I filmed a video about friendship the other day, and I suppose that this could be a sequel to that. This time, though, I'm talking about romantic relationships instead of friendships.
One of the first times I remember discussing the concepts of "soul mates" and "true love" with someone was freshman year of high school when my best friend asked me if I believed in soul mates. I hadn't known that I had a firm opinion until I responded with an adamant "no" and went on to say that I thought too much depended on circumstance, how people acted in the relationship, etc. I had a lot of beliefs that I hadn't realized were there, but my best friend agreed with me, which meant there wasn't a long discussion about it. And I can't remember having a discussion about it with anyone else for a long time after that either.
The only context through which I analyzed relationships and what "love" meant was shipping. I think fandom was a big part of me giving my friend the answer I did when she asked me that question. I'd spent years (even by the first year of high school) analyzing fictional relationships. To defend your ship, you had to have concrete reasons why they worked together, and "they're soul mates" would never convince anyone. Plus, I read fanfiction and saw firsthand that the same character could work with many other characters depending on what situations you wrote them in.
Back then, I didn't think about any of that as having an effect on my views of romantic relationships, love, and everything else in that realm, but of course it did. All of your experiences have an effect. So, in a way, the amount of time I spent as a kid (and still spend) analyzing fictional relationships is at least partially to blame/praise (depending on your outlook) for my lack of a belief in soul mates. I'm sure there are people who can say the opposite based on their own experiences in fandom, but I do think it goes to show you how analyzing media can affect how you view the world. I might not have gotten the same beliefs if I'd just watched/read romance and not analyzed why the couples worked together or realized that they could be paired with other characters too.
For anyone who views a lack of a belief in soul mates as pessimistic, I'll have to disagree. It's not that I believe that no couple can ever be happy or stay together for the rest of their lives. They can. Not believing in soul mates does not automatically lead to not believing in love. If I didn't, why would I ship any characters together at all? Actually, I think love means so much more without soul mates. It gives people more credit for their own relationships and adds value. It doesn't take it away.