Why Do We Get so Invested in Reality TV?

Story By Caitlin Paroczai

Hi. I’m Caitlin and I am a self-confessed reality television addict. Phew, it is a relief to get that one off my chest. Fortunately, I know that I am not alone in my addiction. In fact, I bet you have also been sucked into the superficial whirlwind that is reality TV at some point in time. If not, well… please continue to scoff at the rest of us that tune in for “this crap”.

There has been a surge in the number of reality shows on free-to-air television, particularly dating shows. It is no secret that Australia loves Love Island. On Sophie Monk’s debut episode as The Bachelorette, there was a national average of 1.22 million viewers that tuned in to see the self-confessed bogan meet the man of her dreams. More recently, the Internet went into total meltdown after receiving confirmation that Bachelor in Paradise couple Sam and Tara had called it quits.

#loveisdead.

So let’s rewind about a week, to when the first season of Love Island Australia wrapped up. As we all know, #teamgrayla was deemed Australia’s most loved couple. Now, I made an error of judgement and scrolled through my Instagram feed before the finale aired in Perth. Unfortunately, poor Sophie Monk made the mistake of posting the winners (Grant Crapp and Tayla Damir) BEFORE us Perthies got to see the episode.

Although seeing the result was mildly annoying (and 100% my fault for going through social media) I was taken back by the comments on her post. I have handpicked some of my personal favourites for you:

How stupid can you be?!”

#letsnotworryaboutperth

“You are heartless”

Woah. Heartless. Really? Why are we SO invested in reality TV that it somehow becomes justifiable to call somebody heartless for spoiling the result?

Let’s theorise here.

Reality TV is an escape from our everyday lives
This is pretty obvious. After dealing with the stress of our own daily lives, it can be almost therapeutic to switch off and focus on the experiences of others. When you combine glamorous lifestyles, explosive arguments and constant drama, it can be easy to forget about whatever is going on for you.

We feel like we KNOW them
How many times have you found yourselves chatting with your friend in real life about a contestant on a reality TV show? We talk about these contestants as if they are friends of friends. Really, this is a bit insulting considering we don’t know them at all. But we FEEL like we do. This is because reality shows are cleverly edited to make you empathise with certain contestants and hate on others. When we saw the innocent and genuine Nikki Gogan rejected by Richie Strahan on The Bachelor, hearts shattered across Australia.

We are encouraged to get involved
Social media encourages audiences to get actively involved in the reality TV process. They tell us our opinion matters. Whether it’s voting for a contestant to leave the show or answering a poll about which contestant is the hottest, social media makes the audience an integral part of the show itself.

Reality TV reflects the current dating climate
It is undeniable that the modern dating climate has changed. There is a general consensus that young people expect they might meet someone through an online platform, whether its Instagram or Tinder. Reality TV is reflecting this change, with the emergence of shows such as Channel 9’s Date Night, where Aussie singles ‘swipe right’ to find a match. Why wouldn’t people get caught up in a show that actually reflects the current dating climate?

As previously mentioned, I do enjoy my reality TV. The aim of this post is not to decipher whether watching it is good or bad, but to consider why we become so emotionally invested in the first place. However, when people are prepared to throw around derogatory terms like heartless on social media, do we need to consider whether the obsession has gone too far?

At the end of the day, it is entertainment. Perhaps we should let it be just that.

xo Caitlin

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