About two years ago, I was having dinner with a childhood friend, and the conversation shifted to music. As we were effusively praising the convenience and supremacy of Spotify, she suddenly looked up at me with a mischievous smirk on her face and asked, “Do you have a boyfriend? You have so many Spotify playlists about romance, and it’s a little suspicious.”

I did not, in fact, have a boyfriend and was initially shocked by her assumption. Do I come off as that obsessed with romance? I wondered. As I scrolled through my playlists, many of which were not only centered around love but also featured cover photos from romantic comedies, I realized that the volume of romance-related media I was consuming bordered on inordinate. I was indeed that obsessed with romance.

As someone who has never been in a dating relationship, I’ve often attempted to live vicariously through music, books, movies, and television. I still find myself mystically attracted to stories about love. However, as I’ve grown older and seen the complexities of romance in the lives of people around me, I feel compelled to reevaluate how accurate and healthy romantic media is and how it’s shaped my attitude towards relationships.

I’ve learned some very important, meaningful lessons about love from pieces of media. There are stories that present nuanced, realistic examples of relationships and debunk some of the sappy, oftentimes misleading myths seen in other depictions. Yet overall, I believe modern media gave me an overly simplistic, inflexible view of love. In books and movies, the boy and girl cross paths in a fortuitous twist of fate, feel an instant, exhilarating spark, proceed to fall hopelessly in love, patiently work through the inevitable third act fight, and live prosperously and happily ever after. I still love rom-coms and always have a lot of fun watching them, but I’ve seen that they lead me to have unrealistic expectations for love, and now, I have to be careful to keep a clear boundary between reality and fantasy.

I think many popular narratives exist as forms of escapism: In our heads, we know that romance isn’t really that simple, but we’d like to believe it is. We may seek solace in stories because we feel our real-life relationships are lacking, and we want to hope that some perfect partner will arrive and illuminate our mundane existence. A romantic relationship is far from a panacea, but the popularity of romantic media speaks to the universal human desire to be deeply seen and truly loved.

Stories are reflections of humanity. The fact that there’s so many books, movies, and albums focused on romance indicates that love has fascinated and perplexed us for centuries. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that romantic love is inextricably intertwined with our sense of identity and has the power to take us into emotional extremes like perhaps nothing else in this world can. Love keeps us up at night and colors our daydreams, it can make us feel the most and least alone we’ve ever been. It’s no wonder that we’re always searching for answers about romance, but we have to be careful that the sources we’re getting our answers from are sound.

In future posts, I’ll explore the virtues and inaccuracies media when it comes to how it portrays relationships and romance. In the meantime, be on the look-out for the Eagle Eye’s new podcast, The Perch, which kicks off with a series on dating relationships. In the first episode, we’ll discuss romantic role models. Don’t miss it!

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