Reality TV first aired in 1948 when the hidden camera game show “Candid Camera” became popular. Since then, reality TV has grown into several sub categories. Viewers find entertainment in watching the lives of ordinary (or celebrity) people who find themselves in unexpected or unordinary situations.
The genre of reality TV exploded in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Popular shows like Survivor, The Real World and American Idol trail blazed the way for more shows to come. Reality TV may portray the day to day life of individuals, like Keeping Up With The Kardashians, or it may be game show or competition related, like The Bachelor. The fourth season of Jersey Shore pulled in about 8.45 million viewers for its 2011 season premiere, more than half of which were between ages of 18 and 34.
In addition to watching the lives of others on television, social media has become another addicting platform. Accounts may have as little as dozens to as large as millions of “followers.” People on platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram are able to take a first-hand look at the lives of the individuals they choose to follow. While entertainers and celebrities typically have large followings, they aren’t alone. “Influencers” are also dominating the social media platforms.
Some believe that people are intrigued with the personal lives of others strictly for entertainment purposes. A lot of reality TV drama is believed to be more fiction than not. Others feel that people get enjoyment out of watching the misery, vulnerability, and embarrassing moments of the cast.
I believe it is a mixture of the two. Reality TV is a combination of real life characters with fictional and exaggerated drama. I believe that reality TV shows are relatable to viewers. We find familiarity and comfort in watching reality TV cast members navigate through similar situations that we may encounter in our own personal lives.
Companies have been taking advantage of consumers’ interest in the everyday joe and it’s changed marketing as we know it. While influencers can be found on reality TV and all social media platforms, the biggest platform for influencer marketing can be found on Instagram. In 2017, the platform had 12.9 million brand-sponsored influencer posts. The number was estimated to double in 2018, creating an estimated market size of nearly $1.7 billion. The credibility of an influencer depends on their trustworthiness, expertise, attractiveness, and similarities. So the evolution of reality TV has essentially created a whole new realm of marketing and use of social media.
Another interesting correlation between social media and reality TV is how interactive viewers are able to be. Reality TV shows create social media hashtags for viewers to use on Twitter and Instagram. TV after-shows allow viewers to call in and ask questions and also read social media tweets during the episodes. This creates a stronger attachment to characters and shows. People who watch reality TV tend to be attention-seeking and like the idea of obtaining fame instantly. Reality TV may also influence decisions about plastic surgery, dating, etc.
I personally have a love-and-hate relationship with reality TV. I find it to be entertaining in small doses. I think it’s odd how obsessive people become about the personal lives of strangers. I feel like there are more productive things to pour my energy into. The plus side of reality TV and social media is how it can be used for positive social change, weight loss, finding love, or chances at opportunities for businesses or individuals.