When the Family Becomes a Public Matter

A guest blog article by Audrey Ann Harjung (woman of God, student, world citizen)

Media and family are two entirely different institutions that should have never been intertwined.

Media is so open and racy and brings everything, all the dirty little secrets and skeletons in one’s closet, out for the whole world to scrutinize. Before media was so popular, most things concerning the family were kept very private and secretive. No one really knew what was going on in anyone else’s lives. Obviously if there was a scandal of sorts, the community would hear about it by word of mouth – then sweep it under some invisible rug to disappear.

But now, because of the media, especially the Internet, the whole world will know about a scandal by morning – and it won’t disappear. Everyone will be talking about it, it will be on the cover of all the newspaper and the first topic in the news on the television. When family is concerned, the media should have nothing to do with it. It simply is not right that the media gets to decide when a family matter will become a public matter.

Another reason that media and family should not interfere with each other is because of the way in which media portrays family, or what a family should like look. Recently it has gotten a little better, showing families of mixed races/ethnicities, showing families with adopted children or foster children, even showing families with same sex parents. But in decades prior to this, all of these families would have been seen as families that are not of the “norm” or are not “perfect” or up to societies standards of what a family should look like. That is one positive, the progress of different types of families being portrayed in the media more and more.

Before it was negative portrayals for anyone who was not a middle-class white American, born and raised within the same family having religious, heterosexual parents that would never dream of getting divorced or so much as arguing in front of their children, that are of only their own blood. Obviously this is not how every family was, say back in the 1950s, but that was how every family was portrayed. And it was everywhere within the media, always hinting that this is how your family should be, and if it is not, then shame on you for failing at raising the perfect family as presented in American society.

Honestly, we are not even fully aware of the effects that media has had on the institution of family, and vice versa. We should look more closely at the way we are treating the media, and how much of it we are buying into.  Maybe even look at what we can do that would change the media on a grand scheme, because we need to think of our society as a whole and not just ourselves for a change.

The impact of the media on the family is so negative and toxic, that something needs to be done – like now.

But, no matter how you cut it, the media spreads news like a wildfire spreads in the forest. It is unstoppable and relentless. And when family is brought into the media, for the public to view and judge and comment on, when it is really none of their business, it creates feelings in the members of the family, which might not have been there in the first place. It is embarrassing and rude and wrong that as a society we have for so long given in to the temptation to seek out and to know another family’s business.

We should be worried about our own families, rather than always worrying about what that other family is up to.

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23 thoughts on “When the Family Becomes a Public Matter

  1. I totally agree, with social media these days, people are quick to try and get their 15 minutes of fame, via facebook or youtube. We post all these videos and stories online without thinking how it would affect the people in it. We might see a video of a couple fighting in public and maybe the lady slaps her husband. We might see it as a woman standing up for herself but we don’t know the full story. Now this couple’s relationship is out there being examined by viewers, and throwing in their own opinions about things when they don’t know the full story. Plus now this scene is out there and what if people do not want to relive it but they can’t do anything about it.

    1. I find your comment to be 100% accurate! People are trying too hard to become famous over something so irrelevant when we have bigger world wide issues to focus on. It is so easy to just click the share button without really considering how it would affect anyone. And yes, we do not know the truth behind any video, post, meme, or picture. Once the post is out there for everyone to see it literally takes seconds for it to spread like wildfire!

      1. That share button is the problem with today’s society, it make someone famous or infamous. Unfortunately we cannot escape it, we feed off these videos and can’t help but share them. Almost like a guilty pleasure, maybe we look at them to justify our lives or to compare, maybe think, wow, maybe my life isn’t that bad. Either way, I don’t think this is going to ever change, so hopefully people can distinguish when a video is causing damage between couples, families, or friends.

      2. @stirthepot1017
        Yeah I’ve seen so many people and their reputations become stained because of this. It is really tragic and the worst part is that the video/post carries on with people though out their life span. But yes I agree with you I don’t ever think that this is going to change sadly. This leads to bullying and also to people even committing suicide.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your article and agree with you 100% on how everyone should mind their own business and worry about their own family, because we never know what will happen tomorrow. Sadly though the media will forever have power and show the not so pretty side of things without a care of how the people may look. Yeah sure we can unite and fight it, but nothings going to happen, there will always be someone waiting to troll and find a negative side of things to judge. Things that are on the internet will forever be there, but we don’t know the actual truth behind it. Sometimes we are just spectators looking in and find it funny to judge and share the picture/video of other people’s humiliation, but we don’t take a second to think about how it would affect us. No one’s family is “picture perfect” nor “ideal” we are all simply living in hopes to be successful, and everyone’s vision of “success” is different.

  3. I agree completely. Social media has made it so there are no more secrets. There still needs to be some secrets in the world because there are somethings that people just don’t want to know at all. Social media including television has made such a big thing on how families should be. That shouldn’t be allowed at all every family should be different because that is what makes families so special. Also who would want to try to imitate what the families on TV are like?

    1. I agree Christian, every family is different, and special. People shouldn’t use the media as an example of how to be a family. Everyone is unique, and that what makes us have identities and personalities. The world would be so boring if every family was the same. Also, family secrets/drama should be kept private. Even though the person sharing may be okay with sharing the others involved might not be.

  4. This is a very good article. I can completely understand where you are coming from. When something is posted on the media, it must be important because the media feels the need to tell us. Well that’s exactly why we see that this family, couple, or friends should look like, because we as society feel that what the media shows us is important enough to learn from. According to the Sociological Imagination, by C. Wright Mills, we should step out of our own perspective and examine the situation from a different perspective. I believe as a society we need to look at ourselves in a different perspective to see how we REALLY look. See if we are happy with how to are acting, treating one another, see if we are living a healthy lifestyle after what we see or what is portrayed on the media.

  5. I have witnessed first hand families fighting over social media and it usually starts because of bad communication or how someone interprets something when in reality they didn’t mean it like that. There is many positives about social media when it comes to family as well though, you can talk to relatives that may live far away, share great memories with family, and finally the most important just keep in contact with family. Yes there is negatives that come from it as well but I think positives come over rule the negatives and social media can actually bring families together.

    1. I agree with you G.Alma! I feel like sometimes the negatives over shadow the positives about social media. There are a lot of controversies about how social media is just a waste of time, when it can be at times. It really just depends on how you use it personally. Social media such as Facebook do allow families that are over seas so communicate so easily just as if they were not so far away by sharing pictures and posts of important events.

  6. A person’s private life is exactly that; private. Per the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, every citizen has the right to privacy and a lack of intrusion by others. However, popularity plays a critical part in just about any person’s life, but the negative aspects are just as much prevalent as the benefits. As popularity increases, so does the negativity, criticism and stress, and ultimately, personal privacy tends to be the first causality of popularity, much like truth being the first causality of war. Ask just about any celebrity and they will attest to this. Our world has greatly moved on from the mentality of only focusing on an individual, and how a person’s entire background and family often fall victim to scrutiny and spotlight for the most petty of reasons, and quite frankly, there’s little that can truly be done about it. Once tarnished by society, a person’s reputation is hard to recover, regardless of what the truth might be surrounding it.

  7. I agree with this article a 100%. Media, unfortunately takes over peoples lives. The media tends to show all sorts of negative things. Especially, when it comes to family that type of business should stay private no matter what. Families do share everything with each other, also when it becomes on Facebook. Families fight over social media and sometimes it gets so bad that it breaks the family apart. I feel things should be private between you and your family, not spread all over Facebook. You need to share the good things on media with your family, not who got a divorce or who is mad at who. We should be sharing pictures and fun times we have with our families.

  8. Indeed, this article sheds light on what I consider to be a growing issue in today’s society. I agree with everything the author has to say in this article. Media, be it TV, magazines, social media sites,etc., has an overwhelming influence in people’s lives. We see families like the Kardashians, the Duggers, and the Chrisleys that dominate today’s tabloids and headlines. We are forced to be subjected to their lunacy, turmoils, and dysfunction. These are our role models, or at least who the Media thinks we should be idolizing, as evident through their tireless efforts to keep us up to date on everything the family does ever (take snapchat, for example, who puts out a new story about Kylie Jenner and the Kardashians every. single. day.). Even if inadvertent, constantly portraying their lives for all to see makes an imprint on us, whether we’re aware of it or not, and if not careful can end up influencing our minds or the minds of our youth. What goes on behind closed doors of a family’s household should not be anyone’s business but their own, nor should it be of importance of to anyone else. Exposing families like this is both detrimental to our lives and their own, and making one family’s issues public is irreversible and opens them up to widespread criticism or judgment. As members of society we trust the Media to share with us information that is of utmost importance and necessity, and the kind of influence they are broadcasting through the indecent exposure of these reality TV families is in my opinion counterproductive to the functionality of the family dynamic in society today.

  9. I completely disagree with this blog post. The main issue with the post is that they make the claim the assumption that every little thing that happens in a family will be fleshed out in the media. However, the media will not pick up some obscure family’s issue to make them seem bad. Just looking into the news now, the stories being covered are of important issues. For example, a family member was murdered, a tornado hit their house. These are issues that the media is not trying to ridicule a family for but rather bring forth the public’s attention to. The media is trying to help these people not hinder them. Another issue that I have noticed that most of the comments address is that our vision of the “American” family is being blurred by reality TV shows like the Kardashians. Now, if I were to ask anyone on the streets if they thought that they should exemplify these individuals and see them as an example of a real family, I would receive stark responses of no. These shows are sources of entertainment. If someone cannot determine the difference between entertainment media and news media, then that person has larger issues than being influenced by a reality star.

    1. I agree with you, and know that families portrait on television shows are mere entertainment but our generation do get influenced by these shows. I personally think there are other forms of better entertainment than paying attention to other family’s drama. Unfortunately like you mention there are people that cannot differentiate between entertainment and news media.

  10. I have mixed emotions about this article. I do agree that the media spread a lot of personal information in the blink of an eye, sometimes without our control. Personally, I don’t like the idea of so many people having my personal information, like where I work and who I’m related to at the tips of their fingers. Things that should be kept between family members can be posted online for everyone to see. I think a big part of it is that everyone wants to always think they are right all time. When they post things like fights with their family members, or anyone else, online it’s so others can see and “like” their comment or back them up. It all stems from the basic human need for constant reassurance.

  11. Privacy and privacy of the family should be respected as our parents respect us. In this new age of social media is common to see people who update their states by criticizing their own family, letting the public give their opinion. This type of behavior is from an immature person who wants all his friends to facebbok or other social networks to comment on his family situation. This is a mistake that should be avoided since no one cares about your family matters, unless you are a member of the same family or very close friends. When this happens, we give all people freedom to think and express what they want to say, which leads us to feel more anger, more desperation not knowing what to do and sometimes worsen the situation in our family. Family problems are fixed at home, social media are not a type of program or application that helps us fix our problems, on the contrary, it worsens the situation, if we need a friend to give us an advice we must do it carefully involved in the problem .

    1. I agree with you, Lina, that privacy should be respected, but when we share personal matters we are inviting everyone to criticize us. You say that family problems are fixed at home, but sometimes we need to reach out to other people for help and the media is a great tool for that. The media has its advantages and disdavantages.

      1. Social Media is a great tool as you Said Vera, the problem is that some people do not how to use it, people get confused sometimes and let their friends make assumptions or comments about any situation that involucres family. Of course, we sometines need advices from our fiends, thats waht we have the possibility to send a private message to our feinds.

  12. I absolutely agree with this blog, I don’t feel that society should have any say on how a family should be or what goes on within a family. It’s not their business, everyone is so interested in others flaws and business they don’t stop to think about their own flaws or how to better care for their family. If people spent half the time on their family that they do in other people’s business, then they could possibly have a tighter knit family. When media and the world get to have opinions on what families should be like and how they should act that can create problems that would otherwise would have been non-existent. Society needs to stop feeding into the closed mindset of how things should be, and be more open to change we would alleviate so much stress from people if we did.

  13. I agree and disagree, because the media is a double-edged sword. It is true that family matters should stay within the family and not be exposed to the world through the media, because it allows for people to enter your personal family circle and enforce their opinion on the issue. Sometimes family matters shared on the media can help resolve a situation, for example looking for a transplant donor, raising money for a health treatment and finding emotional support. It is up to us to determine what can be shared or not through the media and accept the consequences.

    1. I agree with you Vera, the media in some occasions help us find people who can help us in these health issues, but what I do not agree is that people publish their problems with their parents, siblings or cousins, and Leave these publications in the open for public opinion. with Social networks we must learn to manage, have control over our publications and not let other people have control over our emotions, some people are weak publish these status in disagreement with some family topic and maybe get carried away by what someone to say againstof the family.

  14. I do agree with the points that you make and I want to point out that yes, a lot of movies, tv shows, even kids television shows do show a lot more variances of genders, races, and religions. This is very important because all children at a young age should be aware and know that these races or religions exist. An example of this if I may explain, involves my younger brother. We were one day, at old navy looking for clothes and he was at about the age of 4. We were walking around and in the clothing store was a mixture of people that had African American, Mexican, white people, and others of a eauropean background. I didn’t think anything of it but it wasn’t until we got in the car after shopping that my 4 year old brother said “why is their skin so dark?”. Yes I know kids are young, curious, knieve, and very much speak the truth, but, that is why the integration of all races, ethnicities, genders, and cultures, in movies or just public in general is important to the wider society.

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