Everyone has an opinion about Nick Viall, whom ABC calls “the most controversial Bachelor in history.” At last week’s premiere, several contestants told Viall exactly what they thought of him . . . right as they were stepping out of that limo and introducing themselves. The most notable was Taylor, a mental health counselor who told him (twice!) that all her girlfriends can’t stand him.
Viall is more exposed than your average Bachelor; this is his fourth time on the franchise, his first time in the starring role. Therefore, contestants have strong thoughts about Viall from Day 1, mostly based on what they’ve seen on (heavily edited) reality television, before they’ve gotten a chance to get to know him themselves. “Whatever preconceived notions the women have of me,” Viall said during the premiere, “my hope is that they come in with a clean slate and an open mind.”
These preconceived notions pop up on “The Bachelor” all the time. But it’s a dynamic that’s especially acute this season — and it’s something real-life daters experience all the time.
For example: How often do you Google or Facebook-stalk someone before a first date? When you notice a Tinder match with whom you have several mutual friends, do you ask one of them what he or she thinks of this person?
It’s tempting to information-gather before a first date. But it can also be counterproductive, cautions Erika Ettin, founder of the online-dating consultancy A Little Nudge. “I tell my clients not to do research” on a date before meeting them, Ettin says. She doesn’t research her own first dates before meeting them, either. “I believe in forming your own first impressions,” she adds.
Now, forming your own opinions is one thing. Telling your date about those impressions — a la Taylor’s “all my friends think you’re a piece of [expletive]” — can cut off your chance to form a connection right from the start.
For example, Ettin mentions that she has a friend who was with a guy for three years, during which time “he was very good to her,” Ettin says. “I also knew his former girlfriend, and I knew he didn’t treat her as well.”
What if that more-recent girlfriend had talked to his prior girlfriend before ever going out with him? As a result, they might never have dated.
“Every relationship is different; every reaction is different,” Ettin adds, noting that one person who had a bad dating experience with someone doesn’t mean they’re a bad apple altogether.
The same goes for a person’s social-media presence: “The Internet gives a false impression of who people are,” Ettin adds.
Reality television can do the same.