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Reality TV in the isolation chamber

Reality TV in the isolation chamber

Published April 23, 2020
Author: Hassam Ali MD, special to

Photo by Josh Kahen on Unsplash

Reality TV is an entertainment system without writers, actors, or scripts. Instead, the shows concentrate on real events or situations. Some reality shows come in the form of sports, while others focus on specific lifestyles.

For many people, it is considered the lowest form of entertainment, an insult to our mutual intelligence. In their view, reality TV compliments materialistic behavior and generates a voyeuristic show. It lauds abuse, hoists shallow personalities, and encourages dysfunctional relationships. But why watch it? Because it is like passing a car crash on the highway, we have to look. Psychologists believe that our fascination has less to do with voyeurism. Psychologists believe that reality television is watched because it makes some people feel superior while others watch because they desire to see other people humiliated.

Some psychologists say that behaviors on television have made popular culture into a cesspool of amoral conduct.  Reality TV relies on the eagerness of everyday individuals to have their lives represented out in front of a camera. That mentality spills into our daily life. We don’t think anything of being filmed by street corner monitoring cameras or store security. But our approaches will change if we consciously being shot a camera crew everywhere. Many say reality TV has put the world through a meat grinder by creating stars of ordinary people who have little or no talent. This leads to jealousy and resentment among the rest of us.  Reality stars are picked with uncertainty, and many ends up unsuccessful. Some even try frantically to hold on to their five minutes of fame. Ten percent of teenagers say they would leave their chances of a good education if they could become a star on reality television. This has led psychologists to believe our motivations have changed to money and success instead of respect.

The developing fascination with reality television originates from our passion for fantasizing about the possibility of easily acquired publicity. We see regular people doing routine things, and we think to ourselves that we too are ordinary people who do daily things; we should be famous also. This leads to a change of approach to everyday tasks and affects us psychologically.

Conversely, the representation of humans out their daily life and doing the most comfortable things – hanging out with friends, touching their faces, washing their hands, and so on – makes for a particularly melancholy form of escapism. But Reality TV has a closeness which makes it quite powerful at this time of self-isolation among coronavirus pandemic. The shows take us up close to real people while sitting at homes. It’s also quite entertaining to watch shows about human interaction at this time and age when that’s the one thing we’re not ready to do right now. Reality Television might, after all, help keep people sane in this time of isolation by keeping a little spark of human interaction alive.

By: Hassam Ali, M.D.

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