It’s fair to say that over the past few years, Pattinson has had his share of celebrity romances. From his split from long-term girlfriend Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to his various on-off-on-off-on engagements with a veritable who’s who of women, the actor has been linked to some famous faces. But with his most recent relationship status now seemingly settled, he’s opened up about his love life and opened up a can of worms as to what role, if any, Twitter fakes and Instagram rumours may currently be playing in defining contemporary celebrity culture.

Is Any Of This Real?

While most of us are still trying to come to terms with the ending of The Bachelor last year, we’re finding ourselves in a reality show sweet spot. On one hand, we have the multi-cam series The Bachelor Australia, in which 26 eligible bachelors vie for love in Sydney, Melbourne and the outback. On the other, we have Love Island, the UK series which in its second season will premiere on Netflix immediately after the last episode of The Bachelor Australia.

And if you’re anything like me, you’re already well into the second season of The Bachelor Australia before you’ve even finished watching the first. This is partly because the first season was so entertainingly awful, but it’s also because of how compelling the remaining contestants became.

The first season of The Bachelor Australia was essentially Big Brother on steroids. Instead of having housemates, the contestants live in isolation, mostly, and are free to do as they please (within reason). The twist is that each week they’ll be assigned a love specialist known as a ‘psychologist’ who’s only job it is to analyse their behaviour and offer advice on how to improve their chances of finding ‘true love’. These psychologists are Dr Anna Puri and Dr Emily Barr, and Puri in particular became an instant celebrity in the process of finding the perfect man for the 25 lucky women who voted for him.

Despite (or perhaps because of) his Big Brother connection, the first season of The Bachelor Australia was a massive success, airing to over 5.5 million viewers in the UK alone, and spawning numerous spin-offs and imitators including The Bachelor Los Angeles and The Bachelorette, which itself became a global phenomenon. The format has now been exported to over 20 countries, and the demand for such shows is so high that Netflix is releasing a new season of The Bachelor Australia every month.

The Return Of The “It” Couple?

While we’re firmly in the midst of a romance renaissance with heart-wrenching realisations that online fame and social media might not be as real as we thought, it’s also clear that the ‘it’ couple has now returned. But while most of us have adjusted to the idea of romantic relationships occurring online, the ease with which some people can fake a relationship and the impact it has on others is a reminder that it’s always best to play it safe. Especially when it comes to love.

Romantic Opportunities

While most of us are waiting for the world to return to normal, those in the spotlight can continue to do as they please. And for the most part, they seem to be enjoying themselves. As mentioned, the format of The Bachelor Australia has been copied and imitated all over the world, with numerous contestants portraying the insular bachelor lifestyle and the role of the ‘experts’ to determine who’s ‘biddable’ and who’s not.

The UK’s The X Factor and The Great British Bake Off have also seen their fair share of celebrity contestants parading their culinary prowess. And then there’s the rom-com. We’ve seen a number of films in which the leads have found each other with the help of a few well-timed text messages, causing us to ask the question: is texting really enough to guarantee a future together? Hollywood may have provided the answer with its portrayal of a fully functioning relationship via text message.

These films have provided us with an array of ‘romantic opportunities’, as it were, whether it’s the chance to meet a celebrity, take a peek into the minds of a billionaire or, in the case of Wuthering Heights, live in a remote cottage with your perfect partner-to-be. Some of these romantic opportunities may be a little unrealistic (hi, Mr Self-Improvement!), but the reality is that we’re more likely to find romance thanks to platforms designed to allow for easier encounters. In 2019, social media will play a pivotal role in finding a date, as people use online dating to access bespoke romantic opportunities that might not otherwise have been available to them.

Fame And Status

While the media world was quick to vilify Emily for her participation in the ill-fated romance that was Gogglebox, it’s now well and truly embraced her. The psychologist has found celebrity as a result of her role in the show, appearing on the cover of numerous magazines and earning her own seat on the judging panel for The Bachelor Australia. On a more serious note, it’s easy to forget that these reality shows aren’t just about finding “the one”, but might also provide a platform for those looking to launch themselves into the limelight. And it seems that some people are taking advantage of these platforms, using them to gain celebrity, whether it’s for good or for ill is hard to say.

Is This Just A Fad?

In many ways, we’re still in the early days of what will undoubtedly become a romance trend, with all the opportunities and all the changes it will bring. It’s clear that the stigma surrounding online dating and the fear of missing out inherent in social media has led to a resurgence of sorts in the quest for true love. While the exact figures are hard to come by, a 2019 study from the US Census Bureau found that 43.7% of American adults reported having had a date with someone they met online.

It’s not just about meeting people online. According to the 2020 US Census Bureau, 27.1 million American adults said they’d had a traditional dating relationship in the past year, compared to 21.3 million adults who said they’d met someone online and were in a relationship. Those figures represent a shift from previous years, which saw more adults reporting they’d met someone online (35.1 million in 2018, 34.3 million in 2017 and 28.6 million in 2016). What’s more, 20.8 million American adults said they’d had more than one traditional dating relationship in the past year, compared to 16.5 million adults who met online and were in a relationship.

If these figures are reflective of British attitudes, we might see a revival of sorts for vintage meets digital. While older generations have always interacted with digital devices, an increasing number of younger people have grown up with smartphones in their hands, resulting in what the UK’s Family Affairs Office describes as “a generational clash of mindsets”. Those who are more accustomed to texting and using social media might struggle with the more ‘traditional’ aspects of a romantic relationship, resulting in a dating landscape in which both styles can thrive.