Was reality TV a necessary precursor to social media?

To some degree, we are all voyeuristic creatures. Whether we choose to embrace or repel the urge to look into the lives of others, the instinct is still a compelling factor in our collective behaviors.

So how did we go from a society that believed some things are best left unsaid, to “it didn’t happen unless it’s on Facebook”? What brought the masses out from viewing the few to being the viewed?

Philologist Dr. Pamela Rutledge hypothesizes that that two factors contributed to the development of social media. The first is the longing people have for their 15 minutes of fame, a.k.a. Andy Warhol. The second is the vast void of content, created by the Internet, that needed to be filled.

Fifteen minutes? Void? Tell that to my teenage daughter who would spend 15 hours a day, if she could, on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube), and who’s quickly approaching her 5000 friend limit on Facebook.

Is it possible that reality TV was a necessary precursor for the expanse of social media? Was initial shock, followed by disgust, then acceptance of common (and not so common) people’s lives lived out on TV necessary for us to embrace social media? I’m only half kidding.

Perhaps it’s more like an evolution than a precursor, which leads me to yet another quandary. Will such a thing as social TV replace reality TV?

According to the Reality Insights Survey Report, 67% of reality TV fans use some form of social media while watching reality shows. The survey found that 38% were active on Facebook, while 35% were on Twitter. It was also found that 93% of those who did participate in social media while viewing reality TV where influenced by product advertising and brand placement.

With numbers like these, marketers would jump at the advertising opportunities social TV (whatever that may be) would bring both on and off the air; not to mention, real-time reaction to storylines (yes I know reality TV is contrived) to produce a better product.

Facebook Survivor? Maybe.


3 responses to “Was reality TV a necessary precursor to social media?

  • dainmcquarrie

    I think you may be on to something here. I can see how the emergence of reality TV may have caused the mass acceptance of social media. Reality TV made it OK to peek in on other peoples lives and all the idiotic things they do (thinking of MTVs Real World). We learned that you can be popular and deemed cool by divulging the weird things you do to yourself and with others. So this makes it socially acceptable to self proclaim what you do with your life through a social media site. Interesting thought.

  • realityraver

    Good article and thanks for the link.