Those of us who grew up watching TV may sometimes feel closer to our favorite television characters than we do to our own family members. (Admit it: You probably know at least a few episodes of "Friends" or "Seinfeld" by heart, but how many conversations with real-life friends or relatives can you remember the next day, let alone recite word for word?)
With the growing popularity of DVRs and video-on-demand services that let us pause, shift and rewind prime-time to suit our busy schedules, the time we spend in front of the tube continues to rise. In November 2010, Americans watched their televisions for an average of 5 hours and 11 minutes per day [source: The Nielsen Company]. We tune in for the twists and turns of "Grey's Anatomy" and "The Bachelor(ette)" as though our own fates hang in the balance. But is our obsession with TV affecting our real-life relationships?
Media scholars have wondered and worried for decades about the effect television has on our emotional and intellectual development, debating whether too much exposure makes us more violent, erodes our attention spans or even diminishes our capacity to reason for ourselves. But the correlation, if any, between our television habits and our relationship expectations has received relatively little attention [sources: Comstock, Osborn].
Intellectually, we understand that television, even the so-called "reality" kind, portrays a decidedly unrealistic version of life as we know it [source: Osborn]. After all, the fantasy and escapism our favorite shows deliver are huge parts of the attraction. As we tune in week after week, knowingly and willingly suspending our disbelief, are we subconsciously buying into the depictions of love, marriage, family and friendship that we see on the screen?
Has TV changed people's relationship expectations? And if so, how? Read on to find out.