This Blog is dedicated to help you improve your emotional and social skills, so that you can make a positive impact at home, at work, and in your community.

It is difficult to turn on the TV and settle on a program that is not a so-called reality show. According to TV Guide, Kim Kardashian is the most popular celebrity on television.  Her profession is listed as “socialite; reality cast member.”  She does not sing, dance, act, paint, play an instrument, or even perform magic tricks for that matter.  Yet hoards of young girls watch every episode of her show, follow her every tweet, and long to be just like her – sex tapes and all.  It should be insulting to professional actors who have trained for years on their craft to be upstaged by average Joes and Janes who’ll do anything for their 15 minutes of fame.

Adults tell me they watch these shows purely for their entertainment value, but it is unfortunate that a train wreck can be so entertaining.  Given that we are at war, battling high unemployment, enduring a sluggish economy, and struggle to get our kids to stay in school, how can we afford to worry about what is happening in the lives of basketball wives? Or who the bachelor is going to marry? Or what Kate and the kids are doing?

The fact that adults are glued to their flat screens consuming this nonsense is troubling, but the situation is even more alarming for young people in terms of their social and emotional skills.  The shows provide a sensationalized view of the world, distorting youths’ understanding of hard work, success, relationships, and beauty. For some, the result is narcissistic behavior and the inability to delay gratification. Other kids end up depressed because their lives don’t seem exciting enough, or they don’t feel as beautiful and glamorous as their caked-on make-up wearing role models.

Reality-testing is an important component of social emotional intelligence, but it is difficult for developing minds to understand what is real and unreal when they are bombarded with this stuff – especially when producers call them reality shows. Young people believe what they are watching is real, and they play these dramas out in middle and high schools across the country.  It doesn’t occur to them that the presence of cameras greatly influences behavior.  They don’t understand that many of the people who are cast for these roles have borderline personality disorders. No, really.  A colleague of mine is a psychologist who does personality assessments for reality shows.  The producers know exactly what these folks are going to do once the lights are turned on and the cameras are rolling. And they know that we’ll reward that bad behavior with more attention, resulting in increased fame and money for the cast members and the people pulling the strings.

Each of our lives is just as important as the lives of the people we see on TV.  In fact, we have the opportunity to be of more influence by doing something real, such as being excellent parents, brothers, sisters, and sons, and daughters.  We can help others in need, clean up our communities, or work to dismantle the inequities still woven into our society.  Undoubtedly, these are the kinds of activities that will matter long after the 15 minutes of fame have faded for Paris, Khloe, and all the bachelors and bachelorettes combined.

 

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