Around the whole globe, the theme of street gangs and their role in society has already become a crucial and provocative issue. Some people observe the activities of gangs on the streets from time to time, and some people still develop their opinions regarding the material they can find in the media. Therefore, the role of media in human perception of street gangs cannot be ignored. Gangs may use social media to strengthen their messages, threaten, or just communicate (Patton et al. 1000). The opinions about gangs have been formulated for a long period. Although bad media coverage is usually received, many people stay compassionate to such street gatherings (Storrod and Densley 677). In this media analysis paper, the role of social media and the information people can find about gangs online in their intentions to learn more will be developed, focusing on the purposes of the media pieces, discussing media proficiency, and evaluating sociological imagination.
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Media Purpose and Main Points
Today, it is hard to develop one particular attitude and understanding of street gangs. For example, globalization promotes new complex environmental, social, and economic processes that led to “convergences in lifestyles and behaviors… marked by lines of global stratification” (Fraser and Hagedorn 43). Due to modern technological progress, gangs now exist in a real-world with all their rules and norms, as well as in a virtual world, facing “interactions in geographical and social space” (Storrod and Densley 677). It is not enough for a person to decide to be a member of a gang and open a new page in social life. It is necessary to be ready to deal with multiple effects of such kind of membership, including certain individual, behavioral, cognitive, and health outcomes (Papachristos et al. 624). These are the main points discussed in social media about street gangs and their extreme growth in modern society.
However, it is wrong to believe that the media offers one particular position about gangs. The peculiar feature of the media pieces like magazines, newspapers, talk shows, films, and documentaries is that their authors can prove that a gang member takes correct steps to achieve the desired goal and follow all related norms. All at once, the same situation can be introduced from a different angle, and a gang member becomes a villain with several rules being broken. Finally, it is possible to find a source where the author discusses this case with compassion and understanding. Street gangs are usually compared with youth crimes and the inability to control the behaviors of young people. Therefore, media analysis is a chance to combine the evaluation of historical events, understand personal attitudes, and compare real and digital images.
Role of Media in Gangs’ Perceptions
The truth about street gangs is not a simple thing that can be found somewhere on the surface. The gap between human perception and real facts about street gangs is under frequent discussions of many researchers and criminologists. For example, Storrod and Densley offer to compare instrumental and expressive gang activities to understand the emotions of gang members and the reasons why they are interested in street gathering (680). Rodríguez and Martínez suggest the reality when young people are pushed to choose a gangster lifestyle because of deindustrialization and globalization combined with cynicism and racial tensions. Howell uses such phrases as “poverty squalid conditions, and great prejudice” to explain the growth of gangs on the streets (2). Still, the present and the past of street gangs are as different as the representation of these organizations in the media and reality.
Past and Present Experiences
Though people do not support the idea of street gangs close to their homes because of possible life threats, disorder, and unpredictable behaviors, they continue following the growth of these organizations via social media and different media pieces. The history of street gangs is full of interesting and terrible moments. Howell finds it stimulating to use various epithets to underline a diversity of people when they “thrived amidst the squalor” or suffered from criminal courts and repetitive imprisonment (7). During many years, American neighborhoods were “stepped in gang culture, resulting in turf conflict and entrenched gang-related violence” (Patton et al. 1002). The authors do not choose one attitude toward gangsters. They provide the reader with an opportunity to combine different emotions and facts and develop their own opinion.
Sometimes, it is interesting to know if gang members would like to change their past and observe another present. Media helps to find out what happened to a gangbanger of the 1980s who was fascinated by ruled hip-hop and racialized terror (Rodríguez and Martínez). Unfortunately, the majority of gangster “veteranos” can be now found in prisons or even dead because of chosen violence or drugs (Rodríguez and Martínez). Some members of street gangs admit that they regret their choices all the time because of the lost lives of relatives and close people. For example, Steve Blount, “an original member of the Evergreen gang and one of the few African-Americans in Latino gangs” confesses that he cries all the time with his deepest sorrow of his son’s homicide two decades ago (Rodríguez and Martínez). Media proves that the present for many gang members is not as fascinating and promising as their past was.
Understanding of a Gangbanger
Media sources should be used not for supporting or opposing gangsters but for understanding a gangbanger and choices made. The main thing that has to be remembered is that the media does not give definite answers and the only true information. Media is an instrument with the help of which people exchange data, their subjective opinions. Social media will hardly become an objective source of information. Therefore, it must introduce and provide options for its readers regardless of their age, race, and gender. Storrod and Densley state that the Internet, as well as other media pieces, is a “product of culture, a cultural artifact, and a space in which culture is formed and reformed” (681). Gang membership depends on sociality, identity, and the decision to have similar or different social behaviors (Storrod and Densley 681). To trust or not to trust media is the choice of a reader. The task of an author is to give as much information and things to think about as possible so that a reader can understand the essence.
Gang Reality through Digital Glasses
Electronic aggression and violence differ from real cases of aggression demonstrated by street gangs. When people do not see each other’s faces and emotions, it is easy to create messages and choose positions. Social media is used to “provoke, anticipate, or dodge potentially violent encounters in person”, and methods vary (Patton et al. 1012). Many young people are ready to use fiction and imagination offered via media to create individual or collective groups and promote new identities without even understanding if such decision can be effective. Despite the intentions to provoke and motivate, media confuses and creates delusions. Emotions and desires formed online are not always appropriate for the real-life world, and not all potential gang members realize this truth (Patton et al. 1012). They have to be ready to start thinking critically and observe the real world where they have to live.
Digital and real violence should never be compared and defined as the two concepts with similar characteristics. A person can hardly kill another person with a printed word or an emoticon. Though properly constructed words and sentences make an impression and discover some characteristics of a personality, they may be not enough for real communication, face-to-face meetings, and the establishment of gang culture. Co-involvement in risky behaviors, physical co-offending, and governmental intentions to mitigate deviant behaviors determine young people’s plans to be a part of a street gang (Papachristos et al. 627). This experience in real life differs from the one shared online. Even if a person reads about the event online and observes the description in detail, this information may mislead and create fantasies that are far from reality. To become a member of a group, to demonstrate skills, and to communicate respectfully are the tasks that can hardly be performed online. It is a personal decision that should be based on personal experience, observation, and critical thinking.
Possible Changes and Important Lessons
Membership in street gangs is the topic of many newspaper and journal articles. Readers are not obliged to support or oppose the information they find online. Available media pieces are the works created by ordinary people who can make mistakes, choose false judgments, stay prejudiced, or neglect specific norms. The work on this media analysis paper on street gangs proves that obedience is not the goal that has to be achieved. Education, knowledge base creation, and the exchange of experience can be promoted. However, each gang is a unique gathering of people with different emotions, attitudes, and beliefs. Media can hardly cover all aspects in one or two articles or even in one documentary. Each story has its ground, and the main lesson people can learn is that gang lifestyle cannot be characterized by certain stereotypes. It is normal to change one’s opinion, demonstrate different emotions, and even be wrong. Street gang life is complicated, and the analysis shows that media does not facilitate it but create more new obstacles and challenges.
People should not be afraid to support gangs, as well as to show their neglect or even enmity. It is impossible to make a conclusion and be sure it stays permanent all the time. To reduce the number of wrong decisions, digital and real gang worlds must be distinguished. There is no clear line between these two worlds, and the task is to know how to find it.
In general, street gangs cannot be defined as purely bad or good for today’s society. These organizations have a long history with several aspects to be taken into consideration. Sometimes, gangs help people discover their identities and support each other. In some cases, gangs ruin human lives and lead to multiple sorrows and regrets. Media can be used to create an image of a gang. Still, the conclusion if this image is right or wrong should be made by each person individually.
Fraser, Alister, and John M. Hagedorn. “Gangs and a Global Sociological Imagination.”Theoretical Criminology, vol. 22, no. 1, 2016, pp. 42–62.
Howell, James C. The History of Street Gangs in the United States: Their Origins and Transformations. Lexington Books, 2015.
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Papachristos, Andrew V., et al. “The Company You Keep? The Spillover Effects of Gang Membership on Individual Gunshot Victimization in a Co‐Offending Network.” Criminology, vol. 53, no. 4, 2015, pp. 624-649.
Patton, Desmond U., et al. “Gang Violence on the Digital Street: Case Study of a South Side Chicago Gang Member’s Twitter Communication.” New Media & Society, vol. 19, no. 7, 2017, pp. 1000-1018.
Rodríguez, Joseph, and Rubén Martínez. “The Gangs of L.A.: What ever Happened to the ‘Gangbanger’?” New York Times. 2017, Web.
Storrod, Michelle L., and James A. Densley. “‘Going Viral’and ‘Going Country’: The Expressive and Instrumental Activities of Street Gangs on Social Media.” Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 20, no. 6, 2017, pp. 677-696.