Really Good But Not Really Real: Reality TV

Today I’m going to do a little bit of rambling on reality TV. Let me just say I am a big fan of reality television. I simply love the trashiness of it all. Is it real? Yes and no. Yes, because these are real human beings interacting with each other in an “unscripted” environment. No, because the events and personalities are extremely outlandish and intentionally ridiculous.

Reality TV is a genre. It is mislabeled just like many other products out there: organic cigarettes, vitaminwater, green tea vodka… Much like mysteries or comedies, it is a type of programming.

A year or so ago, I came across this clip that very easily displays characteristics within most reality TV programs. (He has made another montage for the 2009 year, which you can find on the same site).

While this is obviously a very lighthearted approach to this whole conversation, it brings up a few issues we as critical thinkers (and myself as an active thinker in gender studies/feminist theory) should consider.

1. But OF COURSE women are the dramatic ones

Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t, but there were about a handful of men included in the clip. There are plenty of reality shows which have only men or are co-ed, yet the clip makes women appear to be at the core of every heated incident.

2. A friendly, emotional woman is automatically subversive and will only be pushed around

The whole concept of the “I’m Not Here to Make Friends” is a reinforcement of the whole idea that women are not trying to build meaningful relationships with other women. There is a prize to be won (money, fame, a man), and we women know better than to let our emotions get in the way. (Amirite? Ugh)

3. The continuous portrayal of women as backstabbing, tacky individuals

This is a particular topic of interest for me. When I was a junior in college, I did a term paper on aggression and social dynamics amongst high school students. It introduced me to a whole new range of concerns and topics relating to human development amongst teens. In a more recent research project, I delved more into this subject and found it absolutely alarming how much a popular teen magazine consistently hinted at using caution when proceeding with female friendships.

That’s all for now. I could go on, but I have a feeling (read: 110% confident) this topic will be one I will be pursuing with great frequency.

‘What’s On [My] Mind?’: The Issue of Banning Social Media

A Pennsylvania University is banning social media on campus, forcing everyone to participate in a social experiment in a trite effort to bring awareness about the usage and reliance on social media. I say ‘trite’ because I doubt they gathered approval of every student, and instead are just forcing this rule upon the student population (mostly effecting the people living on campus) to see what happens.

The University has one main objective: to gain awareness of the time [wasted] on social media sites. Yet, don’t we already know this? It is a very obvious truth. It’s likely a large part of its appeal. There’s no need for a complete immersion into life before social media. We know a life without it exists, and everyone has a right to choose whether or not to partake in it.

The coordinators of the social experiment seem to not recognize that social media has several useful purposes. Granted, a large percentage of time on these sites is general browsing, but social media sites also serve a very important role in helping students stay connected to the world around them.

I may be coming off as a social media addict, and perhaps this is true. But I will say I rely on sites like Facebook and Twitter to keep me informed of the world around me. Without it, I would probably be dramatically less informed. Several events I’m attending this month I learned about through Facebook. I refer to Twitter for condensed news when I need to catch up on current events. I learned of this University ban through a post on Twitter.

A ban on social media won’t do much. If anything, it’ll make people crave it more. And if social media disappeared entirely, we would all adjust soon enough. We’d go back to the old ways. We’d find other distractions.

Tweeting Tragedies

As 9/11 came and went this year, I couldn’t help but think about how news coverage has changed in a time of crisis since. Watching a clip of the 9/11 coverage and all the uncertainty surrounding when the first plane hit, it made me really consider what the role of Twitter would have played in this situation.

Consider the role Twitter and social media in general is playing now in news media. These instant-updates certain sites provide have now been utilized to provide up-to-date information via short messages or photos, and a growing amount of journalists have been considering Twitter as a legitimate news source. Last November, a Facebook status update was even the saving grace for a 19 year old convicted of robbery. His status (that he was eating at an IHOP) helped him confirm his alibi. Link

In March of this year, a large earthquake hit San Diego. I happened to be there at my house with my parents to experience this fairly traumatic event. As the quake happened, I had an almost automatic response to utilize my multimedia resources and contact people close to me to inform them what was going on. I text-messaged several people dear to me, and I tweeted to my followers about the event at hand. Even mere minutes later, this proved to be useful in two ways. First, from a familial perspective, friends I was away from (almost all were attending school in the midwest) that caught news of the quake were immediately able to reference my Twitter to read if I did in fact experience the quake, and to ensure my safety. Second, news channels were able to use and observe the thousands of commentators that experienced the incident in a very user-friendly, extremely convenient setting. Reporters read Tweets and blog comments from users participating in helping to define the incident and the damages surrounding their communities. Within minutes of the quake, a news site was able to find a YouTube video with footage of their house during the incident.

I could go on, but the point is that watching coverage of the quake and utilizing social media during the incident provided a much more in-depth experience. It was a real, uncensored depiction.

If Twitter and Facebook status existed in 2001 and were used as frequently as in modern America, would we remember 9/11 differently? To be continued.

Welcome!

Hello! Thanks for stopping by. Here you will find random posts about media literacy and me. Some posts may be short, others will ramble on forever, but all will hopefully be remotely insightful.

Feel free to comment and keep the conversations going!

If you would like to contact me personally, I can be reached at jacqueline.gonzalez@tufts.edu.