Why are reality dating shows so utterly binge-able?

You’re sitting in a restaurant. The couple in front of you is clearly on their first date. Nervous giggles and tension radiate from their table. You can’t look away. There’s something hypnotic about this raw human experience and that’s why well-crafted reality dating shows, like First Dates South Africa, are so utterly binge-able.

It’s interesting to unpack this voyeurism…

Why are we so obsessed with reality dating shows?

Part of the intrigue is the likeability (or not) of the characters. We recognise ourselves in these romantic hopefuls, because we’ve either been there, are currently there or long to be there.

The nitty gritty: Why reality dating shows are so addictive

1. It’s about human connection

We are social beings. Forming connections assures us of physical, psychological and emotional safety. Because we’re constantly seeking human connection, the couples on screen become our ‘friends’ and we feel invested in their outcomes, which makes us feel less alone.

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Part of the intrigue is the likeability (or not) of the characters…

2. We identify with contestants

Often, we quickly ‘characterise’ individuals according to their archetypes (the charming ‘player’, the nervous nice guy…), which means we identify with them. It becomes easy to recognise ourselves, or people we’ve encountered, in the characters we’re watching on screen.

3. Relatability

Hands up if you’ve ever had a first date. Reality dating shows are relatable. We love watching because they capture us in vulnerable moments and make us realise we’re not alone in our relationship journeys. This gives us hope and builds our sense of confidence.

4. We can learn from them

Watching reality dating shows can allow us to see our own dating blind spots. By recognising yourself in the contestants, you can potentially recognise similarities in your own dating behaviour and tweak habits that maybe aren’t so sparkly.

5. Spark new ideas

Reality dating shows can give us new angles we can then use to add excitement to our real-life relationships. There’s nothing wrong with seeing something sweet on-screen and trying it out in your own life.

Watching reality dating shows is a different experience for every viewer. If watching makes you happy, helps you feel connected, and gives you insight into your own relationship behaviour, then grab the remote! Just remember, as with everything, it’s about moderation.

Article by clinical psychologist and TV celebrity, Khosi Jiyane.