The Pop Culture Platform: Reality Check!  How Reality TV Affects Society

By. Akshara Karthik (’22)


Keeping Up With The Kardashians. The Bachelor. Big Brother. These are just a few of the hundreds of Reality TV shows available for viewing today. We have all fallen prey to the hilariously intense catfights Reality TV shows offer, but what makes them so engaging? 


Two of the most commonly perceived ideas about Reality TV and society is that viewers watch episodes to talk with others about the show. However, through a survey done by Psychology Today, results show that both of these ideas are incorrect. So, how do these shows really impact society? 


Research shows that Reality TV can have both good and bad mental effects on viewers. According to the British Psychological Society, it’s possible that we enjoy the positive feelings of empathy and sympathy we experience when we find a competitor or star we admire. At the same time, we find pleasure in seeing those we dislike, in their most humiliating moments. In addition, Reality TV is a gateway to aspiration. TheTalko explains that Reality TV, “ allows [viewers] to take a step back from [their] normal life.” Shows like Real Housewives provide viewers an escape for 45 minutes and the ability to think about what it could be like to live a wealthy life like the shows’ stars. 


While some shows can have detrimental impacts on the contestants themselves, viewers can be negatively affected as well.  Nancy Molitor, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, explained to Healthline, “[Reality TV shows] reinforce all kinds of negative behavior that we don’t want to see…including relational aggression.” In addition, Reality TV can have adverse effects on children. As explained by Dr. David Hill, a pediatrician and program director of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Communications and Media,“ [Teens] watching [reality] television tend to accept it as a reflection of reality anyway.” Watching a contestant get voted off, rejected, or humiliated, makes viewers feel better about themselves.


In the end, we all love ourselves some Reality TV. But remember, viewer discretion is advised!

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