Everything I've Learned About Friendship From Reality TV

When reality TV first burst onto the scene, it was synonymous with fierce competitions, elimination rounds, and over-the-top challenges. From “Survivor's” tribal councils to “The Bachelor's” rose ceremonies, viewers were treated to a front-row seat of contestants battling it out for prizes, love, or sometimes just fleeting fame.

By Madeleine Reynard4 min read

This genre birthed one of the most iconic phrases of modern times: "I'm not here to make friends," a declaration as legendary as it is eye roll-worthy. It’s the litmus test for entry into the hallowed halls of reality TV stardom. Forget about talent, charm, or a strategic mind – if you can't deliver a convincing "I'm not here to make friends" within the first three episodes, are you even a contestant?

But despite many a reality star trying to persuade me of their commitment to friendlessness, by watching their journey, I have actually found myself unintentionally schooled on the art of friendship. Join me as we delve into how reality TV has helped me work on my own relationships and tackle the highs and lows of human connection. 

The Importance of Sisterhood

Despite being a dating show, Love Island has taught me so much more about the value of friendship. As our favorite islanders navigate the challenges of the competition, they often find solace and support in each other, establishing a sisterhood through shared experiences of love, heartbreak, and personal growth.

Amber Gill's victory in Season 5 of Love Island UK serves as a prime example of how friendship and authenticity can overshadow the conventional narrative of finding love with a romantic partner. Amber's fierce loyalty to her friends and unwavering commitment to staying true to herself resonated with the audience, and in a surprising turn of events, she emerged victorious despite not being part of a strong romantic couple. Throughout the series, acts of kindness, empathy, and loyalty become crucial factors in the social economy of the island, shaping not only contestants' relationships but also their standing in the eyes of the audience.

Watching a dating show can be daunting, especially for those who are recently single or heartbroken. However, in addition to that particular season of Love Island, the most recent season of The Bachelor ended with a focus on friendship. Daisy and Kelsey rode hand in hand into the final rose ceremony to show their support of one another, despite Daisy's heartbreak. Daisy knew that the love that Kelsey and Joey shared went beyond hers and Joey's connection and she graciously stepped aside to offer her blessing to the couple through tears (something that has never happened in the history of The Bachelor franchise). Her and Kelsey remain close friends to this day with Daisy reiterating her support and love for the engaged couple on After The Final Rose.

Moments like these demonstrate that contestants who don't find romantic love often discover an equally fulfilling kind of love – the camaraderie and support of true friendship. Love, in all its forms, is a fundamental and enduring aspect of the human experience, and it has made me appreciate the amazing friends I have who provide me with solace, laughter, and understanding.

Being Open to Differences Can Lead to New Bonds 

The casts of reality shows are deliberately selected to represent a broad spectrum of society, fostering a mix of personalities, beliefs, and experiences. The resulting friendships that emerge, even between individuals who may seem unlikely friends, have taught me that the willingness to be open, approachable, and receptive to new people can result in some of the most genuine and fulfilling friendships. One such example of this was the adorable bond between the young jock Caleb and the compassionate older man Tai in The Survivor – two people who likely would never have crossed paths in real life had they not opened up to one another on the island and realized they got along amazingly well.

This lesson extends beyond the realm of reality television and holds relevance in my everyday life. I’m much more open to the possibility of forming connections with new people at work, a social event, or during travels. The idea that amazing friendships can be created when least expected reinforces the importance of approaching each encounter with an open heart and a willingness to connect with others on a deeper level.

Although I value my long-term friendships so much, it‘s important to remember that meaningful friendships can be forged in diverse circumstances, rooted in shared experiences, common interests, and genuine compatibility, and a true friendship shouldn’t just be based on the length of time you’ve known one another. 

Confrontation Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

Growing up, I avoided all confrontation, believing that keeping quiet was a mature way to handle disagreements. However, this approach led to people taking advantage of me and strained friendships due to unresolved issues. Reality TV arguments are often ridiculous but they did lead me to learn that confrontation, when approached constructively, can be a positive force in relationships.

I initially cringed at on-screen arguments – until I realized that the key was not in emulating the theatrics of reality stars but in adopting their bravery in starting an open and understanding dialogue. So, I hate to let you down, but my friends and I don't engage in reality-style bust-ups. We aren't flipping tables or throwing drinks like the cast of Real Housewives. But by initiating honest conversations, I've learned more about myself and my friends.

Confrontation, when done with care, requires vulnerability and has helped me understand the root cause of my emotions. If met with defensiveness and negativity, it can be a signal that the friendship may not be resilient enough to weather life's challenges. 

Too Much Drama Drives People Away

On the flip side of this, Christine Quinn from Selling Sunset serves as a cautionary tale, demonstrating that while seeking out drama may get you airtime, in the real world, it often doesn't earn you many friends. Known for her confrontational behavior, Christine's actions created an uncomfortable environment on the screen. This ultimately led to her exclusion from numerous parties with the rest of the cast, prompting her decision to leave the show.

Christine's cast members found it challenging to express themselves honestly around her, fearing that any disagreement could quickly escalate into unnecessary conflict. Most of us have encountered individuals like this at some point, and we understand how emotionally draining such situations can be. These reality show dynamics serve as a stark reminder of the negativity that can accompany friendships with volatile individuals.

While Christine is undoubtedly hilarious and likely possesses positive qualities deep down, her on-screen portrayal emphasizes the importance of recognizing when a friendship becomes more draining than uplifting. Her experience underscores the reality that if someone consistently engages in argumentative and rude behavior, there will be consequences, potentially leading to the loss of great friendships. 

Closing Thoughts

Although some would argue that I’m just trying to justify my reality TV obsession, I really do believe that reality TV has proven to be a surprisingly insightful teacher when it comes to the dynamics of friendship. From the unexpected bonds formed in the most unlikely of pairs to the value of constructive confrontation, these shows offer more than just drama-filled moments. I've come to appreciate the importance of sisterhood, the power of authenticity, and the necessity of open communication in fostering meaningful connections. Whether it's found on the sun loungers of Love Island or the mansions of Selling Sunset, each episode serves as a reminder of the complexities inherent in human relationships. As I navigate my own friendships, I carry with me the lessons gleaned from these shows, understanding that true companionship transcends the screen and requires patience, understanding, and, above all, genuine care for one another.

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