Jay Rifenbary

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Reality TV - Dumbing Down America

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Although apparent for years, reality shows continue to escalate. Their dominance as a primary mode of entertainment reveals a destructive trend of inviting the masses to actually escape from reality, rather than participate in it. The public’s obsession and the medias promotion of such shows send a very convoluted message in regard to what our priorities as a society are. Are wealth, fame, notoriety, stardom, vanity, and narcissism society’s priorities? For the sake of our future as decent citizens, and our intellect as a society, I certainly hope not. As entertaining as some reality shows may be, they are a distraction for many from having to take accountability for their own personal and professional issues and dilemmas. They also provide an opportunity for one to judge, ridicule, and demean others in order to falsely uplift their own sense of self-importance.

Is “The Bachelor/Bachelorette” reality in regard to what it takes to build a successful relationship? Is “Survivor” reality in regard to what characteristics are most important to succeed in life? Is “American Idol” reality in regard to defining what it means to be genuinely happy? Is “Jersey Shore” reality in regard to the development of positive character traits for our youth? Is “Celebrity Apprentice” reality in regard to the skills necessary to create and run a sustainable business? Is “Wife Swap” reality in regard to how to raise a healthy and respectful family? These questions can be left too much debate and discussion, and of course you may be able to extract positive life lessons from any situation presented. However, the reality is there needs to be a foundation of perspective when deciphering what is being presented. If no foundation exists, then any individual is vulnerable to what reality television presents and defines as success and happiness. That would be an uneducated understanding of reality. The foundation to resist such vulnerability is a personal set of core values, real life experience, and an understanding that self-respect is generated by your own actions and not by living through the eyes of others. In addition, life experience provides a basis to interpret real from unreal, and meaningful human interaction from entertainment. What if you have no core values? Then reality television has the potential to influence and form those core values for you.

Related to this bit of pondering is the medias exploitation of the downfall of individuals in the limelight. It seems every day we are informed of those in positions of wealth, fame and power that implode, and violate the very values and character traits they project to the world they possess. A developing belief by those in power that because I am who I am, the rules and laws of ethical behavior do not apply to me is self-destructive. How disappointing for our youth when faith, hope and trust are directed toward those in positions of leadership only to witness those they believe in fail as a result of behaving in an irresponsible, immoral, and reckless manner. As this continues, why would our youth, or any adult for that matter, believe what anyone says who is in a position of prominent leadership?

Another consequence that emanates from these situations is the deterioration of personal accountability. Every time pundits generate excuses and minimize the destructive behavior of leaders it reinforces the idea that accountable and honorable behavior is meaningless. These are also not times to take delight when those in positions of prominence falter. It is common for many to feel a false sense of satisfaction about their own life when these events occur, but understand it is a lowering of the bar in regard to their own expectations for a better and more fulfilling life. On a positive note, reality television and the high profile failures we witness opens the door to lead and parent more effectively. It forces us to ask questions, evaluate, reflect, and put in perspective the core values we as individuals and parents feel are most important. It is an opportunity to educate our children in what is real, and provide them the tools to develop substance of character and a foundation of values worth believing in.



4 Responses to Reality TV - Dumbing Down America


1. Kathy Frost Says:

Jay: I am the teacher who rented the vacation home next to your lake house a few years ago. We are looking to improve our advisement program at our school, and your book "No Exuses" came up. Do you have materials, videos, or other ideas for providing lessons in responsibility, citizenship, integrity, courage, and other life lessons our students need? Your book has many stories, quotes, and life lessons that I plan to develop into lessons, just wondering if you had other resources. Thanks Kathy.



2. Craig Gingrich Says:

Jay, I'm halfway through your book and thoroughly enjoying it. My wife, Deb was lucky enough to get it at a workshop at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare in Waterloo, Iowa. I was a HS teacher for many years and now a paramedic senior citizen. She is EMS Director. We have 4 sons and the younger 2 are in Afghanistan finishing their 2nd and 3rd deployments. We will purchasing your book for them. Thank you for the message. It is so gratifying to know you are out there encouraging and inspiring people to take control of their lives and learn from their mistakes. We need you desparately, today. Run for office please;-) Craig and Deb Gingrich, Cedar Falls, Ia



3. Seston Says:

Well done atricle that. I'll make sure to use it wisely.



4. Lurraine Says:

Right on-this helped me sort tihgns right out.


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