This is certainly a question I never thought I’d ask myself — or be asked, for that matter.
But it’s true. I was approached by a casting director for a homestead-oriented reality TV show. It was nothing super fancy — they didn’t knock down my door begging me to join the cast — but it was just a simple email inviting me to do an interview with them if I was interested.
Spoiler Alert: I respectfully and politely declined.
I won’t name names or say which show it was publicly. My decision wasn’t based on the particular show, and to be honest I haven’t even seen a single episode of the prior season so I can’t say whether the show is “good” or not. I don’t want to throw a particular show under the bus, especially one I’ve never seen.
That said, there are many reasons I declined, and I going to share them with you. If you are approached for a reality show — and if you homestead, there’s a chance you might be — this is food for thought, but it’s not meant to dissuade you. Being on TV isn’t right for me right now, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right for someone else.
I’ll also be totally honest and admit that it was a little tempting. There are definite benefits to that kind of exposure. What could I have earned, either monetarily or materially, from the show? What new doors might have opened? Would my blog, youtube channel, or writing have grown? Would it have been fun? I’ll never know now, but I made the best decision I could.
Why I said “No” to Reality TV
1. Reality TV attracts negativity and drama.
This may not be 100% true of everyone or every reality TV show, but it’s a pretty solid fact that holds true in most cases. First off, putting yourself out there for the world to see opens you up to criticism. That’s just an inescapable fact. The same applies to blogging and sharing on social media, and none of us are exempt from the occasional confrontation, but when you start talking about putting yourself on TV. . . that’s a whole ‘nother ball game.
I’ve found that with the online homesteading community, yes there is occasional drama and every so often someone gets their panties in a wad and starts drama for no reason. It happens, usually because the drama-starter feels better about themselves by criticizing others. People love to feel superior. But overall, our community is pretty darn nice. And really, why would anyone not into homesteading spend much time looking at homesteading blogs, videos, facebook pages, etc? But when you’re on TV, suddenly you’re available via easy access to everyone’s living room.
We also know that reality TV relies on keeping people interested, and people stay interested not based on how nice the people are, or how great everything works out for them. No, people want drama. They want the train wreck. We’re all guilty of it from time to time, and most reality TV shows thrive on it. That means that, through creative editing, any TV show’s directors and producers are at liberty to cut and splice the things they film to make your life look way more dramatic than it really is for the sake of entertainment. It’s understandable from that standpoint, but that’s not something I want done to my life — especially in front of an audience that does not know me and may not understand that behind the many drama-filled scenes were a lot of boring, everyday life kind of scenes, too.
2. Fame always comes at a cost.
Andy Warhol once said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” While that isn’t really the case and probably never will be, it is certainly easier for us to get our 15 minutes of fame these days. We can all share our lives on blogs, social media, youtube videos, and what-have-you. For the most part, that’s really cool. I love peeking into other people’s lives, and I like sharing mine, too, as evidenced by the fact that you’re reading this blog right now! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people I never would have met and making friends I never would have made if not for the online homesteading community.
But “fame” as it exists in small online communities — like when a lot of people share a facebook post or read a blog — is not the same thing as the kind of fame generated by TV. Like I alluded to in point number one, the online community is a niche. The television audience can be anyone from anywhere with or without any interest in homesteading or respect for the lifestyle.
Fame comes with its perks. I mean, look at the amazing things that Ree Drummond — The Pioneer Woman has been able to accomplish! I would literally buy every single thing she’s designed if I could. But fame always comes with a price. Sometimes it’s worth it, but sometimes it’s not — and you never know what the price will be until it’s time to pay up. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to know the cost of something before I buy it.
3. I have a strong desire for privacy.
Even though I like to share my life online, I’m also a very private person. My mother always taught me to “never tell everything you know” and I’ve lived by that motto ever since. I don’t even share everything with my closest family. I believe that there is a fine line between what is appropriate to share openly and what should be kept private, and I try not to mix the two. My personal life and my blog life intersect at times, but I also prefer to keep them at least somewhat separate. I’m also extremely introverted, which plays into my desire for privacy as well. I’m just not a “sharer.”
Reality shows seem like a huge invasion of privacy. Being on reality TV means granting a film crew of strangers full access to every waking moment of your life. Then on top of that, they have creative licence to share whatever part of your life they’ve chosen with a whole bevy of more strangers. Private conversations are no longer private. Personal moments are no longer personal. Emotions normally experienced in private are suddenly aired on TV. Some people are open books and that kind of sharing doesn’t bother them, but to me it feels like an invasion of a sacred space.
4. Reality TV affects all aspects of your life.
I think one thing people don’t always consider is how pervasive being on TV in general, and reality shows in particular, can be into your entire life. It’s not just about turning yourself “on” for 12 hours of the day and then going back to life as normal when the cameras are off. First there is the impact on your schedule. The logistics of scheduling a job, a blog, a small farm, hobbies, and the like around a show schedule as well seems like it would be a large feat. All the interesting, homesteady stuff would need to happen during a certain time frame each day — everything else would need to be rearranged around that.
Then there is also the fact that you’re on TV. Although a small niche reality show about homesteading isn’t likely to create “fame” in the traditional sense that we think of, it’s also not outside the realm of possibility that people might start recognizing you. Some people feel like being on TV (or online) means that you have an open door policy on your life. Of course that it’s true, but I know bloggers who have had strangers pop in for a “farm tour.” I shouldn’t have to say that such behavior is not okay, but I imagine it only gets worse the wider your audience becomes. I have also seen the fallout for some other farmers from reality TV and the horrible hate mail and harassment that was brought on. I ain’t down for that.
5. It’s not a good fit for me right now.
The biggest, overriding reasoning for me is that it’s not right for me right now. I have actually been behind the lens of a documentary camera once upon a time. I don’t know if anything I said or did ended up in the end product because it was a small, independent thing that never aired in my area, but I didn’t mind the experience. After a while you really do forget that the cameras are there. The crew, at least in my experience, is noninvasive and it doesn’t take long to get comfortable. Even though there is a pressure to not do or say the wrong thing, there’s also a tendency to let your guard down after a while. (Which is a scary thought in itself — no one wants to put their foot in their mouth or be misunderstood.)
That said, I really don’t feel like where I am in my homestead life is where I would need to be in order to be appropriate material for any kind of TV show, documentary, etc — even if I really wanted to be. I still work a “normal” job (even though I thankfully work from home). I still only spend a portion of each day homesteading; it’s not my full time job. (I wish it were.) I’m not off grid. I’m not in the backwoods. I live much like a “normal” person, except that I have livestock and enjoy cooking from scratch and canning — and I don’t even cook from scratch every day for every meal. It’s a goal, but not one I’ve met yet.
The truth is that my homestead is at a standstill, guys. I can’t make it any bigger right now, and to be honest I’m planning to downsize it next year. It’s at the point now where I am maxed out, and when I’m maxed out I stop enjoying it. My eyes are always bigger than my abilities.
One day, I will have my mostly off-grid cabin in the woods. I’ll have a wood stove and a real hearth and window A/C units because I can’t sleep when it’s hot and internet because, well. . . internet. One day when I find land I can afford in the right place at the right time. I have to hold onto that dream, no matter how long it takes. Until then, I’ll keep one foot in the homestead and one in the modern “tryin’ to make a livin'” life.
It’s a dance, folks, and not one worthy of an audience.