Pop culture has a significant impact in shaping the contemporary landscape of relationships. It introduces new possibilities, expands the definition of love and connection, and sparks conversations about inclusivity, representation, and equality in relationships.
We know exactly what it means when someone claims to be their romantic partner’s ‘lobster.’ It is well established that the first step of emergency self-care after a break-up is to eat a tub of ice cream while watching back-to-back romantic comedies. We follow these representations as if they were scripts for our lives.
Here are three takeaways from popular media productions that can be applied to real-life relationships and connections in a meaningful way.
#1. Explore shared activities
An effective approach to form deep connections is to explore shared hobbies and passions that allow you to connect with like-minded people.
Just like the beloved characters in the television series Friends who found solace and lifelong bonds over their frequent coffeehouse gatherings, football games, and festival celebrations as a group, immersing ourselves in shared activities will open up space for meaningful interactions, support, and mutual growth.
A study published in Leisure Sciences showed that couples who engaged in skydiving together reported higher levels of relationship closeness compared to those who did not. Yet another study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that when unacquainted individuals share an extraordinary experience compared to an ordinary one, it facilitates a greater sense of closeness between them by redirecting their focus to creating a shared sense of togetherness.
So, whether it’s geeking out over the latest superhero movie or bonding through a mutual love for cooking, shared experiences create a strong foundation for genuine connections that stand the test of time.
#2. Be present in your conversations
Building meaningful connections involves being present and attentive in our interactions. To begin with, you can adopt the practice of mindful communication and active listening.
The iconic sitcom The Office serves as an inspiration here. The diverse group of employees navigates both hilarity and heartache through their constant banter and vulnerable conversations. The bonds seem especially strong because the characters are real — full of foibles and idiosyncracies just like all of us. Ranging from obnoxiously problematic to annoying to just plain creepy, The Office accommodates everyone and sugarcoats nothing.
What results is a close-knit group of people who find empathy, occasional respect, and even love for each other — who, in any other scenario, would not have even considered hanging out together.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology makes a case for long-drawn conversations, too. While we might be inclined to keep our conversations short, sweet, and superficial, it’s letting the awkward pauses linger and blurting out your intrusive thoughts at times that really helps get to the good stuff, according to the research.
#3. Be vulnerable and offer support
Emotional intimacy, vulnerability, and support are some of the key ingredients needed to nurture and sustain deep, meaningful bonds. The tapestry of relationships woven in the series This Is Us shows the true nature of emotional closeness.
An example that weaves the web of belonging in the show is the relationship between the three siblings: Kevin, Kate, and Randall. Through their bond, the show sends the message that, despite the differences, close ones must come together during challenging times. And, an easy way to access that space is by embracing vulnerability and offering steadfast support.
What we see in the show is mirrored in our lives: problems chase us the more we try to run away from them, especially if our problems lie in faulty or dysfunctional relationship dynamics. But, when we regroup and say what is on our minds and what we truly feel about each other, the atmosphere eases and we finally give others the chance to see us for what we are.
Pop culture is a pool of inspiration. It reminds us that genuine connections are within our reach. The three key elements of shared activities, mindful communication, and vulnerability can come in handy to enhance the depth and quality of our connections.