Just like the movies

Romance isn’t actually as common as popular media makes it seem, but we let it rule our lives anyway.

If you’re excited for Valentine’s Day, you a) have someone to spend the day with, or b) have incredibly high self esteem.

Or, you’re like me, c) excited to watch a new show or movie that comes out today. I mean, what better time to release a new piece, especially one surrounding romance, than Valentine’s Day? Influencers and entertainers often use holidays to capitalize on the sales or their product— romance films, soap operas, and new novels about characters falling in love. But cute high school chick flicks aren’t so innocent if you consider that they may be giving you unrealistic ideas about your love life.

Try and count the number of movies and shows you’ve watched that were romance-centric. Okay, how about the ones that involve romance, at least in some way? 

Now, try and remember the last time you watched or read something without any romance. Not one sentence, not one side character falling in love, not one episode where the main character was in a relationship, trying to get into one, or trying to get out of one. Chances are, that’s hard. And that’s an issue.

According to a 2015 study, only 35% of teenagers aged 13 to 17 actually dated in high school. That’s barely over one third. Compare this to the amount of media you consume where people, real or not, are in relationships. 

Romance is in our top seven favorite genres of media to consume- and other genres in this top list, like comedy and drama, almost always include some element of romance. Romance sells, so it’s added to mostly everything.

If you created a high school out of the people that make up the media we consume, it would be a completely inaccurate ratio compared to real life. 

There’s a scientific explanation for the thought process that we go through when we consume excessive media with healthy, happy couples in ideal relationships. Social Cognitive Theory suggests that when people consume media that sets standards and generally accepted ideals, we factor them into our own ideas moving forward. So, if you watch a whole bunch of sappy soap operas where everything works out nice and tidy and everyone has a lover by the end, your brain will factor that in as ‘Oh. Being in a relationship must be the norm, because I’ve been seeing it so much.’

And then you start to wonder why you’re not in a relationship. Given that teens have generally low self esteem to begin with, it’s easy for us to get caught up in the media that we consume and forget the fact that not being in a high school relationship is much more common than being in one.

It’s impossible to stop consuming media, no matter how hard you may try. But it is much easier to take a step back once in a while and remember that what you’re looking at isn’t real life. Relationships shouldn’t have to define you. It’s okay if you don’t have a Valentine.