Modern-day people watching
We are constantly peering into the lives of family, friends, strangers and even celebrities through different forms of media. Instead of sitting on a bench at the park, we’re now using the screens on our TVs, phones and computers to do our people watching.
“I think people like to live vicariously through other people,” says Scott Testa, media consultant and professor of business administration at Cabrini College in Philadelphia. “People like situations that maybe they wouldn’t do in their own lives, but they enjoy watching other people do it.”
It’s a form of escapism from your normal life. Testa says reality shows such as Jersey Shore can be appealing because of this train wreck factor — it’s a horrible sight, but you can’t look away. He says people subconsciously compare themselves to others, so knowing our lives aren’t as bad as some people on TV is a satisfying thought.
Testa says some characters who know they’re being watched might act in ways that aren’t consistent with their regular actions. He says although some reality shows might skew actual reality and behaviors, viewers respond to the exaggerated characters because they evoke strong emotions, which translate to the screen well. He says sometimes the more outrageous the behavior, the bigger the audience.
Social networking helps us get a closer sense of someone’s personality and has amplified our natural tendency to observe, Testa says. He says there are those who like to know everyone’s business and those who like to tell everyone their business, which makes Facebook perfect for those two groups.
But knowing other people’s business is not always a bad thing. Facebook is a platform where people can share a common interest. You may discover that you have more in common with a stranger than you think.
Instead of being shackled to your computer or TV screen, location awareness technology allows you to actually meet the people you are watching.
“By nature, we’re curious. We’re social,” Testa says. “When you take a medium that allows us to be more social and more curious when it comes to the activities of others, you’re going to have an audience.”
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