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Moment Of Clarity

The Thirst is Real: Why Reality TV is Addictive

Do you ever wonder why people love and can’t get enough of reality shows such as Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, American Idol, and Dancing with the Stars?

The answer: reality shows help people feel aroused by validating, vindicating, or titillating their thoughts, feelings, and senses.

Watching reality television – or any television for that matter – allows us to escape our everyday life and watch the life of another unfold. It is through the act of watching another’s life play out (voyeurism) that we can compare and contrast our lives more openly. When we compare our lives with others, we feel a sense of vindication, validation, or power because we can use our own lens to judge others behaviors and values.

When it comes to titillation we become aroused when there is a sense of danger, suspense, or power. Titillation heightens the drama of reality TV and if the viewer is allowed to participate in the outcome, the viewer now has power and the show is guaranteed high ratings!

If you need proof, just look at the ratings when there is a fight or escalation of emotion compared to when everyone is getting along. Or when viewers get to vote on the winner of a competition like American Idol.

The suspense in reality TV is similar to the cliffhangers in scripted movies in that people try to figure out what’s going to happen. What makes reality TV addictive is that viewers believe that some portion of what they are watching is real and not [entirely] scripted.

In essence, we need to witness or know that other people: a) feel the same frustration we do, b) are worse off than we are, or c) have overcome the same obstacles we currently face. Let’s face it, reality TV helps us feel better about ourselves.

Also, if you think that reality TV is for “uneducated or mindless” people, think again. Psychology Today published an article that cited even people who enjoyed intellectual activities still watched reality TV. So there are no boundaries or stereotypes to categorize people who watch these shows.

So, the next time you turn on your favorite reality TV show, ask yourself what you are gaining from watching the program. Then remind yourself that regardless of how good or bad others have it, at the end of the show your life is waiting for you to live it.

Be careful how you judge other people; because to someone else, your life is a reality show, too.

With love and light, I wish you all pleasant journeys.

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW

Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at digitalpitches@ebony.com. We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, and personality development, Jinnie has a nearly 90 percent success rate with her clients.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter here or join her on Facebook and Twitter!