I have to admit that I watch very little reality TV. I've never seen an episode of Jersey Shore, The Hills or Big Brother. I don't watch the Housewives shows, Survivor or heaven forbid, Toddlers and Tiaras.
I watched some of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise because I was writing about it. It was bad enough but now now they've spun it off into something called Bachelor Pad. Good gracious.
I'm appalled by shows like Dr. Phil and Celebrity Rehab where troubled individuals have emotional melt-downs in a public forum. As a licenced psychotherapist, I was taught that the first rule of treatment was to maintain a safe, confidential environment in which people could heal.
Reality TV is offensive to me. Aside from the fact that the inane behaviour of the participants is exceedingly irritating, I'm concerned about the distorted and destructive messages it's sending.
Do people really think that what we see on reality TV reflects actual events? Does anyone believe that the people on the show aren't to some extent performing?
Remember when Jerry Springer's show was popular on TV? It turns out that most of the dramatics were either provoked or staged.
Is North America so depraved that we'll never run out of men and women willing to come on TV and reveal their darkest secrets or smash chairs over the heads of their rivals? Is there an audience always ready to watch this awfulness? I don't want to think so.
Maybe some people like to feel superior by laughing at the characters on these shows, but by choosing to waste their time on such drivel, they inadvertently demonstrate their own lack of discernment.
The problem with the medium of television is that it automatically distorts reality. Being filmed and recorded significantly changes the way people behave.
We all know how natural it is for us to become self-conscious when we see a mirror nearby. Reality TV acts in the same way, encouraging the participants to play to the camera.
When we factor in how the shows are cast for maximum conflict and edited to present the producers' version of the action, reality shows are no different than any prime-time sit-com, but with really bad writing and shoddy acting.
Many of the programs on television in recent years have had interesting things to say, be they The Big Bang Theory, Weeds, or even Sex and the City.
Reality TV has no point of view except to reveal the worst aspects of human nature and to exploit these for our so-called entertainment. The producers are convinced, perhaps rightly, that people enjoy watching reality stars embarrassing themselves for all the world to see.
Art is meant to be uplifting and inspiring. It enables us to transcend our mundane reality and imagine something finer and more beautiful for ourselves and in our lives.
Although television was at the outset established as a commercial venture and never aspired to be art, the medium has evolved and a number of shows have nevertheless achieved that end, two examples of which are Mad Men and Breaking Bad.
Reality TV has devolved in the opposite direction. It represents the most crass of crass commercialism. It's the worst of a flawed medium, rubbing our noses in our own failings.
I wonder whether the epidemic of extreme rudeness that's become the norm lately is related to the way that outrageous behaviour is made to look acceptable, even desirable on these shows.
The popularity of reality TV is representative of our declining civilization. We no longer read books and our writing skills are practically non-existent. We're clueless or worse, apathetic about history, geography, science, politics and art.
We talk about the "dumbing down" of North America, and while it's impossible to know whether reality TV is a causative factor or merely a symptom, I'm certain that it's not doing us any good.
An educated public is an empowered one. Informed citizens who ask important questions and challenge the status quo are the backbone of our democratic society.
As the economy continues to tank and politicians become indistinguishable from reality TV stars, it might be a good idea for us all to forgo our daily dose of reality TV. Perhaps we might consider picking up a book or engaging in some intelligent conversation, instead.
Some may say that this suggestion is snobby and elitist. They might protest that reality TV is just harmless entertainment. They might even insist that they have a legal right to watch whatever garbage they want on TV.
It saddens me that some people would be more willing to fight for the right to pollute their minds than they would be for the right to have a say in public policy and to live in a clean environment. Has our steady diet of TV junk food sent our priorities that far off track?
If we stop feeding our brains and souls with the false and disturbing images on reality TV and instead, take in something more intellectually and spiritually nourishing, we'll have the opportunity to become engaged citizens with the power to make significant changes in our own lives and in our communities.
I know that the solution to our current economic and social problems is not anywhere near as simple as giving up reality TV, but I'm more than certain that it's an excellent first step.
Follow Marcia Sirota on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rcinstitute