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The Editorial Board

EDITORIAL

How Violence and Bad Behavior on Social Media Influence People, Values and Culture: A Social Learning Perspective

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By Ysh Estayo | Posted on June 9, 2024 

Manila, Philippines | EDITORIALPH

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Understanding the Effects of Negative Online Content on Behavior and Cultural Norms

Social media platforms serve as more than just channels for communication; they have become arenas where real-life events, including violence and bad behavior, are captured and shared. With the widespread use of smartphones and instant internet access, anyone can broadcast their experiences to a global audience. While this democratization of media empowers individuals to share their stories, it also exposes us to a barrage of content, from heartwarming stories to disturbing images of violence. This viral nature of social media means that a single post can reach millions within hours, sparking discussions and debates. However, alongside positive stories, social media is also a breeding ground for negativity and sensationalism. It's crucial to understand how this exposure to violence influences people's behavior and shapes cultural norms in our society. Through a social learning perspective, we will explore how individuals observe, imitate, and internalize behaviors observed on social media, and develop strategies to mitigate its negative impacts.


Pre-Social Media Era


Before the advent of social media, individuals were primarily guided by the customs and values imparted by guardians, teachers, and close community members. Behavior was largely influenced by these learned principles, and people tended to abide by societal rules and regulations. The information flow was limited, and exposure to external customs and behaviors was minimal. This fostered a consistent adherence to learned behaviors, making individuals good citizens within their cultural framework.


Social Media Era


In the era of social media, access to information is virtually limitless. Exposure to daily instances of negative behavior, violence, and hate shared across platforms has become commonplace. This pervasive content triggers emotional responses and can subconsciously alter previously learned behaviors and customs.


The Science Behind Social Learning Perspective


Albert Bandura's social learning theory posits that people learn behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions through observing others. This theory suggests that individuals can acquire new behaviors by watching others, a process known as observational learning or modeling. 


Transition in Role Models


Before social media, role models were predominantly people within one's immediate environment, such as parents, family members, friends, and teachers. This closed-loop environment shared common values and customs. 


However, with the rise of social media, these traditional role models are being replaced not only by influencers and content creators, but by all people. Social media has become a significant part of our environment, providing a vast array of behaviors to observe and subconsciously imitate.


Impact of Violent Content on Behavior


Desensitization: Repeated exposure to violent content can desensitize individuals, making them more accepting of violence in real life.


Normalization: Constant viewing of violent acts can normalize aggressive behavior, leading people to believe it is a common or acceptable way to solve problems.


Imitation: Especially in younger individuals, observing violent behavior on social media or other platforms can lead to imitation, as they might see these actions as rewarding or without consequences.


Emotional Contagion: Seeing emotional reactions to violence can spread similar emotions and behaviors through mimicry.


Research and Evidence


Recent studies have explored the relationship between media violence and real-life aggression. 


Key findings from the latest research include:


1. Short-term effects: Exposure to violent media can increase aggressive thoughts and behaviors immediately. For instance, a 2019 study found that short-term exposure to violent video games heightened aggressive thoughts and feelings among young adults.


2. Long-term effects: Longitudinal research indicates that consistent exposure to violent media during childhood correlates with higher aggression levels in later life. A 2021 study revealed that children frequently exposed to violent media displayed increased aggression during adolescence.


Concerns and Mitigating Actions


Given the potential impacts, it is essential to consider strategies to mitigate these effects:


1. Parental Guidance: Monitoring and discussing the content children are exposed to can help mitigate negative impacts. A 2020 study in Journal of Family Communication highlighted the importance of parental mediation in reducing the adverse effects of violent media content on children (Padilla-Walker et al., 2020) .


2. Media Literacy Education: Teaching individuals to critically analyze and understand media content can reduce the likelihood of adopting negative behaviors. A 2019 review in Media Psychology emphasized that media literacy programs effectively reduce susceptibility to media-induced aggression (Jeong et al., 2019) .


3. Content Regulation: Implementing and enforcing policies that limit the exposure to highly violent content, especially for younger audiences, can be beneficial. The 2023 policy recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO) call for stricter regulations on violent media content accessible to children and adolescents (WHO, 2023) .



Bandura's social learning theory suggests that the violent behaviors we observe in the media can significantly influence our actions. Understanding these dynamics is essential for developing effective interventions to mitigate the negative impacts of media violence. As social media continues to shape our cultural landscape, it is imperative to address these challenges proactively to foster a healthier and more constructive online environment.



References


1. Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

2. Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2001). Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science, 12(5), 353-359.


3. Huesmann, L. R., Moise-Titus, J., Podolski, C. L., & Eron, L. D. (2003). Longitudinal relations between children's exposure to TV violence and their aggressive and violent behavior in young adulthood: 1977-1992. Developmental Psychology, 39(2), 201-221.


4. Gentile, D. A., & Anderson, C. A. (2003). Violent video games: The newest media violence hazard. In D. A. Gentile (Ed.), Media Violence and Children (pp. 131-152). Westport, CT: Praeger.


5. Funk, J. B., Baldacci, H. B., Pasold, T., & Baumgardner, J. (2004). Violence exposure in real-life, video games, television, movies, and the internet: is there desensitization? Journal of Adolescence, 27(1), 23-39.


6. Cantor, J., & Wilson, B. J. (2003). Media and violence: Intervention strategies for reducing aggression. Media Psychology, 5(4), 363-403.


7. Bushman, B. J., & Huesmann, L. R. (2010). Aggression. In S. T. Fiske, D. T. Gilbert, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology (5th ed., Vol. 2, pp. 833-863). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.


8. Prescott, A. T., Sargent, J. D., & Hull, J. G. (2019). Short-term effects of exposure to violent video games on aggression: An experimental study. Aggressive Behavior, 45(3), 271-283.


9. Coyne, S. M., Warburton, W. A., & Essig, L. W. (2021). Longitudinal relations between exposure to violent media, empathy, and prosocial behavior in adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 57(4), 642-652.


10. Padilla-Walker, L. M., Coyne, S. M., & Fraser, A. M. (2020). Longitudinal effects of parental mediation of media on adolescents’ prosocial and aggressive behaviors: The role of empathy. Journal of Family Communication, 20(3), 265-284.


11. Jeong, S. H., Cho, H., & Hwang, Y. (2019). Media literacy interventions: A meta-analytic review. Media Psychology, 22(1), 1-28.


12. World Health Organization. (2023). Policy recommendations for regulating violent media content. Retrieved from [WHOwebsite](https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-prevention).

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