When it comes to love, I’m one of those people they call ‘cynical’. Recently, though, something changed and it’s time we spoke about it. Hi, I’m M, and I’m addicted to watching people fall in love on TV. It’s become a problem as the universe becomes my enabler. From the latest The Bachelor to the upcoming The Bachelorette (’coz #equality), and Dare 2 Date and Splitsvilla. These shows not only smash the ratings, they also make up a growing chunk of fodder for the media. If we’re not hearing about the show itself, we’re hearing about the lives of its stars. We’re reading, liking and watching in rose-tinted droves. According to psychologist Dr Becky Spelman, it comes down to the basic fact: we have a vested interest in dating and relationships—especially those of others. So imagine our delight when true romantic drama is served up on a nightly basis for an hour.
“As humans, many of us are on the quest for ‘true love’ and when we haven’t found that in our own lives, we find it by switching on the TV,” explains Becky. “Watching these shows fuels the fantasy of what they could have without wanting to consider the bigger picture.”
Because of the fantasy of it all, we’ll justify our viewing as a guilty pleasure. Plus, for all those highbrow culture vultures who scoff at such entertainment, I’m here to reveal that those who enjoy a little reality TV are intelligent. A recent study by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics broke down the audience of shows like Splitsvilla perfectly.
“We are dealing here with an audience with above-average education, which one could describe as ‘cultural omnivores’,” says Keyvan Sarkhosh, who co-wrote the study. “Such viewers are interested in a broad spectrum of art and media across the traditional boundaries of high and popular culture.” But let’s not debate about the intelligence of it all; watching these reality shows serves as an escape from, erm, reality. “These shows trigger that interest and feed into the fantasy that everyone can find true love and that love is an exciting and amazing journey,” Becky explains.
We’re intelligent for watching shows like these and they make us feel happy. So is there even a problem with my new addiction? Well, yes. They play into the idea that what we see on screen somehow resembles The Real Deal. And life, unlike The Bachelor, is not all roses. “It might feed in to people’s false ideas about love,” says Becky. “It’s not good for people to think that love should be this wonderful, dramatic rollercoaster. People will often spend a lifetime believing this to be true and try to recreate this scenario
in their own life, time and again, only to cause themselves emotional pain.”
Still, The Beatles were onto something when they proclaimed All You Need Is Love. There’s a good reason that particular quote is on so many Instagram posts—it is what propels us through life. “Many people can relate to the emotions of the people they are watching, fantasise about being in their position, admire their beauty and also love to hate and criticise them,” Becky says of the rollercoaster ride these shows provide. “There is nothing wrong with this, as long you can also be realistic about what’s healthy in terms of relationships.” On that note, kindly pass the remote; Splitsvilla’s on.”