How mainstream media drives societal tribalism

Opposing chess white and black chess figures

Since the 2000’s we have been witnessing the second information age, more known as the digital age. The distribution of information has created a huge media industry which is currently experiencing a major shift of dynamics.

In recent times, the traditional print media industry has been in constant decay with the weekday print circulation decreasing by 12% and the Sunday print circulation decreasing by 13%.

Total circulation of U.S. daily newspapers nationwide

The impact of big-tech on information distribution

Technology has changed human interaction with information, shortening people’s attention span, and creating a new consumer need that pushes for a transition from readable and often complex data to opinion-based simple information with both audio and visual components. These changes have lowered the barriers of entry in journalism thus lowering the overall expected competence of some media professions.

Social Media giants like Facebook & Twitter have in a sense monopolized the information industry when it comes to the younger audiences.

  • The average US adult spends 38 minutes per day on Facebook.
  • 16-24-year-olds spend a median of 3 hours a day on social media.

It is common for people to accept the perception that social media are channels of communication & information. The more adequate interpretation would be to categorize them as social environments.

In these environments, people are provided with personalized feeds of information designed by tech companies to satisfy their consumer profile based on their online behavior, interaction with content, etc. These circumstances provide favorable conditions for individuals to thrive in a bubble of informational content gratifying their pre-determined views and opinions of the world around them.

Mainstream media adaptation to digital trends in news coverage

Modern-day publishing is not losing ground in terms of the growing digital landscape of the consumer market. Media outlets have been successful in the digital transition by developing a system based on metrics.

Traditional western media has forged legitimacy throughout centuries of branding and service of the English speaking domestic & international audiences. Big-name media outlets have emerged as symbols of political positioning and have created a hegemony in terms of cultivating the public reaction on social media.

The obvious exploitation of conservative & liberal emotions by modern mainstream media has created a deep societal division in the west, particularly seen in France, Germany, United Kingdom & the United States. In the past decade, the never-ending public outrage has been sophistically voiced by mainstream media through the digital footprint of the online consumer. This has created a process known as societal tribalization in terms of political views.

Tribalization has spread throughout western countries thanks to both left-wing and right-wing narratives. International media conglomerates have provoked engagement throughout all levels of society. With emotions being high, the process of tribalization has pushed out the need for the rational voice of academia and has created a form of censorship. By often involving uneducated representation with waring opinions, mainstream media fuels political turmoil. Constructive political debate has become often non-existent due to the constant victimization and blame-hate exchanges on both opposing sides.

The relationship and trust between media outlets and readers, that have taken centuries to build is now threatened by globalism and change of the consumer interest. In the past, mainstream media outlets were seen as the independent voice of truth & critique with both being as equally important. Nowadays while truth being still important the critique often fades away.

In terms of decision making, public outrage has, unfortunately, become the driving factor in the context of information distribution among the mass consumer. Intellectual readers as a minority have been forced to invest their reading time into Think Tanks, academic-based opinion articles which as a consequential process widens the gap even more between informed and uninformed consumers of content. Even though tribalization is not a new societal phenomenon, it must be monitored and analyzed in order to create awareness that builds bridges of dialogues between opposing factions.

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Author: Zlatin Kurshumov, published in Chicago Illinois.

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