I was at work when a mentally ill man took 12 hostages at gunpoint in the Lindt café. My friend came off break and said “Dude! ISIS has taken a café in Sydney with, like, 50 hostages. They’re saying there could be bombs anywhere in the CBD” We continued making juices and smoothies, but our conversation was dictated by disbelief and fear that terrorism had befallen our country.
Our brains are constantly manipulated by the influence of those around us. Parents berate us with lessons as children, and rules as teenagers. Siblings pave paths we want to follow, or paths we refuse to ever slip down. Friends offer us trustworthy opinions on clothes, music, people, and current affairs. Those we see every day have a significant impact on our perception of reality and, in turn, we influence theirs. These perceptions are often initially influenced by a tirade of messages given to us by the media, the headlines of newspapers, and faces gleaming from billboards. While the media can seem distant, its grasp is inescapable and thus is often closer than us to our family and friends. Through the media, the government is also granted power over how we view the world. However, with education and encouragement, we have the ability to reason with all of these influences, and create our own reality.
Our family plays a critical part in influencing our reality, but it also shaped by how we react to their influence. “The jungle is dark, but full of diamonds,” says older brother Ben in Willy’s imaginings. It is Ben, the epitome of the elusive American Dream in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, that is a major influence on Willie Nelson’s perception of reality. Within this reality, the jungle serves as a metaphor for Lowman’s own quest to find success through hard work. In this jungle, Lowman has spent his entire life driving around the country selling goods and telling his sons how to be successful. Ben also shaped Willie’s belief that diamonds are bountiful in this jungle, constructing a reality where when a diamond cannot be found, Willy ultimately sees himself as a failure. His decision to end his life as a result of this proves the lasting impact of the influence from those closest to us. However, the reason Ben cannot be fully blamed for Willy’s suicide is also proof that those close to us don’t have sole control over our reality. Although our family may try to show us the world they see, we can often choose what to do with that information.
Areas of media, such as magazines and advertisements, which are arguably closer to us than our family due to their vast availability, has an almost insurmountable impact on how we perceive the world. Advertisements cover the pages of magazines and our screens. The seemingly perfect appearance of models majorly manipulates the reality of teenagers across the world. Almost all my own friends have looked in the mirror and called themselves ‘fat.’ Many of them believe this makes them flawed, that they need to lose weight. We look at pictures of underwear models on billboards and think ‘wouldn’t everything be perfect if I looked like that.’ In May 2014, lingerie brand ‘Victoria’s Secret’ launched a campaign titled “The Perfect Body,” which featured 12 female supermodels, all of whom were significantly under a healthy weight. Advertisements such as this also go under Photoshop editing and airbrushing, further distorting the reality of their subjects. We look at glossy smiles and bright eyes and believe perfection is real. Problematically, over 60% of fashion models are below a healthy weight. Women and young girls see on average over 5000 advertisements annually that mention attractiveness, and feature such models. It is this that has led over 50% of high school girls to believe they are overweight,