The Serious Faux Pas: Reality TV

In today’s segment of our Serious Faux Pas series, we’re looking at how Millennials’ attraction to the irreverent over the self-serious has changed the reality TV landscape.

 

In early April, Bill Simmons’ Sports Guy Q&A segment on Grantland featured the following exchange on reality TV:

 Q: I'm flipping back and forth between the NCAA tournament and MTV's retro marathon of the 1993 San Francisco season of the Real World. Is this really how people acted in the 90's? These people suck. There hasn't been any sex, barely any drinking and all conflicts have been resolved through open discussions. Did everyone in the 90's take themselves this seriously? Did everyone feel they need to take up a cause? Why are they rock climbing so much? Watching this is making me thankful to be in my 20's now and not then. —Pat, Chicago

 SG: And you wonder why everyone from Generation X is so bitter.

The question (and response) highlights a huge shift in the kind of reality TV that young people want to consume. The Real World has been on MTV since 1992 when the series kicked off in New York. That is 21 years of 20-somethings being documented living together while they stop being polite and starting being real— and a lot has changed.

The early seasons of the show, which many consider the first reality series, were full of earnest Xers making impassioned statements about their views on life and social issues. Serious topics like prejudice, AIDS, substance abuse and sexuality were tackled by roommates who were also figuring out how to live together when they came from such different backgrounds. Flash-forward ten years and the show had shifted considerably to focus on hook-ups, heavy partying, and roommate drama that was more likely to stem from people getting on one another’s nerves than judging…

 
 

Want to talk to us about the article
or dive into a custom study?


Millennial News Feed

Quote of the Day: “The type of commercials that stick in my memory are the ones that make me evaluate my life.”—Female, 28, SD

To Millennials, being a geek is a good thing. Imgur’s research (conducted by Ypulse) reveals that 60% of Millennials consider themselves geeks or are into geeky things, compared to just 38% of Xers and Boomers, and the majority don’t believe the geek label is a bad thing. These Millennial geeks are trendsetters, politically and culturally engaged, and highly influential: 84% say people look to them for advice on a topic, compared to 60% of non-geeks, and 67% say they know about things before they go viral, compared to 48% of non-geeks. However, Millennial geek influencers are not easy to reach, with 76% using adblockers and 32% feeling like brands can’t relate to them. (AdweekMediaPost

Half of 12-18-year-olds feel they are addicted to their phones, according to Common Sense Media’s new poll. Although not enough research exists to define digital addiction currently, teens are clearly dependent on their devices: 80% say they check their phones hourly, and 72% said they feel a need to respond to text and social media messages immediately. Parents are in agreement, with 59% saying their children are addicted, and 36% saying they argue daily with their children over mobile use. The bright side is there are signs they are aware too much time on devices might be bad: 37% say they are very often or occasionally trying to cut down. (CNN)

BuzzFeed, which is producing 600 pieces of content daily, has grown their audience views from 2.8 billion monthly to 7 billion in the past year. They attribute their success to “truly understand[ing] what today's audiences want,” and being able to monitor reactions to content. They report that three quarters of their content is consumed outside of their actual site. Facebook is where they thrive: the social network contributes 33% of their views, more than their own platforms at 23%. Tasty, their food entertainment division, has become "its own BuzzFeed," averaging 360 million users monthly. (Adweek

Going viral is not always a good thing. Down to Lunch is a simple meet-up app inspired by “the experience of living in their freshman-year dorms,” connecting users with their contacts to facilitate lunch, “chill,” or “blaze” meet-ups. But as it began to gain traction, becoming “wildly popular college campuses,” fake reviews claiming the app was used for human trafficking also began to go viral—decreasing user growth by 90% over two days. The founders were able to fight the accusations, and the popular app peaked at  No.2 on iPhone download charts in April. (Business Insider)

According to The New York Times the future of journalism is virtual reality. At the NewFronts this week, the Times outlined their new digital strategy, concentrated on an R&D lab where journalists, technologists, and brands will create video series and 360-degree videos. Last year the publication delivered a million Google Cardboard virtual reality headsets to subscribers, leading to 600,000 downloads of their VR app, which they call “the leading mobile app for high quality VR content.” The company plans to cover the Olympic games in Rio, space exploration, and more in VR this year. (Fortune

Quote of the Day: “A wedding trend I have noticed is not having a photographer, and just having friends take all the pictures.”—Female, 18, CO

Sign Up Now

Subscribe for premium access to our content, data, and tools.

Already a subscriber? Sign in.

Upgrade Now

Upgrade for full access to the best marketing tools for understanding the next generation.

View our Client Case Studies