Reality TV – Effects of The Filtered Side

Let’s focus on reality TV shows for a minute. The Real Housewives franchise, Keeping up With the Kardashians, Big Brother franchise, Love Island, The Bachelors and more are popular reality shows that you’re probably familiar with. Asides  entertainment, these shows provide an avenue for viewers to escape their comparably boring lives and invest their time in more important things –  the supposedly ‘unfiltered’ lives of ordinary people. While most of these shows fulfill their primary role of entertainment, a deeper look reveals the adverse effects they have on the lives of viewers. What really happens behind their glamorous facade? How does the filtered side of reality TV affect viewers mentally, socially and even physically?

In the last decades, Africa has witnessed a boom in the consumption of local and foreign reality shows, especially among the younger populace. And with it came unhealthy and unrealistic aspirations for fame and fortune. Who wouldn’t want to live a soft life driving luxury cars, wearing expensive attires, traveling to beautiful places and getting the celeb treatment? Not me! While watching these reality stars live the good life, many viewers start the dangerous habit of comparing their seemingly boring lives to theirs. “So and so has a gold plated Range Rover at 16; what am I doing with my life?” “Babe, why can’t you be as romantic as Mike on Love Island? Do you even care about me.” “Lady B has just admitted to taking so and so drugs medicinally. If it’s harmful, she definitely won’t  look that hot. Where can I get them?”

Also read: Saying Adiós to Physical Spaces

These strings of thoughts push individuals with normal lives to feel dissatisfied and seek fulfillment by mirroring the lives of reality stars. Before they know it, they are racking up debts to live above their means. Picking fights with friends and pouring drinks on them, trying to recreate the dramas in their favorite reality shows. Doing crazy things like wasting good food and drinks. In this current economy? Are you crazy?! Many reality stars are paid to stay in fancy places, model clothes, shoes, cars and even appliances. Producers know that boring shows make no money, so they create scenes that are specifically scripted to add more spice and drama to the show. But many people do not know these behind-the-scene truths. They lose valuable relationships by reenacting the scenes that are believed to be 100% unscripted.

As for those who do not have the means to emulate such glamorous lifestyles, depression sets in. Studies have shown that obsessive viewers may suffer from anxiety, lower self esteem, eating disorders, substance abuse and even body dysmorphia. Fifty is the new twenty and people are looking younger and younger with a lot of work. But most viewers only see the results of such work. Many reality stars do not show the gruesome exercise, diets or surgical procedures they put their bodies through. Consequently, viewers spend a lot of time obsessing about tiny flaws in their appearance.

While we highlight the negative effects of these shows, let’s not forget their positive impacts. Reality shows range from talent competitions and unscripted dramas to cooking shows and funny dance offs. Any idea can become a reality show and this notion has created  several platforms for the revelation of hidden talents. In Nigeria, Project fame opened doors for talented singers like Chidinma, Timi Dakolo and Iyanya. Cooking shows also share the talents of amazing chefs to the world. Through the Next Top Model franchise, models have found fame and fortune and the Idol franchise brings beautiful voices that may have stayed hidden to limelight. With the help of reality shows, ordinary people are given the chance to experience stardom and perhaps, achieve their dreams of being rich and famous. An hour of reality TV can teach valuable lessons and inspiring experiences from those who have bared their lives for the world to see. In the right hands, reality TV can be a tool for unprecedented change.

The effects of reality TV shows on viewers is a two-sided coin and depends entirely on the consumer of such shows. While many seek plain entertainment after a long day of work, others want to be connected to people far from their immediate surroundings. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But moderation is advised in everything. Whenever you find yourself comparing your normal life to the tweaked life of a reality star, stop! Switch off the TV and remind yourself that reality is often deceiving.

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