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What Are the Effects of Reality TV?

Reality TV shapes perceptions by blurring the lines between entertainment and reality, influencing social norms and expectations. It often promotes instant fame, potentially skewing values towards materialism and sensationalism. As viewers, we must question how these shows impact our understanding of authenticity and relationships. How might your view of the world change by switching off the screen?
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Since reality TV is a relatively new entertainment phenomenon that can have many different forms and formats, all of its possible effects are probably not yet known. The effects of reality TV that are known include an altered sense of what may be real and what may not be, as well as unique types of relationships or connections among the contestants. Television stations enjoy the effects of profitable advertising revenue as nationally broadcast reality programs garner large audiences which allow ad spots on the show to be charged at top prices. Other effects of reality TV involve many contestants being recognized as celebrities by the public, and perhaps even furthering a television career after appearing on one or more of these programs.

For example, Elisabeth Hasslebeck was a contestant on the reality television show Survivor who then became a co-host on the popular American daytime talk show The View. Some people who hope to be actors do sign up to be on reality shows in the hopes of becoming noticed by producers and directors. Especially if a reality participant becomes popular with viewers, he or she may be asked to participate in programs by the same television network or even a competing one. In this way, the effects of reality TV may offer those to want to work in television opportunities to do so that they probably wouldn't have had if they hadn't appeared in one of these programs.

TV editing choices can give a misleading portrayal of people who appear in reality programs.
TV editing choices can give a misleading portrayal of people who appear in reality programs.

Since national reality TV shows tend to have large audiences, television stations can charge advertisers top prices for the ad spots that air during the shows. This profitability has supported the effects of reality TV's prevalence in the television lineup. Whereas decades ago, game shows and other programs involving contestants competing for prizes weren't anywhere near as dominant in number as situation comedies, dramas and other fare, today that has changed for the most part. Some reality programs have different episodes aired several times a week rather than just weekly.

Reality TV might give people unrealistic expectations regarding relationships.
Reality TV might give people unrealistic expectations regarding relationships.

A skewed sense of reality is often cited as an ironic effect of this type of television programming. For example, in the weeks or months that a reality show takes place, game alliances may be mistaken for friendships. Sometimes, participants who think they are making good friends are in fact just being used to get ahead in the game and end up being voted out by the person or people they trusted. The effects of reality TV on audiences can include a false sense of what is really happening. For example, television editing can make some participants seem quieter than the others even if this really isn't the case, simply by showing them less often than others in the show.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does reality TV influence viewers' perceptions of the world?

Reality TV competitions may damage a person's self-esteem if they are not perceived as popular with the audience.
Reality TV competitions may damage a person's self-esteem if they are not perceived as popular with the audience.

Reality TV can significantly shape viewers' perceptions by presenting a skewed version of reality. According to a study by the Girl Scout Research Institute, girls who regularly watch reality TV expect a higher level of drama, aggression, and bullying in their own lives. This suggests that reality TV can distort expectations and norms for personal behavior.

Can watching reality TV impact mental health?

Renovation reality shows might inspire someone to make changes to their own home.
Renovation reality shows might inspire someone to make changes to their own home.

Yes, consuming large amounts of reality TV can impact mental health. Research indicates that heavy viewers may experience increased anxiety and stress, particularly if they compare their own lives to the seemingly glamorous lifestyles portrayed on screen. A study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found a correlation between reality TV consumption and increased focus on social status and physical appearance.

Does reality TV affect viewers' self-esteem and body image?

Reality TV can affect self-esteem and body image, especially among young viewers. According to a survey by the National Eating Disorders Association, reality TV's focus on appearance and diet can contribute to unhealthy body image and disordered eating patterns in impressionable audiences.

What is the impact of reality TV on society's values?

Reality TV can influence societal values by normalizing certain behaviors and lifestyles. For instance, a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that reality TV can promote materialism and the idea that personal success is defined by wealth and fame, potentially leading to shifts in cultural values and priorities.

How does reality TV affect people's expectations of relationships and romance?

Reality TV often portrays romantic relationships through a dramatic and sensationalized lens, which can set unrealistic expectations. A study from Albion College found that regular viewers of reality dating shows are more likely to believe in love at first sight and that true love will be nearly perfect, potentially leading to disappointment in real-life relationships.

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Discussion Comments

Lostnfound

Reality TV has its place. I like it when they show really nice people, like "The Little Couple," or they're helping someone like "Extreme Home Makeover" used to do. I also generally like the bridal shows, unless some insufferable bridezilla comes on.

If they're helping people, or educating people, I think it's all right. Some are clearly exploitation, like "Honey Boo Boo" and I think those people on "Hoarders" sometimes are taken advantage of, too.

But I still like to watch shows where I can root for characters and that have a real story arc. I love "Major Crimes" and "NCIS." My mom would be highly offended if they canceled "Blue Bloods." I also like "Law and Order: SVU." I think they represent the best of some of the non-reality television shows.

Grivusangel

C'mon -- do you *really* want to get me started on the effects of reality TV? For starters, it makes celebrities out of people who have neither talent nor charisma. The Kardashians *look* good, but good grief. They are not exactly fabulous people, for the most part.

Sometimes, the shows are good, like "Deadliest Catch," which does give the viewer some insight into an extremely dangerous profession.

You have to keep firmly in mind that everything is scripted and nothing is what it seems. Plus, since reality shows are cheaper to make, scripted television that's worth watching is dwindling down to nothing. I think CBS probably has the consistently strongest shows, but then again, I like crime dramas and police procedurals, so that suits me.

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    • TV editing choices can give a misleading portrayal of people who appear in reality programs.
      By: DeshaCAM
      TV editing choices can give a misleading portrayal of people who appear in reality programs.
    • Reality TV might give people unrealistic expectations regarding relationships.
      By: Grafvision
      Reality TV might give people unrealistic expectations regarding relationships.
    • Reality TV competitions may damage a person's self-esteem if they are not perceived as popular with the audience.
      By: imkenneth
      Reality TV competitions may damage a person's self-esteem if they are not perceived as popular with the audience.
    • Renovation reality shows might inspire someone to make changes to their own home.
      By: tinabelle
      Renovation reality shows might inspire someone to make changes to their own home.