Reality TV is a hybrid of fact (reality) and fiction (simulated reality). We know that some characters are scripted or the show is edited to reveal a desired outcome. At the same time, we believe the events of the show are real. Remember how your left brain deals with fact and your right brain deals with fiction? Reality TV makes your brain rapidly flip between the left and right hemisphere. That sounds like a good thing – using more of your brain, being more engaged and not a couch potato, etc.
The problem comes when reality and simulated reality begins to blur. With a reality show, we can’t tell the difference, and we agree not to care. This would be fine if we could relegate that mental state to reality TV, but we can’t. It bleeds over into the way we watch the news, the way we follow political races, and the way we think about crime and war. You may suspect the information you’re receiving is flawed, that media is all about sensationalism, or that you’re flat out being lied to. You may pick sides in political races like it’s just a game, and you want your favorite contestant to win. You may come to view stories of violent crimes as just exaggerated stories.
I’m not asking anyone to stop watching reality television. I’m putting this question up to you: How do you build your mental wall between reality and reality tv?
Janae Elisabeth is an avid fan of all things fantasy and science fiction. She’s only a thesis away from an MFA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University in Roanoke, VA. She spends her time teaching and organizing GeekOut, Asheville’s popular arts convention.