The three pairs of eyes staring impatiently were the only ones that mattered to the young girl on stage, although in the audience at the show and at home, millions more waited. She began to sing and the shy exterior melted away to a spectacular singing voice much to the judges’ surprise. She gets a standing ovation as the camera pans onto each of the strict judges’ approving looks. The last shot of the scene is a smiling 20-something with tears in her eyes, clapping for the girl on stage. This is just a typical weekly scene from “The X Factor.”

From fiction-like characters like Situation and Snooki to harsh judges like Simon Cowell, Americans LOVE reality TV shows and seemingly none more so than the millennials who continue to watch this mindless entertainment week by week, especially shows like “Jersey Shore,” “American Idol” and “The Voice.”

Even in recent weeks, the premiere of the final season of “Jersey Shore” ruled the tube compared to other popular award-winning sitcoms and dramas that night. What is the obsession that young adults have with reality shows?

These types of shows can be separated into a few categories: entertainment, dating and competition. Each genre of reality show affects the viewer in a different way, particularly for GenY viewers.

When Hanna Park, 19, a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, tuned into the first season of “Jersey Shore” back in December 2009 she didn’t think much of it, but after watching multiple seasons, “I guess I sort of ‘fell’ for the characters,” she said, adding that she has come to regard the cast almost as friends. For viewers like Hanna, the idiotic acts on the show are what draw her in the first place. She admits that she knows that producers script a lot of the show, but despite the fakeness, she does continue watching for easy entertainment to fulfill her boredom.

On the contrary, David Lee, a student at Cooper Union, despises reality shows and calls them the “scum of our generation.” He scolds his fellow young adults for watching shows like “Jersey Shore” and for “thinking it’s cool to copy people like that because they perceive fame to be synonymous with idiocy.”

According to a March 2012 study by the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology”, GenY is much more interested in fame and wealth than their predecessors. When Gen Yers watch these shows filled with extravagant spending and fabulous people, they may imagine themselves in that position.

“I think people are just bored with their lives in general, so they live vicariously through the characters on reality TV shows,” said David. Another study done by the Steelforce Workspace Futures says that GenY is easily bored yet extremely pressured. Reality shows give them the break from their actual realities that they need.

Another prominent genre of reality shows is the dating or love show. Although GenY started the phenomenon of casual ‘hooking up’ and are getting married later than any other generation, they are a romantic generation. Pamela Smock, professor of sociology and director of the Population Studies Center at University of Michigan, told Christian Science Monitor that “Millennials believe in marriage and lifelong commitment, but are also more relaxed about sex, dating and living together.” The draw to dating shows is amplified with millennials’ current lifestyles.

This idea is elaborated on in the book “Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture” by Jonathan Gray. In a chapter of the book entitled “Cinderella Burps,” the dating show is examined. The chapter compares the dating show to crazy fairy tales where “Girl (not Woman) meets Man in a magical setting, and Man eventually chooses her above all other suitors, thereby validating her as a person, completing her, rescuing her from a humdrum life, and giving her the chance to become a princess of Reality TV-Land.” These crazy romantic ideas continue to fill GenY’s head with fantasy situations further propelling them into their own reality tv lands.

Sunny Paik, 20-year-old student at Wellesley, is an avid watcher of more than 20 different genres of reality TV shows. She blames her attraction to dating shows in particular to her “cliché romantic heart” and says that watching these people fall in “love” makes her warm and happy inside.  The contestants on dating shows also tend to do outrageous things, which help them stand out to the Bachelor or Bachelorette being fought for. Viewers like Sunny fall even deeper into fairy-tales in which contestants will do anything for “love.”

The most popular shows in ratings today are the many singing or talent competition shows. “American Idol,” “The X Factor” and “The Voice” are just a few of the competition shows that viewers, mostly millennials, watch in huge numbers on a weekly basis, according to a 2011 ratings study done by TV by the Numbers. One can see that these shows are especially popular with GenY just from looking at the multiple shots of the young studio audience in shots during the shows, tearing up and clapping for their favorite contestants.

Dr. Jean Twenge emphasizes GenY’s concern for fame and money in her book “Generation Me.” “Hasn’t every generation dreamed big during adolescence? Maybe, but GenMe’s dreams are bigger. While our parents may have aimed simply to leave their small town, or to go to college, we want to make lots of money at a career that is fulfilling and makes us famous,” she says. This desire for easy fame and money is exemplified in the contestants’ drive and passion on competition shows. Millennial viewers may view the contestants’ drive and passion as inspiration for their own lives.

Sunny especially loves watching singing competition shows and always posts outstanding or humorously awful performances from YouTube from various reality shows on her Facebook. She says, “I’m tone deaf so I think I like living vicariously through the contestants that sing very well.” Even with the less-than-stellar performances she is hooked out of pity and sometimes shares tears with the rejects that she watches.

Reality TV is a force to stay in our culture, pervading our news and gossip cycles everyday. Whether GenY loves to hate them or hates to love them, many will continue to indulge in this guilty pleasure and live a second life each week where dating is fun and fairy-tale-like and life is silly entertainment.