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Millions of people around the world tune in to reality shows and have been watching for decades. What started out as an experiment has turned into mainstream programming and as a culture, we can’t get enough of it.
Is there any personal or societal cost to our ongoing fascination with reality shows? While opinions certainly differ on the topic, it comes down to a few factors:
Television and all other forms of media have an impact on our thoughts, opinions, and behaviours. There is no doubt that what we take in for entertainment and information influences the way we think about the world around us. Our minds are designed to synthesize boatloads of information every day, from our interactions with others to the books we read and the entertainment we seek out. We make sense of the world through these pieces of information we gather, and this impacts how we live our lives every day.
Beyond the daily information we absorb, we are also influenced by our prior life experiences, our family of origin, the environment we are raised in and a slew of other cultural and genetic factors. These interpersonal and direct influences are more likely to impact our values and behaviours than reality shows. Does this mean that we should be unconcerned about the ways in which reality show trends impact us? No, we definitely need to pay attention to the underlying messages in these shows and explore why they appeal to us so much.
Reality shows keep us coming back, week after week. We want to know who said what to whom, which person betrayed another or who compromised their alliances or made a shady decision that influenced other people. It’s all about the best and worst of human behaviour; it is an observational psychology class without lectures or exams.
Often reality shows cause us to reflect on what we might do in a similar situation, which can be a good exercise in values exploration. The basic question of self-interest versus self-sacrifice is a theme that runs through most reality shows.
As we indulge in our favourite reality shows, we can ask ourselves:
Reality shows are ironically named because they are often far from realistic scenarios. Even though these programs are guilty pleasures for so many, we can use them as good conversation starters with friends and as food for thought within our own minds as we consider our values and how to live in ways that demonstrate those values.
Fake Reality: Streamed 24 hours a day.
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