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Socialization:  Peer Groups and Media

Socialization: Peer Groups and Media

Author: Zach Lamb

Identify the role of peer groups and the media in the socialization process, including the concept of anticipatory socialization.

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Socialization: Peer Groups and the Media

Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. Welcome to Sociological Studies. We're going to talk about peer groups and the mass media and their role in socialization. Sociologists are really concerned with this idea of socialization-- how we come to be functioning adults in society-- and there are many different aspects of socialization, many different contributors. So in this lesson, we're really going to hone in on two of those contributors-- peer groups and the mass media and learn how they help us socialize, how they help us develop.

A peer group can be defined as a group of individuals who share a common trait or common traits, such as interests, age, and class position. When you establish a peer group, when you start going to school and establish a peer group, and into your teen years, this is where you really get a chance to get away from mom and dad and make relationships on your own that mom and dad don't really have that much control over. Mom and dad are concerned about who you're hanging out with because they know the influence of a peer group.

Peer groups will form around interests and hobbies that mom and dad may or may not approve of, such as drinking, doing drugs, or having sex. Peer groups tend to be interest groups. They're hugely influential in your short term, day-to-day activities, what you do today, what you do tonight, what you're going to do this weekend, et cetera. These activities the peer group has a lot of influence over. Longer term goals, your parents still have more sway over. The peer group is really good for explaining short term activity.

Along with the peer group, we have what's called anticipatory socialization, which is learning the social behaviors of a group to which you desire to belong, say sororities or frats, or co-workers and bosses, and the football team or the cheerleaders. Imagine you're moving to a new school. You want to get in with a peer group, you learn the behaviors and ways of a peer group and this is anticipatory socialization.

In fact, just last night, I was watching an episode of The Office where two branches of Dunder Mifflin merge and Andy has to come to the Scranton branch and he says right away that, I'm going to succeed, I'm going to be number two in this company really fast because I'm going to do personality mirroring, which is just aping the personality of his boss, Michael. So sure enough, right away in the episode, he starts mirroring exactly Michael's mannerisms and senses of humor and before you know it, Michael's like, I really love this new guy, Andy. This is an example of anticipatory socialization, learning the social behaviors of a group to which you desire to belong.

Now I want to shift gears and discuss the role of mass media in our socialization process. The mass media defined is really television, internet, radio, magazines, movies, newspapers, any outlet of social and cultural information that can reach a mass audience impersonally, just a blanket dissemination of knowledge. That's the mass media. The mass media is really the machinery of culture. It's how we get new ideas and it's the primary source of information acquisition in society.

When we're young, we start out watching tons and tons of TV and studies have found that poorer people tend to watch more TV than richer people. But now, YouTube and social networking sites are getting increasingly important relative to TV, especially now with the near ubiquity of smartphones in the capitalist world. Any time you have a spare 30 seconds in line, ordering your coffee, or doing whatever it is you're doing, on the subway, wherever, you have that constant mass media outlet in your hand. Even if you have 30 seconds, you can plug-in, see what's happening, see what your friends are doing, see what they're buying, see where they are. There's this constant surge, onslaught of information, mass media information in the palm of your hand.

So what happens as a result of this then is the lines between human relationships and social activities on the one hand, they're constantly blurring and overlapping with marketing and capitalists interests. To give you an example, the popular smartphone app, Words With Friends. Many of you might play it, but if not, you might be familiar with it. It's a way to play Scrabble on your smartphone with your friends. Well, this app, in order to download it and play it has a little covert function-- and other apps do this as well-- they have immense access to your phone data-- who you're talking to, text messaging records, things like that. So this information then can be sold to agencies who can provide targeted offers to you on your phone via Facebook or via other applications. So in this way, we have this constant blurring of social relationships, marketing opportunities, and capitalist interests.

The mass media is ubiquitous and always with us thanks to the smartphone. We start out watching a lot of TV when we're younger, as I said, but as we get older, TV becomes less important than YouTube and Facebook, especially this generation. Parents can tell their kids all they want, but then the kids can ignore their parents and go onto YouTube and find something interesting and controversial or cats out of the bag. They can do whatever they want. So the mass media is a hugely important outlet of socialization in late capitalist society or advanced capitalist society. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to learn about some avenues of socialization, the mass media and the peer group. Have a great rest of your day.

Terms to Know
Anticipatory Socialization

Learning the social behaviors of a group to which you desire to belong; e.g. sororities and frats, coworkers and bosses, and the football team and cheerleaders.

Mass Media

Any outlet of social and cultural information that reaches a mass audience impersonally; e.g. television, internet, magazines, radio, movies, and newspapers.

Peer Group

A group of individuals who share common traits such as interests, age, and class position.