MTV just released a social media app with the aim of spurring online conversations among viewers about their original programming in real time. Now, this app is not only focused on MTV’s reality show offerings (they have recently come out with some new scripted television) but it made me think about how well suited reality TV and social media are to one another.
The first reason why these two belong together is because the people on the show are “real”. Now, in most cases the people on these shows are portrayed as caricatures of themselves in order to make the content more interesting for viewers. Still, Mike “The Situation” can still tweet as himself. Harry Potter or Spongebob don’t have this liberty because despite their immense popularity they do not exist. Even if someone were to have a social media account as a cartoon or television character there would always be the need for people to suspend their disbelief when reading their posts. Reality TV stars are in a unique position because they are famous for being themselves not for any exceptional ability. Most don’t have any particular talent besides doing or saying entertaining things and that is just why they are poised to be successful on social media.
The second reason that this pair do so nicely together is their key demographics. MTV has three of the top five original cable series among people 12 to 34 including Jersey Shore, Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant (all three are reality TV shows). The majority of Facebook users are between the ages of 13 and 34 and the most avid Twitter users are in this exact same age range. The numbers don’t lie and they prove that the social media reality TV connection is a strong one.
The final reason that I think this combination is brilliant is that people love to gossip. I don’t necessarily mean that we are all nasty rumor spreaders and drama queens it is just that people like to talk about other people. We especially like to talk about interesting people or people we have strong opinions about and reality celebrities are the perfect topic for conversation. They are real people who do really strange things and it is fun to talk about them and it is even more fun to see them talk about each other in a public forum.
Though I tend to roll my eyes at the path MTV has taken from a reputable source for music information to the king of reality show programming I think that in this case they were very smart. Not all television programming lends itself to discussion and many networks have tried and failed to make their offerings more social media friendly but I think that reality TV and social media will truly live happily ever after.