Soul wide open: why do people participate in reality shows

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Soul wide open: why do people participate in reality shows

Imagine you are in the Hunger Games. You have to survive in the wild under the gaze of millions of faceless spectators and judges. Not the most inspiring scenario? So it seems not to everyone. Many, on the contrary, try to get on the screen, find themselves in the center of universal attention and, to achieve this goal, take part in a reality show, bringing to the public the most intimate thing – private life. What drives those who decide on such a spiritual “exposure”?

How did reality shows come about and why did they become so popular

The first reality shows began to broadcast in the United States. In 1948, Hidden Camera appeared on American television. Her main task was to show the reaction of ordinary people to unexpected events, originally carefully thought out by the screenwriter. The show enjoyed extraordinary success, and the baton of reality was first picked up by the UK, and then the whole world.

Why has this format become so popular? Psychologists believe that the person’s subconscious desire for voyeurism, spying on someone else’s life is partially to blame. But it’s not only that. A reality show is a kind of escape from reality that helps people believe in a happy ending, despite the seriousness of the broadcast situations.

For greater effectiveness in reality, they often show sharp changes in the mood of the characters, escalation of the situation and, on the whole, life on the cutting edge. Spectators are sensitive to such changes in emotions, and such a rollercoaster quickly leads to addiction.

Participants in the reality show: their motivation

With a hidden voyeur in each of us, everything is clear. What about those people who themselves want to be watched? In other words, what is the motivation of the participants in the reality show?

The psychologist Marina Rufanova identifies several reasons that prompt a person to decide on “spiritual exhibitionism.” And if some of them are obvious and lie on the surface, then others may surprise.

  1. Many participants in the reality show dare to take this step primarily for the sake of financial gain. The winners of such programs (if it ends at some point, rather than endlessly) are awarded prizes, and in addition, the organizers pay for accommodation, meals, transfer and other expenses.
  2. An equally common reason is the desire for fame and attention. People are trying to satisfy their vanity in the fastest way possible – by participating in a television show that thousands of people watch daily. And even if a reality participant does not become a winner, he at least manages to “light up”. Psychologists compare this with exhibitionism: the heroes of the show are ready to expose their emotions and feelings, and sometimes even go too far with this, just to be remembered by the public, to leave a “mark on history”.
  3. But not all reasons are so down to earth. Another motivator is the desire to feel part of something bigger. In the modern world, our need for belonging is poorly satisfied, since most lead a closed life. Taking part in a reality show, the characters find a kind of community, a group that they are keenly aware of.
  4. Often in the behavior of the participants in the show can be traced and philosophical motives. Thirty years ago, Jean Baudrillard wrote that to be connected to the image of yourself on the screen, to your vitality becomes much more important for a person than to possess it. In other words, “I am on the screen – therefore, I exist.” Contemplation of oneself makes people feel alive and is considered “proof of life” in modern realities.

A hero can come to the show for the financial component, and leave, having received something else, sometimes even more valuable

These are the main psychological motives that drive the participants of almost all reality shows. However, depending on the characteristics of a particular project, specific reasons may be added to the main reasons.

Take, for example, family projects where the characters, with the help of a psychologist, work on the relationship between parents and children, learn to resolve conflicts and find a common language. In these shows, other motives and aspirations come to the fore:

  • The desire to share the accumulated experiences. Sometimes it is hidden, and then the participants expect that they will “talk” on the reality show;
  • The desire to be heard in the family, to express themselves and their needs;
  • The desire of parents to find the right approach to raising a child;
  • The desire of the spouses to agree among themselves on the methods of raising children;
  • The desire to get closer, open up to each other, resolve conflicts or relieve tension in the family;
  • The desire to spend time with family. Under ordinary conditions, this is not always possible, especially if all the household members are busy with work or study and everyone thinks out how to take their leisure time, on their own.

It is noteworthy that the motivation of participants and their expectations from the project, whether receiving a prize or fame, can change over time. A hero can come to the show for the financial component, and leave, having received something else, sometimes even more valuable – new friends, new experience, new understanding of himself, his strengths and weaknesses, and life priorities.

Marina Rufanova

About the expert

Marina Rufanova – Gestalt therapist, psychologist who followed the project “Family Territory” – A new reality show in which the characters learn to cope with difficulties in parent-child relationships and seek mutual understanding. The first episodes of the show can be watched from September 11th.

Photo Source: IMDb

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