Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Professor Seo Young Park

Reader 2

Professor Alexandra Lippman

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On college campuses across the US on Monday evenings, groups of college students cluster around laptops and dorm lounge TVs to watch The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. Viewership of reality dating shows is clearly a popular social activity among students, but why? What needs are college students fulfilling with their viewership of this genre? This thesis explores college students’ relationship with reality dating shows and specifically how college students connect the realities of the contestants, the media space, and their everyday lives. Over nine months, I conducted ethnographic interviews and focus groups with twenty-one college students at residential colleges across the US who regularly watch The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, or Love Island. I specifically sought out students at residential colleges because the residential environment is conducive to students’ having shared experiences beyond the classroom. In this thesis, I argue that college students’ relationship with reality dating shows is profoundly social and fosters relationships with fellow college students, contestants, or other viewers on social media. Because of the timing of my research during the COVID-19 pandemic, I find that college students’ attraction to reality dating shows is magnified by the social isolation they experience due to the pandemic, and many college students nostalgically associate watching reality dating shows with fond memories of their cherished college experience.