Can you truly know you love someone within the span of a few weeks?
After my last serious relationship, I decided to "put myself out there" again and downloaded Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid.
Being an active user on all these platforms solidified to me how different the dating scene is nowadays. Most of it is due to technology and our social media culture, which has definitely made us a bit more narcissistic, fake, and even cold-hearted. Romance in this day and age is pretty much dead—and, without a doubt, so is chivalry. Only two of my most recent 20 dates opened a door for me, so now I go on dates with zero expectations. Most of these guys just want to hook up, thinking a first date and a couple drinks warrants the perfect opportunity to proposition me.
With all these "options" at our fingertips, everyone seems to be suffering from the "grass is greener" syndrome. When anyone can DM you, like your pic, or send a Snapchat (which, let's be real, is reserved for thirst traps), it cancels out any real effort to get to know someone on a deeper level and find a genuine connection behind the "black mirror" of our screens. Are we still capable of finding love like our parents did, decades ago? Is modern dating harder now because we have an open obsession and scrutiny about status, looks, and age? If only there were a "social experiment" that could explore what would happen to people if you took away their phones and had them focus on building blind connections with total strangers...Would romance prevail?
Nick Lachey (from 98 Degrees) and his wife, Vanessa, took it upon themselves to explore this profound question—"Is love blind?"—on Netflix's new dating reality show, Love Is Blind. The idea of having 29 single men and women "speed date" for 10 days while staying in isolated pods that prevent all physical and visual contact is daunting. And, of course, no one is allowed to use their cell phone. It's just classic, one-on-one bonding time with the express goal of...immediately getting engaged. It proves to work—eight couples actually do it (although only six get screen time).
Once engaged, the couple gets to see each other for the first time before being whisked away to a "couples retreat" in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. At the retreat, everyone has the chance to meet each other (remember, they all speed dated one another) to stir up drama and see who "regrets" picking their partner (*cough* Jessica Batten). Then after Mexico, the couples move into an apartment complex in Atlanta, Georgia, where they proceed to meet each other's families and friends before the wedding (which is set 28 days after the engagement).
First and foremost, the whole premise is completely outrageous, because it brings up another complex question regarding love: Can you truly know you love someone within the span of a few weeks or even days? One couple exchanges "I love yous" after less than a week in the pods and get engaged after just five days! That never happens in the "real world," so the "social experiment" has an inherent flaw in that its participants' motives for getting engaged might be questionable, inspired by a desire to move along in the show. Keep in mind: No one has their phones, so every single one of these men and women (who are all fairly attractive, which is such wasted potential for a show revolving around emotional connection and not just looks) are thinking that this girl or guy is their only "option" in the pods. How authentic can these desperate proposals be?
Now let's talk about the six couples Love Is Blind actually showcases. The best couple is, without a doubt, scientist Cameron Hamilton and digital content creator Lauren Speed, who immediately connect and became emotionally invested in one another at the very start. I can't pinpoint exactly why they instantly clicked, but given their sweet nature and genuine wholesome personalities, it actually made sense. Apart from Cameron and Lauren, only one other couple—SPOILER ALERT—says yes at the altar: frat bro engineer Matt Barnett and ex-tank mechanic Amber Pike (the girl with a make-up credit card and $20,000 in student loans). In classic reality show bro-style, Barnett caused quite a stir in the pods, flirting with just about everyone and keeping three main ladies in his back pocket: Lauren Chamblin (sweet and nice "LC"), Jessica Batten (a 34-year-old who uses a baby voice when talking to men and feeds her dog wine), and Barnett's future wife Amber (who probably still believes in her "work to live" party vibes). He completely played all of them, with the exception of Amber, who definitely has a screw loose since she was instantly possessive over him.
Barnett's behavior in the pods is just like the quintessential Tinder guy—overly flirtatious, chill, and preoccupied with inserting sexual innuendos into any conversation. The highlight of the series is when he blatantly lies to Jessica, who had initially "emotionally" connected to young and naive fitness trainer Mark Cuevas (only 24 years old). Knowing that Mark has his eyes on Jessica and not wanting to let go of any of his "top" ladies, Barnett tells Jessica that he would be willing to propose to her the next day after their "pod date." Afterwards, Jessica turns down Mark's earnest attempt to continue their committed "pod-lationship" to explore a possible engagement with Barnett. Then, exactly as expected, Barnett backtracks, leading Jessica to return to Mark, crying and groveling. Mark immediately takes her back, losing the respect of us viewers in the process, because nobody likes "hot mess" Jessica (seriously, there's an entire subreddit basically dedicated to making fun of her), and what self-respecting guy would subject himself to that?
To say people get emotional, delusional, and needy on this show is an understatement. The couples exchanged rivers of tears, professions of love (the iconic Damian Powers' "I am the gift" proposal), and "f*ck yous"; and the huge blowout between Carlton Morton and Diamond Jack will go down as one of the most brutal fights in Netflix reality TV history. Honestly, how genuine can these surface-level "emotional connections" be within 10 days? They've just met. Case in point: Carlton straight up withholds the fact that he's bisexual, which ultimately ends his engagement with Diamond. That's something you state in the first couple of dates. Loving someone means you fully accept them, which definitely takes time.
Physical attraction also plays a huge factor in long-lasting relationships, whether we want to admit it or not. This is exemplified by Damian Powers, a "general manager" who hilariously took too much time off of work and could possibly be unemployed after the show, and his strange relationship with the "fiery" but unstable Giannina Milady (yes, you read that correctly) Gibelli. Although, according to Damian, their sex life is "banging," the couple ultimately does not get married. They are polar opposites who fight constantly and oftentimes forget why they chose each other. Damian is so emotionless and monotone compared to Giannina, who can go from zero to one hundred immediately. Ironically, her obsession with her phone and social media activity prompts Damian to warn her about potentially losing him if she continues that behavior. As he leads into his ultimatum at the dinner table, Giannina is still checking her phone–the audacity! Long story short, they don't really see each other's "bad sides" until after the engagement. Amazingly though, even after their on-air relationship fell apart, they continued dating and are still together today.
Lastly, Kenny Barnes and Kelly Chase (the most boring, vanilla couple on the show) have a strong emotional connection but no sexual chemistry. It isn't surprising when they don't get married (they're the only engaged couple who never sleeps together). (Shockingly, Mark and Jessica do get it on, despite Jessica stating over and over again that she can't match their emotional "pod connection" with the physical)
The most interesting aspect of the series is definitely the dynamics during the pod stages. Honestly, if the pod stages were to last three to five months, perhaps the single participants truly could "fall in love" based on real, emotional connections. But the only "love" that truly exists on Love Is Blind is between Cameron and Lauren (solely because these two are the rare type of "real"). Barnett and Amber also get married, but their connection seems like it won't last long (although, in fairness, they're still married today, over a year later). Removing social media and phones definitely strengthens and encourages the possibility of making a connection, but having such a short "deadline" on marriage puts undue pressure on the relationships. Thus, everyone falls under the illusion that their feelings—which are most likely just base-line emotional connections that we're no longer accustomed to experiencing from behind today's dating apps—must be "love." In essence, the Love Is Blind "social experiment" promotes the age-old, traditional notion of a classical, epic romance—loving someone for who they are and not what they look like.
I support the notion, but the experiment needs to be updated. Give the participants more time in the pods and sprinkle in less attractive singles, because you can't promote "beauty is on the inside" when everyone looks like they can get laid without a reality show. Let's see how these participants really feel if they propose to a fifty-year-old woman, a heavyset man, or a really short dude...Will they swipe left or right?
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