Generational difference in media usage:
youngsters in 1960's VS youngsters in 2000's
According to the technological determinism suggested by Marshall McLuhan, different modes of communication cause a cultural change and shape human life. As we are living in the computer-mediated culture, our current access to various media is certainly different to that of my parents’ generation in 1960-70s. Living in a global village, people can share the latest information via the internet simultaneously anytime. As students, we obtain the updated knowledge for our academic school work or simply for our interests and curiosity towards some specific issues, we, therefore, always surf the net to gather some relevant information, books and other credible print materials like newspapers and academic publications, are also the media we frequently access to. Whenever we have to conduct an academic research, we rely on books most in order to look for credible supporting statements and references.
On the contrary, whenever we want to have entertainment, being local youngsters, reading books or glossy magazines, listening to the radio, watching TV and going for movies in theaters are our common leisure. Although we can get lots of information while we are undergoing the above leisure activities, to entertain is our leading purpose of the access to those media. In the meantime, as the internet can provide us with entertainment where we may enjoy abundant pieces of music, songs, movies, books and even news for free, we may fulfill our different desires through the same media, disregarding that all the entertainment is the on-line form. In overview, we would suggest that the proportion of our current access to the print media (books, magazines and newspapers), to the electronic media (radio and TV), and the internet is 3: 2: 5.
From our knowledge after conducting some informal interviews with our parents, we would say that our parents’ media use at the young ages, 1960 -70s, was totally different from ours. As it had not developed into the computer-mediated stage at the time when our parents were young, our parents did not have the opportunity to access to computers, not to mention the internet. Thus, comparing to our daily life, our parents spent rather a lot more time in reading books, newspapers and listening to the radio for acquiring knowledge and entertainment. Some of them might even have the access to TV programs. In overview, we would comment that the proportion of their previous access to the print media to the electronic media was 7 : 3, excluding the computer and internet use. Apparently, there is a huge difference between our daily lives and our parents’ when they were young. We would like to hereby share some of the interesting findings of our parents’ media usage below.
In the 60s when Yannie’s mum was young, she liked watching TV. However, she didn’t have television at home, so when she wanted to watch TV, she had to go to some stores where there was an installed television. Yet, she had to pay for it as an entertainment. At first, it cost HK $5 cents and HK $20 cents the most later. She usually went there with her siblings or neighbors. It was just like going for movies nowadays. Watching TV was always a social activity for her at that time. And later, she met some friends who had a TV at home. Therefore, she could go to their flats and watched TV for free.
Years later, she was happy to have a black and white TV at home. It was because my mum was a fisher and lived on boats, the TV had to be connected to a small generator or a big battery which had been charged at some stores. There was an aerial in the TV and you had to tune it to receive signals. She was so excited whenever the TV received signals successfully. One day in the 70s, her family finally had a color TV. She enjoyed the time when the whole family sat together watching TV. Her favorite TV program was “EYT” (Enjoy yourself Tonight-歡樂今宵).
Besides watching TV, she liked listening to the radio too. She listened to some specific programs which were about current affairs or controversies, such as “18/F Block C” (十八樓C座) and some programs about ghost stories. Also, it was the only channel for her to obtain news. Anyway, the ‘news’, to her, was weather reports. At that time, there was not much international news available. People did not care so much of international news. As a fisher at that time, what she cared most was the climate and weather. She said there were many advertisements too. Many advertisements talked about the price of different kinds of products. Furthermore, she could listen to some local and foreign songs when listened to the radio, such as Elvis Presley’s songs.
Nowadays, at the 21st century, technological innovation has changed the face of media. ‘Developers are beginning to fuse telephone, television, fax, stereo, digital video, and computer into a single media center.’ It’s definitely true. Imagine what your mobile ‘phone’ can do. Of cause, you can call in and out with your mobile ‘phone’. But what’s more? You can listen to radio, listen to music, take photos and videos, and even watch TV. You can even do much more, such as reading news, checking and sending emails, surfing the internet if your mobile phones can go online.
In the case of Vanessa’ Dad, his favorite medium was the radio. He is a music lover and likes to listen to various kinds of music. Apart from watching some famous artists’ or bands’ performance like those of Sam Hui (許冠傑) and Wynners (溫拿樂隊) on TV, he was fond of being exposed to the western music through the radio. Uncle Ray’s radio program is one of his favorites as Uncle Ray kept broadcasting foreign pop songs on RTHK. ABBA, the Eagles and the Carpenters are some of his favorite western bands in his old days. Apparently, radio and TV are the leading media. People were just ‘fed’ by them. But now, we no longer solely rely on the radio and TV, in this computer-mediated century, we mainly rely on the internet. Once we search on the Internet, we can easily obtain lots of information about the latest songs, the most famous singers and works. We can get to know about the latest music trends and activities whenever we want via the internet. Hence, approaches and time to reach the world via the media are two major differences between us and our parents.
Moreover, comparing to our parents’ generation, the media usage has become more interactive nowadays. In the past, it was a one-way feeding communication done by the mass media. Today, we may lead the mass media as a reverse. For instance, when people upload a video clip onto Youtube and it will receive many hits if it interests the public. Because of netizens’ heavy likeliness, it may even appear on newspapers, TV and others media as a piece of soft “news”. Take the case of the Taiwanese, Lin Yu Chun, who sang “I will always love you” on a Taiwanese talent show as an example. His voice is great. Yet, no one would know about him if no one uploaded the video clips onto Youtube. Now, everyone worldwide can listen to his voice on the internet and because of the frequent hits, he has become a hot issue in many top shows worldwide and many mass media, such as ABC, BBC. The boy was even interviewed by Thompson Reuters. Nowadays, mass media is no longer the only parties which bring different music and news to audiences. Audiences can also become influential parties who bring start sharing and direct mass media. In other words, “one-way feeding” and ‘one-to-many’ are not appropriate enough to describe the current communication mode, but ‘many-to-many’.
In addition, because of the different media usage, our social behaviors have also been changed. Told by Yannie’s Mum, she often watched TV with her family members or friends in the past. But now, we seldom seriously sit in front of the TV and watch those programs because we may go online and select our own favorite TV programs or videos. Going to cinemas, to us and our parents, it still is a common and popular kind of leisure. Yet, we may watch movies on the internet as well. Hence, it is not a strong and frequent social activity for us when compared to our parents.
More significantly, media usage can go beyond our expectation and indirectly influence one’s life. Before the advent of the interactive internet, people made friends directly in person and through current friends’ referral. Today, you can simply make “friends” with whoever you are interested in through the function of Facebook. Much earlier than Facebook, MSN and even ICQ are popular online communication tools for people to connect with others and to meet new strangers. We may make new “friends” via those instant messengers even we have no idea about each others’ real identity. Some of our friends are even dating with someone whom they had never met in real person before. This phenomenon is not rare at all nowadays but if it happened in our parents’ generation, it might be heavily criticized as ridiculous. Back to earlier than our parents’ generation, Vanessa’ grandma and grandpa’s marriage also began with the help of a radio. When they were young, they stayed in a corridor in the public estate where they lived in when they were young. Every evening, they listened to the same radio program and discussed about the contents of the program. It was the beginning of their story. Likewise, media usage has kept influencing us, but just in different aspects and by different means.
For sure, technology innovation may increase the chances of connecting others as we have Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, blogs and other applications to share everything with the world interactively. It seems that we connect with each others with no distance in the age of Web 2.0. It seems that we are very close to each others as we can enjoy same songs, same TV programs and open conversations about similar topics or issues acquired from the mass media. However, are we really getting closer and closer while technology is getting more and more advanced? It is not absolute.