People’s exposure to mass media has increased throughout the years, making media one of the main gatekeepers – the main source for educating and providing standards for society. Consequently, the means in which media portrays life on its own has an effect upon the individual who is being exposed to it, changing their views to fit the viewpoint portrayed by the so-called gatekeepers.
The media is expected to reflect society, especially in the entertainment business, with ‘reality’ shows and adverts, but it does not necessarily mirror out the society lived in today. Max Weber argues that individual choices shape the society – meaning individuals shaped the society in which we live in and not the other way around. He also believed that societies encouraged other ways for actions (Thompson, 2017), as Gauntlett proposes in his book “Media, Gender, and Identity” – people’s everyday actions reinforce and reproduce a set of expectations – and it is this set of expectations which make up ‘social forces’ and ‘social structures’ that sociologists [like Weber] talk about. Considering those two concepts, it is fair to say that the individuals who have shaped society have then shaped the media, which is now influencing people’s view of their own identities. In a way, individuals have contributed themselves to how themselves are perceived in a modern society.
Dealing with a topic like identity in an age where everyone puts into question their own, can be very tricky. In this Instagram/ Love Island/ Kardashian generation, people’s expectations are placed at the unattainable levels due to the manipulative way entertainment portrays people from society. Social comparison, a term first utilized by Leon Festinger, suggesting that individuals have a natural drive to compare themselves to others, usually with people who often surround other’s social lives. There is mainly two types of social comparison: upwards and downwards. Upwards social comparison is essentially when individuals collate to others who we consider are somewhat better than us – providing inspiration and making us look for ways to achieve a similar result. Downwards social comparison, on the other hand, is when people compare themselves to those who are considered to be ‘worst off’ than them – allowing us to think ‘hey, at least I’m not in their situation’.
The Instagram and reality show generation has taken a toll onto ourselves, making us think we are expected to look and act a particular way, to conform to social norms, when in reality it is a lot harder to generate a lifestyle equivalent to those who are sold on advertisements, social media, and entertainment.industries. It is still of a question if whether or not this phenomenon is to worsen throughout the development of social media – especially on Instagram with it’s influencers and celebrities, or if society’s standards will change to a more achievable form and not provide people with ‘clickbait’ expectations.