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Uncovering the addicting appeal of reality dating shows

By PATRICIA MANARANG Published Mar 10, 2023 5:00 am

If you’ve been camping out on Netflix, you’ve probably seen the second season of Single’s Inferno dominating the front page. You also probably know a couple of people who are invested in the show and have been talking about it online.

I personally watched it continuously for four days straight when all the episodes came out, and together with my mom, I shouted and reacted intensely to every scene and plot point. It didn’t help that the show’s structure included a panel that would also react to everything going on, and I found myself mirroring or disagreeing with their opinions.

As I was watching, I found my emotions extremely funny. Why was I so invested in this? What made my feelings flare so strongly at the antics of these people looking for love? I don’t tend to binge new shows, opting more to return to my comfort series and just rewatch them over and over. But there’s something about dating reality shows that have me, and many others, by the throat. 

Men and women try to find their matches on the K-drama sensation Single’s Inferno.

Reality dating shows have always been a fixture in popular media. There are iconic and long-standing ones such as The Bachelorette and The Bachelor that are still running, and many niche series popping up like Love is Blind and The Ultimatum. The latter types usually put their participants through extraordinary conditions that test their ability to form connections.

Despite differing in premise, all of these shows put human relationships at the forefront. Even if reality TV has some aspects to them that are manufactured—maybe they’re prompted to start specific conversations by producers or they go into predetermined situations—a lot of the emotions shown are raw. We see people for who they are and how they navigate interacting with others. In a world where we sometimes have difficulties communicating our feelings, it’s kind of refreshing to watch people put out all their thoughts out in the open. They might say it to their romantic interests or in their confessionals, but when contestants are so open about their intentions and their motivations, it’s a welcome change from the guessing game that is real-life romance.

The Bachelor 

These dating shows are also ways for us to reevaluate our own dating preferences and habits. Does this one contestant give you the ick? Maybe there’s something about their behavior that you yourself find a turnoff in a partner. Does their age, background, or job affect how you view them, or do these things not matter to you at all? Love and attraction are usually influenced by outside factors, and it’s fascinating to see these make or break the relationship. Personally, I enjoyed getting to find out the ages and jobs of the contestants on Single’s Inferno, because I wanted to see if their personalities matched their lives outside of the show. These were also evidently important to the participants as well, as you can tell that their interests either peaked or decreased after getting to know each other more.

Love is Blind

Since these shows usually feature people with personalities ranging from shy and withdrawn to forward and confident, it’s also captivating to see how they react to the things that happen to them. Are they the type to make the first move or wait to get approached? Some people also have more relaxed views on love and dating while others are more serious, and these shows reveal how people find common ground in terms of their life principles. A lot of times when I watch reality shows, I find myself going, “Oh wow, so there really are people like that out there,” and being fascinated at how they deal with romance-related challenges. In a way, these shows expose us to all kinds of people, maybe even ones we wouldn’t get to interact with on a daily basis.

Randall Griffin, Hunter Parr, and Isaiah Wilson in The Ultimatum 

Another draw-in of reality dating shows is that we can see all the messy and complicated effects of love without experiencing the hurt firsthand. The ups and downs involved are something necessary in all relationships, and there are a number of things that can go wrong in them that we might not even get to face with our own partners. These shows feel like safer ways to explore our emotions and learn how we could handle different challenges in our relationships.

The biggest and most basic appeal of these shows is the high drama and entertainment factor they bring. They’re just plain fun, and it’s too easy to have favorite contestants and even ones you hate. Gushing and squealing over kilig moments and hiding behind your hands during cringy ones are enjoyable, just like watching any other series or movie. Reality shows are also extremely good at hooking their audience and reeling them in with their cast of huge personalities and premises.

All in all, reality dating shows are entertaining pieces of media that can help us analyze our own relationships. If you’ve been hesitating to get into them, here’s your sign from the universe. Maybe you’ll learn something new about yourself, or you’ll just find something very addicting to watch.