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Youth culture and the media

Updated on June 4, 2014

Cultural imperialism can be defined as any attempt or a process by which domineering, fully developed or economically powerful countries try to influence the less developed or economically inferior countries into shedding their cultural values, traditions and lifestyles, and adopting the values and traditions of superior countries. Alternatively, some scholars define cultural imperialism as a summation of all the processes by which a community is advanced into the modern world lifestyles and how its governing echelon is pressured to shape its social institutions to correspond to the social values, traditions and structures of the ruling central system (Maity, 2013). Cultural imperialism cuts across all the dimensions of life, ranging from diets, lifestyles, languages, songs and dances, modes of dressing, economic and educational systems, traditions and societal norms under which every society is founded (Maity, 2013). For example, most of the third world countries have either been consciously or unconsciously forced or influenced into adopting western values and lifestyles over their traditional cultures. They adore and strive to follow the American culture. The latter has resulted to westernization. When all countries shed or incorporate their different cultures and create one unique culture, global cultural imperialism is said to have taken place.

The social media has been the key driver to cultural imperialism. Because of technological advancements, individuals from all corners of the world have been able to communicate and share information with ease (Kaul, 2011). Most of the social media via which individuals have been able to pass information and borrow from diverse cultures are the internet; comprising of social platforms such as Facebook, twitter, Skype, Yellow pages, Huddle and many others. Some other social media comprise of weblogs, digital televisions and radio broadcasts. Television programs rank as among the most influential medium of information sharing in the modern world. Through television channels, programs are repetitively transmitted locally and nationally to local and national audiences respectively. Such television programs are later transmitted to the global level. Therefore, global television is the most influential channel of cultural imperialism (Kaul, 2011). It transmits television programs from one country to another, resulting to the creation of a network of television channels that cover the whole world.

Despite its informative, educative and entertainment roles in the society, the media has propagated negative impacts of cultural imperialism among the youths of third world countries. Cultural promotions via global television and other media forms have enormously impacted the third world youths of today. These promotions of an alien culture have been made possible by a set of cosmopolitan cultures that the youths consider as elite and popular, artistic and scientific (Osgerby, 2004). Such cultures have led to the incorporation of English as a universal language. Because of the wide influence that the ‘alien’ language ‘English’ has had to the third world country teens, many have chosen to drop their national and tribal languages. Worst of all, most of the youth’s spoken English is learned via western music, dramas, theatricals and videos. This implies that the youths’ minds have been corrupted with vulgar words and speeches that do not conform to the societal norms and values (Fedorak, 2009). The example of adopting English as a universal language by the teens of the third world countries would have been completely appreciative and profitable if the right English language, accent and grammar were taught in classes by professional teachers. However, another controversy arises. It is true that most of the third world schools teach English as a general subject. However, the little English that the teens learn in schools are again corrupted by the media via western music, dramas and videos (Fedorak, 2009). Therefore, global cultural imperialism has resulted to youths who are culturally emaciated and alienated (World Youth Report, 2003). The youths no longer know their language. Even speaking the official English language is difficult for them because their minds have been corrupted by filthy words that they hear from songs and videos played in the media, promoting a western culture.

Through the promotion of global cultural imperialism, the media has served to corrupt the traditional dances and songs from third world countries. The youths of third world countries have been greatly imprisoned by Western songs and dances because they view them as being fashionable. Their youths have adopted western songs and dances, more so American’s, that they watch and listen from several media (Osborn, 2006). This has resulted to the disappearance of traditional songs and dances that used to unite the third world countries. Songs that used to promote good moral values and loyalty to one’s country have been extinct from the societies. Because the youths fancy everything that they see and hear from the media, they have stopped promoting and singing their country’s loyalty songs and adopted western songs. For example, America’s loyalty songs have been sung by third world teens, unknowingly promoting the loyalty of another nation instead of theirs (World Youth Report, 2003). Because of the media and western influences, cultural imperialism has robbed the third world youths of their cultural songs and dances. They have been left with no cultural songs and dances that they can cherish.

Consequently, cultural imperialism propagated by the media has affected youths’ dress codes. Female teens exhibit their bosoms with rumps hanging out of their clothing. They wear short and loose clothing’s that reveal most of their body parts (World Youth Report, 2003). Such dressing styles have not been acceptable to most cultures of third world countries. Because they view such styles of dressing as being fashionable, the teenage girls conflict much with their parents and guardians. These conflicts result to girls escaping from their homes into the secular world where they encounter moral corruption. After settling in town centres that promote the western permissiveness, the girls tend to be promiscuous and risk contaminating sexually transmitted diseases and other ailments.

The teenage boys have also been affected by cultural imperialism propagated by the media. They walk around the urban centres with their trousers sagging below their waists. Male teens fancy funny dress styles, such as hanging many chains around their necks and waists. Other chains hang loose from their shoulders. In so doing, male teens they wish copy the life styles of popular rap artists whom they see in televisions singing the rap music (Osborn, 2006). These are clear indications that the media makes teens believe that whatever they see or hear from them is fashionable (Ashraf & Arif, 2009). The young teenage males are disillusioned that copying the dress styles of western artists would make them attractive to ladies (The United Nations, n.d). Similarly, teenage girls are made to believe that adopting western dresses and cultures would elevate their dignity and land them to prominent suitors for marriage (Ashraf & Arif, 2009). These are clear indications that both the media and global cultural imperialism is misleading the teens.

Global cultural imperialism has also affected the dieting life styles of third world countries. Youths in these countries prefer exotic or imported foods rather than their local ones. Foreign meals such as vegetable salads, canned foods, baked snacks and fried rice have been more preferable to third world country youths. The increase in consumption of imported food products from western countries bears significant economic consequences to third world countries and their youths (The United Nations, n.d). This has also led to dumping of processed western foods to third world countries. When the rate of imports exceeds the rates of local foods exported, the economy of third world countries is severely affected.

Generalising issues is not a proper way of arguing for or proving a particular issue. In order to demonstrate how global cultural imperialism negatively affects the youths of third world countries, it is imperative to analyse or refer to at least one third world country. For example, in Nigeria, most of the teens have been affected by the accent and language that artists, great Hollywood actors, actresses, and pop stars use. They copy their lifestyles and characters as seen in television programs and songs. For example, Nigerian girls are accepting to be called “bitches” by their opposite sexes only because they see video songs from western countries referring women as such (Iyorza, 2014). Majority of the Nigerian youths copy nude modes of dressing, dances that are suggestive and images that provoke the sexual desires of young women and men. Additionally, other Nigerian youths copy the violent behaviour that is portrayed in many of the Hollywood videos they watch. After watching the violent movies or television programs, they learn or tend to be unnecessarily aggressive. The latter results to increased cases of violence, crime sprees and unnecessary shoot outs as teens turn into criminals (Iyorza, 2014).

Worst of all, some Nigerian youths express all sorts of romance behaviours in public. Such behaviours are un-African. Additionally, such youths prefer watching the European league to the detriment of their local league. The permissive culture of the Western world has also percolated into the Nigerian culture. Many Nigerian parents now allow their children to watch some of the most corrupt global television programs in the absence of their guidance (Iyorza, 2014). Such media programs promote nudity and other pornographic contents that spoil the innocent minds of children. Because of the media and global cultural imperialism, the Nigerian culture of promoting good social norms is being eroded. With the opportunity provided by the new media, Nigerian youths today spend more time watching global television programs. They watch musicals which are corrupted with nudity and suggestive dance steps, drama series with strong story lines of love and action movies featuring gangsters. Such movies promote acts of shooting, killings, disgusting modes of dressing, speaking as well as modes of walking which are unacceptable in the African cultural context (Iyorza, 2014).

In conclusion, adopting a global cultural imperialism bears more negative consequences than positively influencing the youths. Global cultural imperialism exposes teens to many risks. It robs them of their dignity, corrupts their minds and leaves them culturally alienated. It leaves them in a confused culture that does not conform to the principles of Christian living. Therefore, I do not support global cultural imperialism. Every country should retain and protect its cultures from being eroded or influenced by foreign cultures. Leaders should try their level best to protect their citizens from being exposed to foreign cultures that rob them of their cultural identity.

Reference list

Ashraf, K., & Arif, I. (2009). Media imperialism and its effects on culture of Pakistan: a case study of youth of Multan. Global Media Journal, 2(1).

Fedorak, S. (2009). Pop Culture: the culture of everyday life. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Iyorza, S. (2014). Global Television and Cultural Promotion: Taming the Cultural Dilemma among Nigerian Youths. International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, 4(4).

Kaul, V. (2011). Globalisation and the Media. Journal of Mass Communication and Journalism, 1, 105.

Maity, N. (2013). From Comic Culture to Cyber Culture: Cultural Imperialism and Its Impact on the Youth since 1960s. OSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science (IOSR-JHSS), 8 (4), 10-14.

Osborn, R. (2006). The Influence of American Popular Culture in the Global Media. Retrieved on 4th May 2014 from: http://www2.webster.edu/~garyford/class_materials/MEDC%206000%20-%20Rebecca%20Osborn%20Thesis-SP2-06.pdf

Osgerby, B. (2004). Youth Media. London: Rutledge.

The United Nations. (n.d). United Nations Report on Global Situation of Youth Shows Changing Trends. Retrieved on 4th May 2014 from: http://www.un.org/events/youth98/backinfo/yreport.htm

World Youth Report. (2003). Young people in a globalizing world. Retrieved on 4th May 2014 from: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/documents/ch11.pdf

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