9 Reasons Why We Should All Watch Reality TV

Have you ever felt guilty when watching a reality TV show? Me too! After some research, here are some reasons why we should all watch reality TV and, most importantly, why we should not feel guilty about it.
reasons why you should watch reality tv
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Research shows that people who watch reality TV are not any less intellectual if they like to indulge in some drama every now and then. I often consider reality TV shows to be a guilty pleasure that I absolutely must hide.

If in conversation I happen to mention that I loved watching the last season of Temptation Island, I often catch myself justifying this low-brow activity of mine: “No, I watch it because it makes me laugh how dumb they are!” 

Recently, however, I ended up watching Too Hot To Handle on Netflix and really enjoyed it. The show is set on an island and each participant is known to be a “player” when it comes to dating; they are not allowed to carry out any sexual activity with one another or by themselves.

I enjoyed this show not because of how dumb the island’s hot habitants seemed to be, but because of the actual character development they showed during their stay. It seems almost unbelievable to say that I observed some improvement in some of the participants’ behaviors as the show went along.

It appeared that the producers’ social experiment did in fact work and it made me wonder whether we underestimate the value of such shows.

Here are nine reasons why you should watch reality TV shows:

1. They answer our wildest “What ifs”

I can’t be the only person on earth who sometimes plays out unbelievable, crazy scenarios in their head. These usually include events that would probably never occur in my drama-less, normal life: e.g., how would I react if I found out my partner was cheating on me with my best friend? What would happen if I was on a deserted island with someone I really did not like?

All these wild and exaggerated “What ifs” are often played out on screen in the likes of reality TV shows. 

2. They are an opportunity to live vicariously through a show's participants

My theory is that, by living vicariously through the participants of such programs, we see our daydreaming come to life. Instead of pondering on these fantasies, reality TV shows answer our “What ifs”.

Especially considering the amount of senseless stuff that happens on these types of programs. So, I’m a firm believer that we should all watch reality TV shows to lean into, rather than push away, our fantasies in a non-harmful way from the safety of our own homes. 

3. They give us perspective into the luxurious lives of the rich and famous

On that note, reality TV shows are more often than not centered around the lives of people who have much more luxurious and/or privileged lifestyles. These are usually the kind of extravagant things all of us superficially dream about: big houses, beautiful clothes, and abundant bank accounts.

All of these things can sometimes feel unattainable, much like the people who do have them. This means that we tend to either put rich and famous people on a pedestal or to alienate them. By watching reality TV shows centered around the lives these individuals live, we may be able to humanize them and see how they too are people just like us.

4. They are a way to escape our own reality

I find that much of the entertainment that reality TV shows provide can indeed be an escape from our day-to-day activities. It is the classic yearning to escape your own life in order to enjoy someone else’s. 

We tend to feel the same way about characters in books, in movies, in TV series. I actually also feel the same way about the video game The Sims: in particular, about the action of making up your own character and seeing it play out life in a different way than you normally would. It’s fascinating.

5. They are a welcome break from our stressful lives

More so, I find that watching reality TV shows helps me put into perspective much of the over-thinking I do. This is undoubtedly thanks to the light-heartedness of the atmosphere created and the plots encouraged by the producers. These offer a welcome break from the stresses and worrying of our busy lives. 

6. They are actually educational

Although many say that watching reality TV is a low-brow activity driven by a voyeuristic desire to intrude on others, I disagree. While part of the reason why we watch these shows is certainly a curiosity, I also think that reality TV is a good opportunity to truly immerse oneself into someone else’s way of thinking.

Much like educating yourself by for example reading loads of books and attending university, I believe that reality TV too can (to a certain extent) be didactical. Anything we read or watch is food for the brain. I think that reality TV shows are a great way to shed light on other lifestyles that we are not usually exposed to. 

7. They push you outside of your comfort zone 

This means that we are exposed to new ways of thinking, talking, and of behaving which will open up our minds and our social knowledge. We may compare watching reality TV shows to traveling: the more you travel, the more your mind will be stretched outside your comfort zone. 

8. They are a great way to practice empathy

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Jana Scrivani,

"Reality television in particular gives us a false sense that we really know the people we see on the screen. This sense of having a personal relationship is amplified with the 'reality' label, even though we are aware that it's greatly exaggerated. [...] We identify with their struggles and triumphs."

So, we may argue that reality TV shows help us increase our ability to feel empathy. We might then be able to transfer this skill to our actual lives, helping us to feel closer and more connected to the people around us.

9. They are entertaining

Overall, I think it comes down to the simple fact that - for the most part - reality TV shows are entertaining. I guarantee you that even the most avid hater of reality TV shows will find themselves glued to the screen, sucked in by all the drama that we so desperately try to avoid in our own lives.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying some light-hearted, trashy reality TV. But, like all good things in life, we must take it with a pinch of salt. Remember to have fun while watching the latest Keeping Up With the Kardashians, but balance that amusement out with a healthy dose of actual reality. 

Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, watching reality TV shows may increase our capacity to understand, socialize and empathize with more people in a variety of social settings. And this can only result in an enrichment of our lived experiences.

English Literature and Theatre Studies student at the University of Glasgow. Italian.

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