The influence of mainstream media on modern society has been a very compelling topic for social research as of late. It has been argued that it has had a strong impact on society not only in Western culture, but across the globe. Many polls and studies have shown that human perception of the world can be greatly affected by the ideas, stories, and even entertainment provided by newspapers, radio, social media, and television. One very popular genre of televised programming in the United States is reality television which, according to ratings, has been consistently capable of capturing the attention of millions of viewers on a weekly basis. Reality television series such as “The Real Housewives,” “Teen Mom,” and “The Bachelor” are among the many which attract and cater to young adults. While it is common knowledge that reality television is typically not a depiction of reality, such knowledge does not hinder its ability to influence the youth’s perception of reality. As molecular biology students with backgrounds in social sciences, we find this to be a topic of interest because the upcoming generations will shape the future of our society. We believe strongly in the value of education and critical thinking; such ideas are generally not promoted in reality television programs. By examining reality television’s effects on the youth through the lens of social cognitive theory and social learning theory, it can be seen that it is harmful to society by giving young adults unrealistic body image expectations, glorifying fame, sex, and drug abuse, reducing physical activity and increasing obesity, encouraging a “get rich quick” mentality, and taking advantage of their need for peer acceptance.
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