Whose Reality Is This?

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Image credit: photo by Catherine Heath on Unsplash.

There are hundreds of reality television shows on today and it seems like everyone is tuning in to watch. Ordinary people, just like you and me, are elevated to celebrity status. The secret thrill of thinking next time, this could be me. We could be lucky enough to receive the next makeover, be the next celebrity, or instantly become a millionaire.

Many of us are inexplicably drawn to these shows. Have you ever considered the reason we might be attracted to watching reality TV? Or examined the type of reality television we watch on a weekly basis?

Why Do We Watch Reality Television?

It may be illuminating to look at what kinds of reality TV shows we’re drawn to. A few reasons we watch the different types of reality television could include:

To Educate

Many shows depict weight loss methods like The Biggest Loser, or cooking demonstrations and competitions like Master Chef. Although at times the information presented can be unhealthy and promote unrealistic expectations, causing us to become disheartened when we can’t replicate the results.

To Entertain

Reality television can provide a voice to the normal, everyday person.  Someone we might be able to relate to or easily identify with. We are provided with the opportunity to cheer for the Average Joe on shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or Duck Dynasty. Although the voice of the “normal” everyday person portrayed on reality television don’t always represent ordinary well.

To Inspire

Shows like Extreme Home Makeover or Three Wishes can provide a vehicle to fantasize about something we might want for ourselves. We can dream that all of our problems could be eliminated in one televised hour.

To Escape

Tuning out everyday life and immersing ourselves in the life of a celebrity, or a spirited competition like Survivor, or The Apprentice can provide an escape from focusing on issues in our own lives. A little escape might be beneficial for stress relief, but too much could prevent us from facing our own issues and feelings.

How Much is too Much?

If we notice we are watching a variety of reality shows on an ongoing basis, that these shows make up a significant proportion of the types of shows found appealing, then we may want to consider some self reflection around this activity.

Watching a few shows doesn’t mean you have a problem.

Being hardworking and self-disciplined in my own life, I enjoy the escape into fantasy and melodrama at the end of the day as well as the rags to riches stories, over the top diva antics, glamorous lifestyles and mean girls (and boys) shenanigans.

Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist, Author, Speaker.

There is a difference between a person who watches one or two shows occasionally and just enjoys the show for entertainment, versus someone who really is drawn to, or attracted to—some people go as far to claim they are addicted to—reality TV.

If we find we are scheduling our days around reality television show times, or discover reality television shows populate the majority of our choices of televised programs, this might be a wonderful opportunity to self-reflect and tune in to what are we receiving from this experience?

We might need to consider what may be absent from our lives that we are instead filling our time with reality television shows.

Reflect Upon The Reasons You Watch

Addiction

Do you watch reality TV because you are addicted to the drama and chaos? Is drama and chaos a comfortable place for you because it’s familiar from something you experienced in your past, or your current, life?

Or is the subject of the show something you can relate to it? Perhaps highlighting your own past, or present addiction? Shows such as Hoarders, Intervention, My Strange Addiction or The Biggest Loser might portray issues you secretly suffer with and can identify with the participants.

Avoidance

Do you watch reality TV because your life feels boring, or lacks excitement, or passion? Do you allow these shows to consume all of your available time rather than seek out new interests and hobbies to create your own enthusiasm for reality?

Does watching reality TV enable you to avoid feelings you are uncomfortable with and help you to avoid what is truly happening in your life—or not happening?

Does watching shows that reward risk taking and socially undesirable behaviors like The Bad Girls Club, Dance Moms, or Pretty Wicked Moms provide an opportunity to vicariously experience letting out the anger or anxiety you’ve longed to release?

Relationships

Do you watch to enhance your interpersonal relationships? Do you worry that everybody else is watching these shows so that you must in order to feel socially accepted? Does immersion in these shows provide you with something to contribute to the conversation rather than sharing your authentic self?

Does the Bachelor or Bachelorette, or one of the many other dating shows, speak to how you see your own relationship, or the lack of a relationship, and permit you to fantasize how we want it to be?

Examine, and Improve, Your Own Reality

If we allow ourselves to be honest with ourselves regarding our choices of shows it may really speak to what we may want to explore, look at, examine, or shift, in our own reality instead of attempting to do it vicariously through reality television.

If you struggle with dependence upon reality television shows to avoid or escape problems, speaking with a trusted psychotherapist at Nassau Guidance & Counseling located on Long Island can help alleviate that burden. Our licensed therapists have helped many people find methods to cope with uncomfortable issues and maintain a balance of healthy entertainment while still living life to the fullest.

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