Lots of people joke about reality TV being the end of civilization, and many of them are us, but we weren't really worried. Until we found out what scientists were saying. Hard data and scientific papers spell out exactly how reality television is undoing civilized society, aka "the thing that keeps us from killing and eating each other for fun."
6People Watch Reality TV For Horrifying Reasons
"Why People Watch Reality TV"
Professor Steven Reiss, Dr. James Wiltz
Ohio State University
Media Psychology, 6, 363-378 (2004)
For years, scientists have been trying to answer the question, "Why do people watch reality TV?" -- a question that was revised to "WHYYYYY? Oh my God, why are they doing this?" sometime around the premiere ofA Shot at Love With Tila Tequila.
There had better be a damn good reason for this.
The early money in academic circles was on voyeurism. Watching strangers interact with one another on TV seemed to appeal to humanity's inner Peeping Tom. However, voyeurism implies that the people you're watching don't know they're being watched. Reality TV stars were only getting more self-aware, and the ratings were only growing.
Deciding it was time to go back to the drawing board, two idealistic Ohio State researchers decided to compare viewing behaviors and personality profiles using Aristotle's model of the human soul. It was at this point that they discovered, to their horror, that the voyeur theory wasn't too cynical. In fact, when it comes to why we watch reality TV, the theory equating a large swath of humanity with lonely men masturbating in trees wasn't cynical enough.
Way to make humanity look like complete assholes, SCIENCE.
The adult fans of reality TV whose personalities they mapped ended up having pretty much all the worst traits possible. Professor Reiss himself writes that "the people who watched reality television had above-average trait motivation to feel self-important and, to a lesser extent, vindicated, friendly [and] free of morality." If each personality profile was a different Christian Bale character, Patrick Bateman would be the model reality TV viewer.
Their theory was that reality TV was essentially the antidote to self-improvement: Instead of feeling better about yourself by achieving anything, you can just watch the worst possible humans fawn over Flava Flav for half an hour! It's like a Hot Pocket for your self-esteem -- quick, easy and overall bad for you.
In an objective, scientific sense, listening to this man talk erodes your soul.
The study also found that those who watched reality TV were far more concerned with social status and vengeance, and significantly less motivated by idealism, morality or honor. In other words, asking people whether they watch My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance is a great way to discover who'll be wearing the leather after Mad Max happens.
His Reiss Profile "social status" score is Humongous.