More than half of today’s television programs are reality shows and whether we want to admit it or not, they have an influence on real life despite many of them being orchestrated for entertainment value.
Although it may seem that reality TV is something relatively new, shows such as “The Real World” opened the door to the genre in the early 1990s. “Survivor” has already been over the airwaves for more than a decade. Why are they so wildly successful and how are they influencing real life?
A Hunger for Greater Status
According to a research report done by Psychology Today, people who are engrossed by reality shows such as “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” and “Jersey Shore” are more inclined than most to believe that status and prestige are very important, and designer clothing is a critical component to their image. While not necessarily a bad concept, it can lead to an unhealthy self-image since most people cannot live up to their favorite reality stars’ images.
The meteoric rises to stardom some of these reality stars have accomplished can also have a negative impact on those who feel they can attain the same status. For most people, the simple fantasy of that lifestyle and stardom is enough to keep them enthralled.
A whole other segment of the reality television realm can provide positive reinforcement. Think of shows like “Top Chef,” “The Biggest Loser,” and “Shark Tank.” While still in the genre of reality TV, these shows focus on chasing your dreams and taking chances to achieve your goals.
When watching people faced with adversity or doing their best to showcase their talents, you cannot help but feel that with your best effort you can do more with your life. These types of shows can encourage people to strive for more, thereby having a positive overall influence on real life.
The Great Escape
Have you caught yourself discussing reality stars as though they were people you were involved with in your daily life? “So-and-so from Survivor really blew it this week when they switched alliances.” Escapism plays a large role in our consumption of reality television. Feeling like you know the players or the people in the show and following along as they go about the trials and tribulations of their “reality” life can remove us from our own life situations for a couple of hours at a time which has a great appeal for many.
The downside to this behaviour is when people become obsessed with the lives of the reality TV show and develop one-sided relationships with them. Think of the phenomenon “John and Kate plus 8″ created across the media. People were so involved in their lives you would hear talk everywhere you went about their escapades.
Reality TV is here to Stay
Regardless of the impact reality television can have on our lives, it is definitely here to stay. As long as people have an insatiable hunger for the inner workings of other people’s lives, there will be an avid market for it. Ensuring you pay attention to the influence it can have on your real life, you can enjoy it for what it is meant to be: entertainment.
Hugh Luman is a recent graduate who blogs about a range of television topics for home entertainment blogs.
Photo Credit: LGEPR (CC BY 2.0)