Television news shows many scenes of disasters and violence. What effect can this have on individuals and society?
It’s almost impossible to avoid seeing images of famine, war, natural disasters, and violence on our screens. These graphic images can encourage us to act, or leave us cold. In this essay I will discuss the effects of these constant powerful pictures.
It’s natural to respond to other people’s suffering. When we see hungry children or frightened refugees on our televisions, we want to send money or support. Huge relief efforts such as Live Aid or Action for Haiti have resulted from ordinary people’s reactions. Another natural response is anger. We ask our leaders to act to change the political or economic situation that causes the pain. Some people also take action themselves. They volunteer time in their home communities to raise funds, or even work or fight in the affected region.
However, the frequency of these painful and violent scenes can also have opposite effects. First of all, it doesn’t seem right to watch tsunamis or other disasters while we are eating breakfast. Some people become obsessed with bad news on the television or internet. Second, it’s also natural to protect yourself and those around you. To reduce the impact on ourselves or our families, we change the television channel or make a joke about the conflict or continent affected. Finally, because the images seem never-ending, we get fed up sending money which does not seem to have any effect. Many people feel powerless and therefore do nothing, until an even more powerful image is forced on them.
In conclusion, these scenes can motivate us to act and help others, or they can discourage and depress us. It’s probably better to think carefully about what we watch and our reasons for watching.