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Finding love through TV reality shows is doing more harm than good

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Cerith Gardiner - published on 10/11/22

With the rise in shows claiming to help people find "the one," a lot of damage is being done.

TV reality shows such as Love is Blind, The Bachelorette and Married at First Sight are proving all the rage. From teens to grandparents, people are tuning in to see if complete strangers will find love.

However, the rise in popularity in these sorts of shows is proving problematic for a number of reasons. And a recent TV series in England rang even more alarm bells, proving to me that good old-fashioned dating needs to be put firmly back on the agenda.

My main concern stems from what we’re teaching our children about love. Most of these shows highlight the importance of having Instagram-worthy looks. After all, lots of these contestants enter the show in a bid to raise their social media profiles and luxuriate in the world of being an “influencer.” It would certainly seem that it’s not so much about searching for true love, but a desire to be loved by millions.

Contestants spend hours on make-up, hair, and wearing clothes that leave nothing to the imagination. They’re ostensibly stating that love is found in the looks department. This is not a message to share with our impressionable teens. And how depressing for people who are genuinely looking for love, but feel unworthy.

Yet, week after week people continue to tune in to witness the many dramas and sexual escapades that occur in the houses in which these participants are trapped while on their mission to find love. Again, what is this teaching the younger generations? That love is found through bickering, jealousies, and lewd behavior?

Not the same as arranged marriages

On a superficial level, when TV companies bring in the love “experts” to find suitable matches — as is the case for Married at First Sight — it could be considered similar to the arranged marriages that have often worked for centuries, and in fact, still take place today in some cultures. Parents claim to know what’s best for their child, and sometimes true love flourishes in these unions.

However, in the latest series of Married at First Sight UK, which is nearing this year’s season finale, a lot of controversy has emerged after one of the participants, George Roberts, was accused of abusive and coercive behavior by a number of his previous partners — a fact that the TV producers swept under the carpet once they were notified, according to the women involved.

Furthermore, the very serious allegations led to Roberts recently being arrested by the police. There were calls in the press and on social media for any footage of Roberts to be edited out of the show. The TV company ignored these requests and the show was aired as usual.

Concerns were raised about the lack of due diligence carried out by the show’s producers, as well as the complete disregard shown towards Roberts’ ex-wife, who suffered terrible abuse in their marriage. (In fact, his ex-wife happens to be a family friend, and is not only having to relive her nightmare, but also has to manage how the horrific fallout of these revelations is affecting her four children.)

Sadly, ratings are proving more important than thinking about the real-life ramifications of such careless match-making. While I’ll never be convinced that these shows represent the beauty of marriage, I will concede that they do show us that people have a desire to be witnesses to love — maybe in the hope that this will eventually happen to them.

But let’s not call it “reality TV”; it’s as fake as many of these contestants’ desire to find true love. Real love means allowing people to see us at our most natural, authentic selves — something that is hard to achieve under the gaze of millions of viewers.

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