Researchers have found evidence that watching rom-coms and sitcoms impact our views on love. TV seems to shape our view of reality in every other realm of life, so I’m not exactly shocked it’s also true for romance.
Why Dave Is Still Single, a study by University of Michigan researchers, asked participants how frequently they watch rom-coms, marriage-themed reality shows and sitcoms.They discovered that participants who watch a lot of rom-coms and romantic reality shows were more likely to believe in things like love at first sight and “The One” – you know, the stuff that keeps us forever alone because we’re stubbornly waiting for some ever-elusive meet cute with a Ken doll that will never arrive. These participants were more likely to agree with phrases like “My ‘true love’ will be nearly perfect” or the concept that they’d know immediately if their significant other was right for them.
Fans of shows like “The Bachelor” were especially likely to be idealistic about love and take on the bizarre, attention-centered beliefs about relationships that the show’s contestants sometimes have. That said, these romance-loving participants also reported “happier, more committed relationships” than others (though something tells me that has more to do with their idealism projecting onto their real-life relationship than actually having a better love life).
Participants who watch sitcoms, however, are more likely to be cynical about romance. The more heavily a participant watched sitcoms, the more likely they were to be wary of romance and disbelieving of concepts like soul mates or love at first sight. Shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory” tend to portray love as a difficult subplot, and viewers internalize that. Nobody’s views on love make me want to vom quite as much as Ted Mosby’s, so having scientific proof of this is totally satisfying. Even when sitcom relationships are shown as thriving, they tend to be dotted with imperfections and bumpy roads (Ross and Rachel, anyone?), so sitcom fans are more likely to expect flaws in their own love lives.
It seems like the lesson we’re supposed to take from this study is not to let snarky sitcoms poison our views of happily ever after. But the excessive idealism of rom-coms and reality shows seems way more dangerous to a person’s sanity. Expecting Ryan Gosling to fall into our lap in line at the coffee shop is bad enough, but assuming that any rough patches that come up in a relationship are proof that your partner is not “The One” is a fast lane to delusion. Apparently, the only way to be happy, according to science, is to just stop watching any kind of TV all together! (Not that I plan on doing that anytime soon.)