The Real Effects of Reality Television on Society

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The real effects of reality television on society.

Reality television is popular all over the world. The influence reality television has on society is significant, especially its influence on the youth generation since television is a widely accessible form of mass culture. Psychologist Randall Flanery, PhD, director of the Eating Disorders Program at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine tells Webmd.com (2003) that he is especially concerned about its teenage viewers, who are more than likely to develop eating disorders. Holly Hoff, program director of the National Eating Disorders Association, also shared with Webmd.com (2003) her concerns about reality television’s impact on youth, saying that reality television emulates these most often, unhealthy standards when anorexia has the highest death rate of any psychiatric disorder. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (see Sperry, 2009), the number of cosmetic procedures has increased to over 10 million in 2006, representing a 48% increase from 2000. This increase in cosmetic surgery performance is caused by the popularity of reality cosmetic surgery television programming. In fact, psychologists bring to public attention how easily reality television programs find a way to peoples mind (see Ruocco, 2004). For most viewers, these programs are purely entertainment, but the truth is that they have a profound effect on society. Reality television causes the following serious problems among society: increases in eating disorders; significant increases in plastic surgery, and surprisingly noticeable increases of racism.

To begin, one way that reality television shows increase eating disorders is by exposing viewers to thin-ideal body images, which causes body dissatisfaction and encourages a drive for thinness. Research has shown that reality television programs influence eating disorders. Mazzeo et al. (2007), investigated effects of reality TV cosmetic surgery programs like The Swan, and their findings indicated that the effects of the cosmetic surgery makeover program were most negative for young women. The results of this study can be used to illustrate the process of how reality shows increase eating disorders. First, women exposed to reality shows like The Swan lower their self-confidence, plunge into depression, and finally in consequence, they become determined to do everything to achieve the ideal body quickly, without thinking about the serious consequences of eating disorders. Those fatal health consequences are usually bulimia, and anorexia, which has the highest death rate of any psychiatric disorder, according to the WebMD.com (2003). Young women who have a greater appeal of the thin-ideal body, usually become alienated with their desire, and plunge into anorexia, or bulimia following an ideal body image as seen in reality television programs, and they do not realize they already need help, such as professional psychological treatment. Most of the time they actually refuse help, and try to find evidence that this problem does not exist in their life. Another way that reality television shows increase eating disorders is by promoting extreme thinness and reinforcing the problem while treating eating disorders like they are not a problem. Experts provided evidence that some reality television programs help identify and accept the problems of eating disorders, completely ignoring their serious consequences. As Jorissen et al. (2008) indicate that while the amount of television young women watched did not have a significant correlation with body dissatisfaction or drive for thinness, the categories of the programs they watched did. Regarding to Jorissen et al. (2008) findings, extreme thinness promoting shows are frequently watched by those who are already dealing with an eating disorder problem. These findings illustrate that reality television shows may not only cause an increase of eating disorders, but can...
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