“..they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon”
2 Nephi 2:26
Since the beginning of television in the 1920s, TV’s provided a means for people to experience different aspects of life vicariously. While television can be a wonderful blessing, it can harm us if we allow ourselves “to be acted upon,” by negative philosophies some TV shows propagate.
An introduction to reality TV
Reality TV shows are unscripted programs performed by ordinary people. The first reality TV show was Candid Camera in 1948. Since then, there’s been hundreds of popular reality television shows, including reality drama, romance, game, police and talent shows. One main reason reality television became so popular, is it’s cheap to produce and can attract large audiences to sell to advertisers.
Some popular reality TV shows include: Big Brother, Mythbusters, Survivor, Lost, The Biggest Loser, American Idol and The Apprentice. Though reality TV can have positive effects on society, some social scientists say it can have negative effects.
Potential negative effects of reality TV
- Relational aggression. Some reality TV shows contribute to relational aggression among teen viewers. (The Girl Scout Research Institute)
- Stereotyping. Some reality TV producers cast for types of people, instead of whole individuals. This may contribute to stereotyping among viewers. (Sherri Williams)
- Unreal perceptions. The cultivation theory says that watching a lot of TV shapes a viewer’s perception of reality. Though reality TV shows may attempt to be “real,” often many of the situations characters find themselves in are contrived. This may make viewers see reality more and more through the lens of the shows they watch. (George Gerbner and Larry Gross)
- False sense of invincibility. Sometimes reality TV broadcasts a character’s negative actions without showing the consequences of their actions. This may contribute to viewers feeling they can get away with bad behavior. (Sherri Williams)
- Dramatic tendencies. Reality TV can contribute to dramatic tendencies among young adult viewers. (Jaime Riccio)
- Voyeuristic tendencies. As people watch romantic reality TV shows, they may develop voyeuristic tendencies to derive sensual pleasure from observing others. (Association for Psychological Science)
- Materialistic tendencies. The focus of many reality TV shows- such as game shows- is on a monetary reward.
- Casual morality. Some reality TV shows portray fornification, drinking and swearing. Watching reality TV with this content may contribute to viewers accepting a more casual morality. (Laura Wood)
- Missing real-life experiences. In TV viewers can experience vicariously many aspects of life without taking any chances or expending energy. A viewer may decide not to pursue worthy activities, because they can virtually experience these things through reality TV characters.
- Desensitization. Exposure to violence and sexuality in reality TV can desensitive viewers to the sanctity of human life. (Mark Mielke)
“Satan uses media to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal, humorous, or exciting. He tries to mislead you into thinking that breaking God’s commandments is acceptable and has no negative consequences for you or others.”
- For the Strength of Youth (pamphlet)
Personal Notes: It’s common to think media affects others, but doesn’t affect us. I believe a person is wise who can admit that everything he or she does somehow affects them. Many of the influences media has on us are subtle- the consequences of our media decisions (for good or bad) may not be apparent until years down the road.