I’ve cultivated this love-hate relationship with television these days. Yesterday morning I bummed around with my sister and we watched a few hours of various TV shows including Don’t Be Tardy, some 15-minute previews of The Real Housewives of Orange County and The Real Housewives of New York City (reunion) and an insanely long episode complete with “bonus scenes” of Four Weddings. Let me just tell you that a show like Four Weddings barely merits 60 minutes, let alone 90. It terrorized us to watch it for that long, but once we started, we couldn’t stop. We just had to figure out whose wedding would “win” the competition. I have never cared so much about centerpieces and chair covers over the course of an hour and a half in my life.
If you do not know any of the aforementioned references, consider yourself a much better person than me.
I’ve thought a lot about the television shows I opt to watch lately and have deliberately pulled back from my prior mass consumption of reality television. There was once a time not too many years ago when I watched reality television on autopilot, devoting hours each night to viewing women yell crazily at one another. My decision to abandon watching so much TV was a hybrid of getting sick of the same vapid drama signature to the narrative arc of the shows as well as no longer having enough time. The few hours in my evening became sacred and I learned I could not waste them on entirely on Joseline Hernandez, Ramona Singer or Khloe Kardashian if I stood any chance of building my blog.
But, it’s easy to get enamored by the escape of consuming other people’s lives. Between reality television and social media, we’re now hardwired to snack on both the beautiful and tragic bits of other people’s livelihood. I do not have any idea how reality TV stars carry out their lives in such a public way; it seems like a true deal with the devil. As someone who has developed an iota of a public persona simply because of my blog, I know I could never handle the ridicule, presumptions and misconceptions that come along with carrying one’s life out on television. I just write about my life, a fraction of it at that, and I find myself constantly having to correct people’s assumptions that they know everything about me based on a few blog posts. We forget that reality television is the culmination of editing and the necessity to create characters and caricatures out of real people. We forget that behind a neatly-packaged episode, there are human beings on the other end who hurt, cry, fight, love and doubt just like the rest of us.
Nonetheless, on the weekend or on a rare off-writing night, I sometimes slip back into my old habit and binge watch reality television. I catch up on what I’ve missed. While the shows no longer dictate my nightly routine, they can play somewhat of a role in my weekend trajectory. I usually feel a gross sense of writer’s guilt after, knowing I could have spent those two or three hours reading or doing anything else that would not zap my brain cells. I wish I could be one of those people who did not require cable as part of my life. You know, those people who just have a Hulu or Netflix subscription and save themselves a lot of money. Damn, those people are smart. But, my fear of missing out is most prevalent when it comes to television. What do you mean I can’t live tweet the BET Awards? No, thanks.
My only hope is to continue to be more deliberate about what television shows I choose to consume, especially when it comes to other people’s existence. It’s fun and somewhat cathartic to escape my own life for 60 minutes and get entrenched in someone else’s. But, maybe it’s not so fun when I consider that it’s at someone else’s expense. Sure, reality television stars sign up to have cameras follow them around, but I’m not sure they sign up for all of the demons that come along with that. And I’m not sure I need to keep contributing to the Kardashianification of America where scrutinizing someone else’s life is more commonplace than examining one’s own.