Reality TV Is Maybe Ruining Your Life


People love to hate on reality TV. They say it’s stupid. A fad that isn’t likely to stick. Or, if you’re my dad, then it’s a “goddamn nuisance.” But those people (and my dad) are wrong. Reality TV, if we agree to trace its modern era back to the first season of Survivor in 2000, has been with us for almost 20 years. It ain’t going away. And it’s only getting better and more addictive as the years pass. I mean, did you watch the latest season on The Bachelor? It was essentially a perfectly engineered specimen. We laughed, we cried, we guffawed at drunk idiots making overly sentimental remarks on national television. We were hooked.

But as much as we love reality TV and seeing how much of an ass Vicki Gunvalson is going to make of herself on the upcoming season of The Real Housewives of Orange County, I have this sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, reality TV is actually ruining our lives.

I don’t mean in the obvious ways, like destroying brain cells or being a huge time waster. No, I mean it’s ruining our lives in insidious, seemingly harmless ways. After almost 20 years of air time, we’ve begun to internalize some of the more obvious themes and tropes of reality TV.

Take conflict, for example. Most people don’t like it and thus, try to avoid it at any and all costs. But lately? I’ve been inciting it left and right and then standing back to watch the beautiful blaze I’ve conjured into being burn the whole mother-effing house down. My friend says she doesn’t like my formal dress? I don’t brush it off anymore. No. Instead, I immediately go for the jugular and retort with “I’m not exactly looking to take style tips from you.” Grammatically speaking, a harmless statement. But passive-aggressively speaking, this is the equivalent of throwing a nuclear bomb down a well. She’s lucky I didn’t throw the non-existent wine I wasn’t drinking in her face. I’m also lucky she didn’t reach across the dinner table and stab me with her butter knife.

And talking behind peoples’ backs has gotten so much worse. I used to wait at least a few hours before I told another friend what I thought of Michelle’s obnoxious laugh. But now? Hell, I don’t even wait until Michelle has left the room. Or the table, much less. I’ll pull one friend aside and start whispering while Michelle jots things down in her day planner. If you really want to see this in action, watch one of your sisters make an announcement at chapter and then watch in awe as a murmuring ripple effect begins.

And last, but certainly not least, is the fact that all we do is try to create plot lines for ourselves in our own freakin’ lives. We literally craft Snapchat stories to chronicle the “journey.” And then we look at other people’s Instas to see what storylines they’ve conjured up for themselves and then we blurt out an opinion about that and then get in a fight with a friend who has a very vaguely different opinion and next go off to talk shit about that friend to our other friend because ugh, “she’s the worst”.

It’s the beautiful, horrifying, vindictive, and hilarious circle of life, my friends. Watch your back.

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I came for the wine, but I stayed for the complimentary appetizer sampler plate.

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