Following a series of lessons on values, the influence of the media on our values was our topic in our lesson today. What was intriguing was not how much power the mass media had in influencing the thought of the students, but how little potential it possessed to affect the attitudes of any of them.
The class were the stuff of nightmares for any advertising agency. A number of them did not engage with any of the mass media whatsoever. They did not watch television or listen to the radio. They did not read newspapers or magazines. Their engagement with the digital world did not extend beyond social media and Spotify.
They were sophisticated in their avoidance of anything that meant the payment of subscriptions. They used Virtual Private Networks to shift their location in order to access material that was free in the territory where they were able to appear to be.
Of course, when it came to our consideration of the influence of social media, they may be less impervious to persuasion. There may be some who more readily internalize the values of the influencers and the culture of the online platforms. Yet most of them knew no influencer’s name, and only one followed an influencer.
Social media platforms were not contexts in which to engage with the wider world, they were simply an opportunity to chat with their friends about inconsequential stuff
It would be wholly wrong to suggest that students were “value-free,” most have very firm convictions about what is right and what is wrong.
Contrary to the predictions of those who complain at the loss of Holy Catholic Ireland, the rising generation are not amoral. They have a developed understanding of human dignity and an antipathy towards the prejudices of the past. They are a generation who would not tolerate the abuses and clerical interference in family lives to which their forebears were subjected. They are inclusive of minorities and critical of governments. They will not be cowed by anyone.
If there is a cause for moral panic about the presence of the World Wide Web in people’s lives, then that panic should be directed at older cohorts, particularly those who would seek to exploit the sort of people in the classroom. Programmes to make young people wise to the ways of the online world are necessary, but so is a much more pro-active approach to removing potential abusers by the platform providers.
One student who said he did not listen to any news anywhere was asked how he knew about the Covid regulations.
“My dad told me.”
There is not much advertising revenue in word of mouth.