The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

April 3, 2013

TV or reality? Lines blur after death of show star

(Continued)

Katz, 23, is roughly the same age as the modern reality TV genre, which MTV is credited with launching in 1992 with "The Real World." Like many other viewers, he knows that reality television is carefully shaped by producers looking for storylines and conflicts. He watches ironically, sometimes condescendingly — "look at their stupid life, they're stupid" — and takes it all in with a grain of salt.

Yet still he is drawn to the personalities and the dramas, especially the combative women on "The Real Housewives" series.

"I never expected to become invested in them the way I do," Katz says.

"Housewives" fights may affect the way he deals with drama in his own life: "When someone takes a small situation over the top, it's the worst. You feel like you're on one of these shows. But if two of my friends get into a huge fight in front of me, I let it go for a little while before I jump in."

"Is that a byproduct of reality television? Probably," Katz said.

Then there is another byproduct of reality-TV culture: the compulsion, enabled by social media, to broadcast everything about yourself.

Who needs a TV show when you can Instagram that hamburger, YouTube that roller coaster, tweet about the twit who just cut in line? Then comes the feeling of validation from every "like" and click and retweet — a fulfillment of the basic human need for attention.

Some have a deeper thirst — for fame. Their every post is one more chance to go viral, to reach the promised land of recognition: television.

"People misbehaving is nothing new," says Tyler Barnett, owner of a public relations company in Beverly Hills and a former cast member on several reality shows.

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