Sunday, May 27, 2012

Whose Reality is Reality TV? And Can it Negatively Impact Performance in the Work Place?

Most reality television shows these days seem to have ‘small print’ somewhere actually letting people know that the programme is far from reality and events have been staged to make the ‘show’ more interesting. Where their definition of interesting encompass words like confrontational, sensationalist, hurtful, rude, inflammatory etc. 

But since as a ‘species’ we’re pretty bad at reading the small print – I often pause to wonder if the youth of today actually believe that because it’s called ‘reality’ that this must actually be how life is in the world in general and hence they adapt their behaviours to ‘fit in’ with this reality.  

In an article for ABC Nightline, Andrea Canning and Elizabeth Stuart highlight how “a slap here, a table flip there, and if we're lucky, an all-out brawl -- violence was once just a scene-stealer on today's reality shows, but it now has become a part of some stars' real lives. Stars from the hit MTV reality show "Teen Mom 2" are the latest to fall into controversy for fighting.  

Janelle Evans, 19, was arrested Sunday after video surfaced of her punching another woman at her Oak Branch, N.C. hometown. She was charged with simple assault and simple affray, ABC affiliate WWAY reported. In the video, Evans can be seen attacking her former friend, Brittany Truett, as others can be heard urging them on in the background.” 

The problem isn’t just the basic violence and abuse but that believe it or not more people tune in to see it.  “Last year, ‘Jersey Shore’ aired a video of Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi being punched in the face by a man at a bar to promote its upcoming season. Not only did the video go viral online, it helped double the show's ratings from the previous season.” 

Now what has this got to do with business one might ask. Well, I’d say everything – what are we teaching the next generation about ‘real’ reality in the work place – what are we teaching them in respect of how to develop interpersonal relationships, how to deal with conflict, how to communicate with your peers, customers etc. 

Stacey Kaiser a psychologist who has appeared on reality TV shows is worried that people's perception of reality are altered when they watch these shows. "Things that we used to look away from are things that we now watch on television on a daily basis," she said. "It sends a message to viewers that it’s something that's socially acceptable to our society these days." 

Known for sparking up vicious fights on "The Hills," Jayde Nicole said looking back, she was embarrassed by her behaviour, but that some of the blame had to lie with the show's producers. "The producers have a big role in what's happening on the show," she said. "They create a lot of drama and they start a lot of the fights...they will say so and so said this about you behind your back, and she said she slept with your boyfriend. It's like high school." 

Psychologist Stacy Kaiser said that the unusual situations that reality shows force their participants into can sometimes be detrimental to them. "I like to parallel some of these reality shows to a caged tiger that is used to being in the wild," she said. "They're being watched all the time, they start to feel anxious, they start to feel aggressive and they begin to behave in ways that are way more extreme." 

Of course reality-based television is not new, of course. Alan Funt, with his 1948 TV series Candid Camera is often credited as reality TV's first practitioner. In fact, he started a year earlier with Candid Microphone on radio. Truth or Consequences started in 1950 and frequently used secret cameras. Both of these two pioneering series created artificial realties to see how ordinary people would respond; the reality series of today borrow a lot from these precedents and differ mostly in scope and locale. A number of "who am I?" game shows accommodated the clunky nature of early TV technology by bringing real people into the studio. What's My Line premiered in 1950; I've Got a Secret in 1952; To Tell the Truth in 1956. These shows seem tame by today's standards, but were certainly cutting a new edge in the 1950s. The judge who married Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller appeared live on What's My Line within a week of performing the wedding. Even in the earliest days, the camera roamed out of the studio occasionally with film technology. You Asked For It took the viewer to amazing sights and spectacular phenomena as early as 1950. 

So is TV negatively influencing behaviours, especially in the young, which could be detrimental to their own careers going forward – as they misunderstand the basics in interpersonal skills? And if it is, is it something we as, business people, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders should concern ourselves with? Or are we happy to make it someone else’s problem – simply telling ourselves that we wouldn’t recruit these degenerates in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment