Reality TV is definitely a prominent part of our society. From game shows to documenting different friend groups or families, the genre gets a lot of love. But for many, reality TV is useless, especially considering they are heavily edited, most certainly a valid point. However, no matter how fake “reality” TV actually is, it has the power to affect viewers on sometimes extreme levels.
Noted in the SW Londoner’s article, researcher Bryan Gibs informs readers that reality TV can actually have a negative impact on viewers, “Unpleasant interpersonal behaviors which we were able to show led to viewers increasing the amount of aggression they were willing to direct towards somebody else.” This isn’t too much of a surprise.
Of course, behavior shown on reality TV impacts children more so than adults. Imagine growing up watching a show like Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay. The amount of times he lashes out at contestants for mistakes such as undercooking a piece of salmon may eventually have you acting the same if your mom undercooks your dino nuggets. Luckily, according to Psychology Today, “interpersonal and direct influences” impact us more.
Picking up Gordon Ramsay’s bad behavior is unfortunately not the only concern that accompanies watching too much reality TV. Some shows can actually make you feel bad. For example, if you constantly indulge in reality shows centered around successful people, you may increasingly crave that same type of success even if it’s not realistic, making you feel bad that you can not reach that same level.
Ph.D. Teyhou Smyth explains, “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.” But, this could also be a major waste of time. Take The Kardashians for example, in an episode of their first season, Kim is shown contemplating what she is going to do when she appears on SNL. The problem was she wanted to make sure it was entertaining and the best it could be. As much as the audience will probably be triggered to think about what they would do, and what they would say if they were about to do an SNL monologue, it won’t matter because the number of people tuning in who will actually ever have that same problem come up seems pretty close to zero.
Smyth acknowledged, “we can use them as good conversation starters with friends”. This is a respectable idea in some cases, but there are also other ways to start up a good convo, like asking someone how their weekend was, what classes they’re in, or how’s it going. However, if you are desperate or just happen to share the same interest, this could work pretty well.
That being said, reality TV is, in more ways than not, a complete waste of time. However, that does not mean you shouldn’t tune in to a couple every now and then. As long as watching reality TV does not negatively influence your behavior, or get in the way of tasks you are supposed to be completing, of course. Honestly, it may even be a great way to unwind after a long, hard day.