Why Do We Like Reality TV Shows So Much?

Why Do We Like Reality TV Shows So Much?

Samantha Zakrzewski, Writer/Editor

We’re all guilty of it. Binge watching our favorite episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, The Bachelor or Teen Mom. Despite claiming to be appalled by these, at times, controversial shows, we find ourselves on our couch at the same time every week watching them. So why are these shows so appealing?

Part of the reason may be to escape our own reality. We humans tend to forget about our own problems by involving ourselves in other people’s problems. Reality TV offers this much needed escape by delving into the over dramatic lives of others. Watching these people’s struggles makes us believe that our own problems aren’t as severe. It provides us viewers with momentary relief from our own struggles by taking our minds off of our current situations. Reality TV provides an escape for viewers to relax and engage with those that we watch.

Some reality TV shows boast the elegant lives of the rich and it makes people drool over their luxuries. The sad reality is that we are a materialistic country- brand names mean a lot to us. People spend thousands of dollars on clothing, shoes, purses, make up, and electronics because they buy brand names, rather than the generic ones that are much cheaper. Watching shows about the rich (Keeping Up With the Kardashians, The Real Housewives, etc.) show off all of their luxuries makes people yearn for them- and keep them coming back every week to watch more.  

Many of us take solace in watching the lives of others for justification that our own lives aren’t that awful. Shows such as Hoarders reassure us that we’re not that bad when it comes to holding on to stuff. It provides us comfort to know that there are other people out there living in conditions worse than we live in.

Not only that, but we love to judge people. When watching shows like Hoarders, we tend to flinch and wonder how people could live in such filth. Shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo make people feel superior to those stars as they laugh at them. This sense of superiority makes us feel worthy and better about our lives, regardless of what we are going through. We television viewers also take pleasure in others’ failures as it provides comic relief. It gives us great entertainment and makes us feel better about ourselves.

Some may even find themselves living through the lives of those they watch on TV. For example, those who watch Survivor may imagine themselves living through the contestants- all from the comfort of their couch. They don’t actually have to take the risks that they watch, but they get to live it by watching the contestants.

A connection between the stars of reality TV shows and viewers also forms, giving viewers a false idea that they know the people that they watch. As a result, viewers feel that they can relate to the stars of the show. This false sense of reality leads people to believe that the stars they watch live realistic lives. Unfortunately, as viewers grow closer to these stars, they begin to distance themselves from their own friends and family. It’s easier for them to form a connection with people on TV as their problems can be squeezed in an either half or one hour episode.

However, this is not the case for all people. Some may watch these reality TV shows and feel worse about their lives. Watching the lavish lives of stars may repulse some and elicit feelings of sadness or anger. This may cause them to refrain from watching such shows.

Reality TV shows are so alluring as they provide comfort to us viewers. They make us believe that our own lives aren’t as bad as they may seem. Some viewers are also given a false sense of reality as they form connections with the stars of these shows. Reality TV shows hook their viewers and causes them to feel as if they actually know the people that they are watching. Due to all of this, us viewers can’t resist the temptation to watch these shows.