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What are parasocial relationships?

What are parasocial relationships?

People have had a fascination with famous people for years — and in the age of the Internet, it's only grown. impressivetoo often online content creators have blurred both the definition of “celebrity” and our relationship with them.

While it may seem like influencers are friends with followers because of how they interact with them online, this is more than likely not the case. Instead, these relationships are asocial – one-sided. But what exactly are parasocial relationships, and are they healthy?

What is a parasocial relationship?

Parasocial relationships are one-way relationships, usually between an everyday person and a celebrity or fictional character, said Natalie Pennington, assistant professor of communication studies at Colorado State University.

According to Noah Mallin, chief strategy officer of media tech company IMGN Media, parasocial relationships are a false closeness that audience members feel even though they have no real relationship with that person.

These relationships existed long before the Internet – thousands of years ago. Researchers say the ancients had. Antisocial relationships with pharaohs And gods, for example.

In the 20th century, early research on parasocial relationships separated people's relationships. Soap opera characters and other fictional TV characters. “People will watch TV shows and get really invested, and feel like they … have a connection with some of the leads on the shows,” Pennington said. “So even though they may never meet, they were like, 'This person is my friend. I know them.'

“Even though they may never meet, they were like, 'This person is my friend. I know them.'

As media and technology have evolved, so have antisocial relationships. With the rise of the internet and social media over the past few decades, celebrities have revealed more information about themselves online, giving fans more insight. The previously impossible knowledge makes these relationships real, as fans learn more about the celebrity. It's still one-sided, however, as the celebrity will have no idea who the fan is.

Examples of antisocial relationships.

In a ___ Study the interaction of fans and celebrities on Twitter. Pennington published in 2016 with Professor Jeffrey A. Hall and researcher Alex Hutchinson, the authors discuss the “illusion of intimacy” social media interactions give fans to celebrity interactions. “Liking” or retweeting a celebrity can not only increase one's social status, but is a perceived level of intimacy with the celebrity.

Even the definition of “celebrity” is blurred these days due to the rise of social media, and especially influencers, who have become increasingly interactive and the perception that an influencer is only a “one like you”. “normal person”, has further blurred the antisocial lines. .

Because of engagement, social media blurs the line between non-social relationships. Since that study, it's only increased — especially with TikTok, Pennington noted. Referring to Stitch's feature of combining videos, he said, “Tik Tok with Stitch, for example… it blurs the line on parasocial because someone can actually respond to you and Then you can feel even more connected.”

Malin said the rise of YouTube blogging had a hand in modern antisocial relationships. Vloggers speak directly to the camera (which was often not done in previous forms of media) about specific personal issues they are dealing with, as if they were talking to a friend. It's now common for an influencer to watch you live during a video. There's a perceived level of authenticity, even if a lot of work has gone into a video behind the scenes.

Not only are influencers looking at you, but they're also interacting — sometimes in real time. “It feels like you have a greater ability to reach out and communicate,” Malin said. “A good creator will read comments, and comment back.”

Commenting back and forth can make it feel like you're communicating with an influencer (even if it's their team and they're not responding). It helps foster a sense of, “This is a real person,” Malin said, “but it can also foster a sense of, 'Not only is this a real person, but we actually have one.' have a relationship with another,'” even though you don't

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“Again, (it's) still not a two-way relationship in most cases,” Pennington said. “But because there's that extra level of communication or (the ability to interact), it can make that bond stronger for someone.”

How do antisocial relationships form and end?

Atypical relationships arise from parasocial interaction, or PSI. PSI is the act of engaging with a celebrity or influencer. You view their content, maybe even reach out to them. It is possible that you are related to them in some way; Maybe their identity matches yours, or maybe you share similar attitudes.

Just as parasocial relationships are possible to form, they are also possible to dissolve. The worst of the cases is when a public figure dies, but that's not the only way.

One way is, as Malin said, “the bubble has burst.” This is especially the case with influencers when they reach a certain level of notoriety where they no longer “feel real”. They probably have millions of followers, and have entered the mainstream. “Once you realize that they're not really just talking to you… it can start to feel like a diminished relationship,” Mallon said.

This can also happen if an influencer starts sponsoring heavily who they feel they are (or at least, who fans believe them to be). “It starts to feel less authentic,” Malin said.

Or, maybe the influence started in a place that resonated with you and then it evolved and moved on. Thus, the end of an antisocial relationship can feel like a friendship that fell apart.

This doesn't happen to all lovers, but when the illusion of intimacy is somehow broken, casual relationships can go awry.

Are Asocial Relationships Healthy?

The simple answer is yes – but like most things, it's best in moderation.

In the United States, people are very lonely, and the pandemic has made it worse. “The Loneliness Epidemic.” People have. Fewer close friends Now than decades ago. At the same time, Pennington said, there is an innate human need to belong and thus need connection, and when we don't have it we will seek it. Humans developed these needs. Over millions of years, because we need to be part of groups to survive. Although this is not necessarily the case anymore, we are still social creatures who thrive with others.

So, it makes sense that people look for connections online and through celebrities and influencers. As long as they are not the only relationships in your life, non-social relationships can be perfectly fine. When you engage with your favorite online figure, you may get a “boost” of good-relationship feelings — an effect of the feel-good chemical dopamine — and that's a positive thing.

But if that's the only way you're connecting—or if you feel like your asocial relationship is actually two-way—that's when they can be problematic.

“We need people in our lives that we actively talk to,” Pennington said, “to help with our well-being, whether it's loneliness, self-esteem, connection, connection, all of that. things.”

“There's nothing wrong with enjoying a creator's content in any capacity and appreciating their work for the momentary joy it brings you,” continued Pennington. However, it is not a good idea to set expectations with a celebrity. “It's OK to reach out and say 'hi' to tweet, but not expect or expect a response,” Pennington said.

Further, Malin said, casual relationships can cross the line into toxicity, especially if the influencer/celebrity is of a marginalized identity. “Parasocial relationships can feel pretty lenient,” he said, “but for some groups that can sometimes be a little more sinister.”

During the worst of the pandemic, for example, Influential people spoke about being increasingly harassed.. Abuse can extend from online to offline, e.g Screw streamers chasing “fans”.. In these ways, a blurred line of communication can be harmful.

When interacting with an influencer/celebrity, it's important to remember that the relationship is actually one-sided. It's okay to love a famous person, but keep your emotional and physical distance.

This article was first published in 2022 and republished in 2024.

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