Reality TV: Have you been bit or does it just bite?
What is your opinion of “Reality Television“?
There is a lot of Reality TV out there – the good, the bad and the downright Ugly.
There are shows I love to watch for the voyeur aspect, just to see how people are like me or not like me. There are shows I sometimes watch because, to be brutally honest, they make me feel superior and generally glad that I’m me. And there are shows that I simply can’t bring myself to watch because they are so trashy, with premises so obviously (and sadly, effectively) ratings-driven.
What about you?
Do you watch any Reality Television?
Which shows do you love?
Which shows do you love to hate?
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I watch Survivor. I am addicted and have been addicted since the first season. I know that it’s an artificial scenario created for entertainment value, but even so it’s a window into how people interact with each other. I was an anthropology minor in school, so I take Survivor to be something of an experiment. And yes, it has bitten me for sure!
That’s mine, too. I have actually learned a lot about myself by watching that show. Sometimes it’s realizing that I am similar in how I act/react – and if I like that trait or really need to think about trying to fix it. Other times it’s learning about myself through my reactions to what they say and do, whether I agree/disagree, if I approve or not, even who I’m rooting for and why. I am often surprised by what I’m feeling or reacting to, and it has made me evaluate my own values, thought processes and motivations.
I’ll tell you another thing, too – it’s incredibly fascinating to see how other people react. I mean people in the room with you. I’ll see a “character” in one light and interpret their actions/motivations/words accordingly. And the person sitting next to me will interpret those things completely differently. It’s telling (about us as individuals), only sometimes I can’t figure out what it’s saying to me. But it does go to show (what we both know is true) that we are all a sum total of our own experiences. I am what I’ve seen, done, thought, survived, witnessed, etc, etc…as are you what you’ve seen, done…. No two people will see things the exact same way, even when they agree.
Then again, sometimes it’s just fun tv.
I also love the Amazing Race. It’s a vicarious adventure, and I like seeing little pieces of the world. Being in teams ads another dimension and it’s very interesting to witness how people work together – or don’t – even though you have to take the stress into consideration.
What I find interesting on the shows like Survivor and Big Brother is that when the show ends the ‘players’ make a big point about how the charac ter they ‘played’ on the show is really, and I mean really, not them. I think they “doth protest too much”. I think, somewhat like an inebriated person, the things they do and say are more close to their real personality than they can admit or allow in their “real” life.
Rather than playing a character on the shows, they are playing a character in their everyday life.
People say “I’m just me, what you see is what you get”, but is this really true? All of us have so many facets to our character, we show others what we either think they can accept or what we want them to accept as ourselves.
One of the worst jobs I’ve had, was one where I felt I had to pretend all the time. I had to pretend that my boss was not an idiot, that she was not a bigot, that she was ….you get the idea. I had to pretend that it didn’t bother me when she displayed her anger at her life in nasty comments to me and sometimes about me – right to my face. I felt like I had become someone else while I was working and turned back into myself when I walked out of the building. Maybe this is what those ‘players’ do. This is what is frightening – was I really that person I displayed on that job?
That’s interesting, because I was just thinking last night about how people can fall into drunk categories – “mean drunk”, “sad drunk”, “happy drunk” – they are consistently that way. So, is this their real personality coming through? More on that later, I think.
I hear what you’re saying. Here’s where I fall on this questions We’re different people in different circumstances, or we show different facets of our personalities in different situations. I don’t know who the authentic “me” is. I’ve done stupid things in my life, and when I look back on the mistakes I’ve made I REALLY don’t recognize myself. Yet *I* did those things.
I used to play basketball a lot. On the basketball court I was aggressive and physical. I played within the boundaries of the game. In other words, I never flagrantly hurt people, but you bet I knocked people to ground now and then and committed the sin of feeling GOOD about defeating someone at a game that doesn’t really matter. The game itself influenced the person I was, as did elements of my personality that usually don’t find expression in day-to-day life.
That famous, oft-cited Stanford (I believe) psychology experiment in which college students were assigned the roles of prison guard or inmate illuminates this discussion. Assignation to one group or the other was entirely random, yet within days participants in the study went from simply acting out their roles to actually internalizing them, identifying themselves with them. The guards became abusive and genuinely cruel. The prisoners became submissive, desperate, depressed. Horrible things happened in that experiment and they had to discontinue it.
So I think that circumstances change us, and while it would be false to say in absolute terms that the people on a show like Survivor (which intentionally creates the conditions for drama, spite, conniving, betrayal, dishonesty, etc.) are not themselves when they’re in the game, I do think we can say that they’re not their normal selves. And I believe they honestly look at the person who played the game and don’t entirely recognizes themselves in him or her.
It is frightening stuff! To not know which you is the real you 🙂
Another question just occurred to me: If you strip away the layers of culture, society, and civilization; if you eliminate the legal and moral structures we’ve developed over millennia to tame ourselves and control our primitive tendences; what do you end up with? Whatever it is, is it more real than what we have now?
Certainly, we still live in a violent world where every day people do terrible things, but we behave differently than we did two hundred years ago (in the U.S. we no longer enslave people, to give one example). We are more civilized, right? I hope so. And are we more civilized because over time we learned to put in place structures that helped us inhibit our animal nature? In other words, are we better because we changed the circumstances in which we live and the rules that govern our behavior? And if so, does that make the more harmless beings we’ve become less authentic? Or would the “real” us be “primitive man” living in a state of nature? Fortunately, I don’t think the question can be framed as an either/or. I think we’re complicated.
“Whatever it is, is it more real than what we have now?” – That’s a good question. In my mind, it’s starting to boil down to “What is real?”
I think one of the answers is just what you said, “we’re complicated”. There are things that I can’t believe I’ve actually done – good and bad (and terrific and horrible). I suppose we access various parts of ourselves when we most need them, and other, darker parts may emerge of their own accord. Or perhaps we simply release them as we see fit.
For me, a lot of what I show or don’t show is a result of my immediate comfort level and my confidence in myself at that moment. It can be shocking to me when I just wake up some mornings feeling confident. My behavior on those days is much more daring – more honest, even. I am more apt to say what I really think and feel and expose myself in a much more “real” way.
Is that the real me? I think so. That is the me I like the most, the one that feels most authentic in terms of personality. That is the uninhibited me – the one I don’t let out so often. So where does she go? Why am I unable to access this version of me all of the time?
Also, I’ve got some things going through my mind right now regarding the wiring of the brain. When we act or react in a way that doesn’t work, in a way that backfires on us, the brain takes notice. The next time that same situation comes up, the original pathway is rejected and a new pathway is created – a much stronger pathway.
A behavior of mine was fundamentally changed – I knew what incident I could trace it back to, but didn’t understand how that could have made my brain work in such a different way, until I read about how the brain so effectively deals with “wrong” or at least ineffective behaviors.
At the same time, if we do not recognize that the behavior is detrimental, or the consequences are not as drastically impactful, then those original pathways are continually used and therefore continually re-inforced. That’s why it’s so difficult to change our habits and thought patterns later. I suppose that’s one reason why it’s so difficult to notice or accept negative things about ourselves. We just are how we are, and do what we do, we behave automatically. How much of what and who we are is a simple result of chemical reactions in our brains? It’s almost scary to consider it – free choice and personal control are so important to us, and yet we are going through much of our lives kind of on autopilot.
Back to the original question you raised about society – I’ve got books on the brain due to our other conversation, and this particular disscussion is making me think I should re-read Lord Of The Flies and Animal Farm.