In order to first receive mass media messages, we must first have a mass media. However, even though our technologies today have enabled mass communications with ease, our primary source of influence still comes from interpersonal communication.
The process of developing a mass media was well underway in the 1800s when the first trans-Atlantic telegraph lines were being conceived. Standage describes the process by which this first trans-Atlantic telegraph line, a difficult and unthinkable endeavor, was successfully completed in the book The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-Line Pioneers. Soon after the line was completed, the demand for its use was incredible, and the telegraph quickly became “essential,” just as the internet is regarded today. Standage explains the process in which, through a series of interlinked telegraph lines, pneumatic tubes, and messengers, a Victorian internet was created. People were connected in ways they had never been before.
As was with the Victorian internet of telegraph technology, our modern day mass media keep us connected more than ever. With so much connection and media, a hypothesis was developed about the flow of communication of influences and ideas. This two-step flow hypothesis, as described in Katz’ study “The Two-Step Flow of Communication: An Up-To-Date Report on an Hypothesis,” is the idea that “opinion leaders” receive their information from the media, and then disseminate it to those who are influenced by them. However, Katz’ concludes that while opinion leaders do have more contact with media, it is not by much more than those who are influenced by the opinion leader. He also states that opinion leaders do not actually gather most of their influences from the media, but rather interpersonal relations. People communicating with people is the primary way ideas are transferred.
With the establishment of the Victorian internet changing the way the world communicated and leading up to our present day mass media, it might be expected that this is where our influences come from. However, as Katz’ study supports, we are still more inclined to be influence by real people than our media. The interesting thing about the media is that these are still people, their ideas are just being mediated by technologies. Nevertheless, our media has been changing since the time of Katz’ article. Now more than fifty years later, technologies have blended more and more with our interpersonal relations. The introduction of cell phones and the internet provide us with more efficient ways to communicate to our those we know, but not necessarily new ways. The Victorian internet existed before Katz’ article, and yet interpersonal relations are still the number one influence. Simply put, communicating directly with people is powerful.
My Question: What is it about interpersonal relations that is so influential that media does not have?