| by Romer Cherubim

( July 31, 2013, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) As economic conditions worsen, people are seeking alternative ways to relieve their stress and occupy their time. Gone are the days of seeking refuge from your woes in alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or all three. In the West, reality T.V. has become the opium of the people. Such viewing can take the form of programmes featuring individuals living in close proximity to one another in a closed environment or shows on the lives of people from a cross-section of society. The unifying factor is that the participants have become celebrities in their own right – famous for being famous!

However, reality T.V. has spawned a hatred-filled obsession with its “stars”, which is every bit as invidious as the persecution celebrities suffer from the press. The difference is that the icons of reality T.V. are hounded by “their own” – ordinary people. In this regard, you have only to look at the websites of docu-soaps to see how cruel and hurtful viewers can be. T.V. networks have created Comments sections in their websites, allowing members of the public to give their opinions on their favourite and not so favourite stars of reality T.V. Reading these comments really gives you a picture of both sides of mankind. While some of the remarks are, of course, positive, you do find some, which are lamentable.

T.V. networks have understood that it makes financial sense to give people the opportunity to connect with the actors in these programmes whether this is through Comments sections on websites or interactive fora. After all, such publicity fosters interest in the shows. The T.V. producers have failed nevertheless to comprehend that by allowing such promotion, they are exposing their stars to potential danger.

If a participant in such a reality T.V. show has to resort to social media to defend his position, this is surely a sign that T.V. programme makers have not acted responsibly enough in ensuring that the stars they have created, are safe. On the flip side, there are those, who say that the participants in reality T.V. allow themselves to be featured, knowing the risks.

You would have to argue that the potential participant in a reality T.V. programme must weigh up whether the possibility of career advancement is worth the inevitable intrusion he will face into his public and private life. That is a judgment call.