As my Twitter feed gets clogged up with commentary on Celebrity Big Brother, it’s evident that reality television remains alive and kicking.
While watching a bunch of celebrities in a house or a jungle for a few weeks appeals to many, RTÉ 2 decided to try a different tack. The station aired the reality television show Connected.
The show was received extremely well by audiences who saw it as a breath of fresh air, and for once, portrayed actual reality on television. Connected followed six women, each with a handheld camera as they documented their lives for a period of nine months or so.
Kerry girl Alanna Diggin quickly became popular with viewers; she was relatable, and a girl with many strings to her bow. We saw Alanna grow throughout the series, from nights out to evenings in. We also saw her battle deeply personal issues as she dealt with her health and the passing of her father.
Allana’s enthusiasm is infectious in real life. After following her story on Connected, it’s easy to feel like you know her.
But what exactly made her take part in the show, and was she aware how personal things were going to get?
“I took part in it really because honestly, I had nothing else going on for me at the time, no college, no job, so I thought why not, the opportunity arose and I took it, then further into it I saw I can really be myself and see if people accept me for who I am. I did realize that yes, I knew I was going to be laying every thought and experience I had out there for people to watch, listen too, but I was excited by that.”
Nine months in anyone’s life is a period of great change. We saw Alanna grow on camera, and for Alanna herself, the change was a positive one.
“I am more confident in talking to people about how I feel now, I grieved a lot more for my father also as I guess, they wanted the camera to see closer into my life, like how I deal with things emotionally etc, as that was the point of the project, to see real 'reality' so I brought the camera around when speaking to family when I was down, I spoke to it myself, it was therapeutic, so I was a bit more 'stress relieved' by the end of it all. It helped cope with a lot in life as it’s like talking to someone and having no one judge you back.”
Alanna opened up a lot on camera, Showing courage and honesty, she spoke of her father’s passing a lot. After her experience with the camera and expressing herself on it about she felt, it is something she would encourage others to do.
“I would advise anyone to talk to someone if you’re feeling low about anything at all, once you get the first few words out, it flows. Even if it is a camera, because no one is judging you back.
“I think if you speak to someone you’re comfortable with and you can trust speak away, but if you have no one seek a counsellor/professional, or write/talk to a camera, it doesn’t have to go anywhere public but it really helps to get stuff off your chest,”she continued.
While Alanna shared her life with the nation, it wasn’t just her that featured but that of her friends and boyfriend. Alanna received feedback and comments via social media, unfortunately, and her boyfriend came under some scrutiny.
“A lot of people told me he was moody and didn’t like the camera at all, but... he actually did. He's actually a very content, happy person.. They showed us clashing a lot, and it made him seem rude but really he wasn’t. His points were valid and he was honest with me, and afterwards I agreed fully with him, he honestly enjoyed it and was very supportive. I doubt many boyfriends would like to be put on the TV with their girlfriends but he’s cool,” said Alanna.
While Alanna enjoyed the camera, it didn’t come without its difficulties;
“Going on a night out or walking down the street felt really stupid. I felt really stupid a lot of the time. But then I was like ‘ah sure there’s weirder things’ and just tried my best to ignore it, but sometimes I got such odd looks off people that I became very paranoid and nervous with the camera out and about.”
However, despite that, it’s clear Alanna developed a connection (pardon the pun) with not only viewers, but the camera itself too.
“My favourite thing was how I spoke the truth and how I really worked with the camera... I got a lot of people messaging me back saying they related and were moved and inspired by the show. The feedback regarding what I said on camera was the best part, I felt quite proud. Which is a feeling I rarely feel, like many people,” she explained.
Following the success of Connected, the issues it covered and the wide audience it appealed to, it’s hoped there would be a second season. Alanna addressed the speculation, and whether or not she would be involved.
"I heard they'd love to do one with men. But I don’t know if that is happening at all to be honest. I’d love it did though. Would be great to see the roles reversed. I wouldn’t be involved as they would get all new people for it for sure but if I could do anything to help I would," said Alanna.
It is clear that Connected was successful, and while Alanna was only one of six, the impact she had on viewers was a positive one. Her story struck a chord with viewers, and in particular those who may have been struggling with issues like health or the loss of a loved one. Alanna’s boyfriend, friends and family have always been paramount in her life.
Their support throughout her journey in Connected was evident, as was Alanna’s strength, courage and character. For young people, she is a fine example of persevering and powering through, no matter what life throws at you or what obstacles you come up against.