An example of explaining this would be Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs which I will cover in a later post. But for those familiar with Maslow's theory, humans need certain things in order to ensure their security and happiness. And those that create our culture know exactly how to speak to that. When you really think about it, such a notion is almost impossible to deny. It has also created a culture of navel gazers.

Now what is a navel gazer?
Well, naval gazing is a self-indulgent view of oneself or excessive contemplation of a single issue at the expense of the wider picture. In fact, Merriam-Webster defines it as the activity of thinking too much or too deeply about yourself, your experiences, your feelings, etc. Many integrate it with 'selfie culture.' Either way, I actually quite like the term.
In regards to selfie culture, I can understand where those who defend it are coming from. After all, I am all for everyone having the freedom to express themselves, however way he or she chooses (yes, I've taken a few in my day). But just how much is too much, and when do we become so wrapped up in ourselves (or a naval gazer) that we become completely unaware of what is going on around us? According to Psychology Today, selfie-obsession (or navel-gazing) can lead to what they refer to as the Dark Triad:


The study also showed that those who tend to spend extensive hours on social media (with their selfies or other) tended to have higher levels of these traits than those who spent less time doing so. When we combine this with Gerbner's theories and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, we can see a connection between those and the naval-gazing culture that continues to increase. When we can't seem to tear ourselves away from the media, a media that projects only doom and gloom, we come to view the world as a very dark and frightening place. When we allow ourselves to become swept up in the trends, attitudes, and opinions shoved at us by the powers that be and those in the media, we run the risk of losing our ability to think for ourselves, form our own opinions and think critically (Just Say No to GroupThink and Friends Don't Let Friends GroupThink). When we allow ourselves to become so wrapped up in our own views and needs, we lose the ability to empathize and recognize that we always have room for growth.
Way too many people are unwilling to hear new information if it is something that violates their paradigm or viewpoint, what they've been cultivated into believing. Many do "research" only on the basis of justifying his or her opinion and belief system instead of looking to really dig and get some real answers. And if someone does present a challenge to said person's belief system, instead of maybe looking into the sources presented, (both) adults and teens tend to fall into the trap of saying "that's BS becuz I say so and u r mean and stupid!!!!" (of course we can't forget the multiple exclamation points) I've seen some people REALLY flip out because their viewpoint was challenged (and it's usually those that claim to be the most openminded and tolerant). They become self-important, masters of their universe behind their laptops, cultivated into believing that they are thinking for themselves. When really, in most cases, the exact opposite is true. They've been fed their opinions and views of the world by a 24/7 mass media. They've been told that it's only their opinions and feelings that matter. They've been told that the world is a dark, cruel place and have become untrusting of their fellow man. It's been fed to them that 'the other guy' can't be trusted. They've become self-righteous to the point of not even wanting to consider thoughts, opinions, and research that might challenge a deep-seated belief held. They've resorted to knee-jerk reactions instead of rationality. They've resorted to posting often uncited rhetoric for the sake of getting facebook likes, a pat on the back, and reassurance that they've done their 'activism' and 'good deed for the day.'

I will leave it here for now and will see you all with another post next week.

And be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more. :)


Weird Stuff: Operation Culture Creation by Jamie Hanshaw

George Gerbner:

Mean-world Syndrome:

Cultivation Theory:


Cultivation Definitions:

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:

Navel Gazing Definition:

Are Selfies A Sign of Narcissism?

In Defense of the Selfie:


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