Peer Pressure taken to the extreme?

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Have you heard of the Milgram experiment? A modern version of it aired recently on a French TV Network and scarily enough, it’s even more efficient at convincing participants of doing something that goes against their beliefs.

In short, the updated Milgram experiment took the form of a reality show, ‘La Zone Xtreme‘. The contestants had to either answer a question right to stay in the game or, in the case of answering a question wrong, they had to administer an electric choc scaling up to ‘très dangereux‘ (very dangerous) to another participant, whose cries of pain and requests to be taken out (‘sortez-moi d’ici!‘) could be heard.

Reality TV contestants are seen to do things that they normally wouldn’t do (eating bugs on Fear Factor, anyone?). Television – or rather, the desire to be famous – trumps common sense for many reasons. One of these reasons is that we are inundated with so much that we don’t have time to process it all and make informed opinions.

Which begs the question: should there be so many TV shows on air?

No, I’m not an opponent of television. Quite the contrary; I love TV, and one look at Sahar’s Blog’s sister site, Sahar’s Reviews, should clear you of that notion quickly enough. Rather, the above question is related to the fact that the more TV we have, the less time we have to discuss and reflect on what we watch. For example, a lot has been said about the show 24, particularly in its treatment of the issue of torture. Does it make the show inherently bad? Opinions differ. But even if 24 isn’t considered bad, mindlessly watching it can affect our ‘real life’ position on the topic of torture – and whatever you might think of the TV show, mindless thinking is always bad.

The real shame is that, as it is currently used, television isn’t able to achieve anywhere near its capacity to create positive and ever-advancing conversations. This is all the more a shame that with platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and even the lowly email, TV show creators and writers are able to generate & sustain discussions on important topics – all from a simple TV show.

Perhaps one of the problems is that when there is a topic about which sides can be taken, both sides want to be proven right at any cost rather than wanting to find the truth. This means that, rather than looking at arguments objectively and creating a logical chain of arguments from them, each side changes said arguments in a way that suits them.

Perhaps another related problem is that of mindlessness; we seem to have equated ‘relaxation’ with it. If I could have a quarter for the number of times people have been shocked that blogging is a form of relaxation for me, I would be rich. If I could have a quarter for the number of times people have been shocked that I read ‘serious’ books as a form of relaxation, I’d be ever richer.

La Zone Xtreme‘ and the Milgram experiment also demonstrate the power that an authority figure has. Today, anyone can be considered an authority figure, all the more than in a celebrity-obsessed society, anyone with their 15 minutes of fame can become an authority figure on just about anything.

But this isn’t a bad thing per se, for just as an authority figure can convince participants in a game show to do things that go against their beliefs, an authority figure can encourage those who look up to him/her to embrace their inner nobility and to tap into the spiritual nature of their lives.

Which is why I will continue to watch only a limited number of TV shows and review them at length, in the hopes that through the conversations that these reviews generate, the people that I am conversing with and myself can all move closer towards a better understanding of our common reality.

And that is the greatest thing about TV.

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5 thoughts on “Peer Pressure taken to the extreme?

  1. I studied the original experiment at the University and I thought about this show a lot yesterday (I found out somewhere) and had a conversation with one of my best friends. Bottom line: There are two different kind of people, I’m in the naive side, incapable even to imagine this twisted behaviors and ways of thinking, reason why it is that hard getting rich although I’m supposed to be creative and clever, but I will anyway haha.

    Great post, thank you!


  2. Hey, I found your blog while searching on Google your post looks very interesting for me. I will bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!

  3. Your point is relevant not only to tv-shows at present. There is such thing called “the art of living” which apparently continues to elude 21st century people. Instead of taking advantage of some of the best living conditions we’ve had in history of mankind, we seek hedonistic life-style bringing us the seemingly blissful existence. Not only do we want to live spoiled with pleasure (be it physical/psychological) but we want it fast and in great amounts. There is no place for real discussions, reading something engaging and scientific. I have yet to encounter a person ready to debate some of the main aspects of such productions as House or FRINGE, not to mention do it in a way that is both intelligent and captivating.

    Together with that, ironically, we appear to have lost our sense of joy of life despite the fact that there are more ways in which we can express ourselves and new technology allows us to communicate with others faster.

    Which begs the question… Who is to blame? I tend to think it’s viewers’ shared nature. Media thrive on our fears, hopes, desires, and in their pure form they reflect the majority’s tastes and wants. We are shaping them by making decisions every day.

    The great thing about the Web and it’s media applications is that now we’re not limited or forced to watch/listen to anything. If you’re a conscious user, you can limit yourself to your favourite podcasts, tvshows and have an eye on others in want of real conversations.

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