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Valentine’s Day has us all self-reflecting on our own love lives. One overlooked aspect of love I believe we should be actively aware of is the love we see – meaning everything we are consuming in all forms of media that is conveyed to be love. 

Growing up in the generation of Disney, Instagram, Netflix, and other popular platforms, we often don’t realize the impact that media consumption has on our perception of love. 

Romantic relationships in Hollywood and the media are represented very unrealistically. We see two sides of the coin that highlight the extremes of a romantic relationship. 

Fictional couples are oftentimes depicted in unrealistic ways, whether in a positive or negative light. These fictional ideals impact the audiences’ perception of love. “Frequent exposure to romance and courtship in this idealized form could lead viewers to adopt equally idealized notions about relationships in the real world”, according to a 2014 study by the University of Michigan. The research leaders surveyed 625 college students to explore this claim. It was quickly revealed how different genres of television and movies influenced viewers to have entirely different ideas of love and romance. 

Notions of romance and love will vastly differ among different people, especially when consuming fictional depictions of it. Amidst the entertainment of watching couples and their drama, it is important that we do not romanticize chaos, toxicity, or extremism in our own relationships. This can include fighting, hyper-sexualization, or unrealistic standards and goals for ourselves and our partners. Being on either end of these expectations can feel us leaving disappointed or unfulfilled. 

It is also important to note how romance is portrayed on social media. The couples we see on our timelines are showing us what they want us to see. Remember that no image or video will ever give us insight into what goes on behind closed doors. The highlights never tell a full story, which is why it is important not to use other people’s relationships as the standard for our own love lives. 

The love we see directly impacts our expectations of romance and affects us and our present/future partners. In a time where we are constantly consuming some form of media, it’s important to be aware of what we are looking at. Relationships should be real and balanced. They should NOT leave us feeling exhausted or anxious. Normalcy in a relationship allows both people to feel stable and secure, rather than stressed or on edge. 

Remember that what you want out of a relationship vastly differs from what others may want. Love looks different to everyone. There is no perfect relationship that we’re all obligated to recreate.

How has the media shaped your perception of love? Let us know @HerCampusSJSU

A college student trying to expand my writing experiences :) Major: Electrical Engineering Instagram: @deena.sada
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