How Real Is Reality?

Our perception is our own reality.

A study developed by Oregon State University reports that on average, 45 percent of Americans watch reality television. Does this statistic shock you? The report also states that the majority of the 45% are adults, ages 18 to 29 years old, or a big portion of genY. The oldest reality television show dates back to the 1950s when Candid Camera was on air.  There are multiple blogs out there that talk about How Real is Reality and they focus a lot on how fake these shows are, but what they miss is the progression from what we called reality television 50 years ago to today.

How Real Is Reality?


Before writing this I surveyed a random sample of my friends and asked them why they watched reality shows. Most of them told me they love watching them because of the bitching, drama, backstabbing, and just about everything else in between that you normally wouldn’t see in real life. If you take a look at the most popular reality television shows such as The Real World, Survivor, Big BrotherThe BachelorThe Apprentice, A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, plus the hundreds of others, there seems to be a common theme- a prize. Now, I actually live in reality and in some sense if you are a religious person, there is a prize at the end.  But religious preferences aside, we don’t get a prize. Whether it be a shot at love€ or half a million dollars, the winner always ends up with something. This sounds like a game show to me, and if it’s not a game show, it’s an unrealistic living situation.

Since the majority of the viewers of reality shows fall within the genY category, I have been contemplating on why we are in love with such trashy television. Some reasons that have come to mind is that we watch these shows so we can experience something that we don’t currently have. It’s been said multiple times genY are never content and maybe this is an escape from actual reality. In the case of Big Brother or Survivor, it would frighten me if life was based on people voting on if you stayed or went.

The Progression

If we take a look back when Candid Camera first came on air to present day Big Brother, or even a different type of reality television such as Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, there is an immense change. If you take a look at the plot of Candid Camera and Big Brother, you would not be able to recognize that these are both in the same genre of television shows. Reality TV’s main goal is to connect with a viewer’s hopes, desires, and anything that they could grasp that would seemingly relate to their lives. Even in the beginning, humans took pleasure in joining in laughter at the expense at others €“ which Candid Camera accomplished.

Whether we are looking at engaging people through various forms of communication and looking at the progression from mail to email, we have the same with entertainment. Starting from three channels to three hundred, genY, as well as previous generations, are always looking to amp up their entertainment value and living standards. The progression of TV is just a small part of our lives where we can take a break from true reality and escape into a world in which we can be who we want to be. The main thing to take away is that our perception is our own reality.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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