We can empathize with the characters on the other side of the screen just as we do with our real friends and relatives.
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What is a parasocial relationship?
A parasocial relationship is a special type of unequal relationship in which one feels connected to figures from movies, books, and the media – famous people or characters. Active participants in this relationship are only viewers, listeners, or readers. And if this is not about you and you are looking for non-star love, then christian single dating can help you with this.
Impatiently waiting for a new episode of a favorite sitcom, watching a favorite movie, following vlogs on YouTube, reposting posts on Twitter without replying to the author, and having your hair done like your favorite singer – these are just some examples of parasocial relationships.
They were first talked about back in the 1950s. Then American scientists Donald Horton and Richard Wohl introduced the term “parasocial relationships” into science. It referred to the researchers’ discovery of the public’s attachment to media personalities, as well as the feeling of belonging to them.
The objects of parasocial relationships can be more than just actors, musicians, and broadcasters. It is not uncommon for people to have feelings for fictional characters as well. Although whether the differences between the image created by a public person and the hero of a work of fiction are so great is a big question.
Parasocial relationships: “Pygmalion and Galatea,” a painting by Jean-Léon Jerome, 1890
“Pygmalion and Galatea,” a painting by Jean-Léon Jerome, 1890. According to the myth, the sculptor Pygmalion fell in love with the statue he had created, and Aphrodite, who took pity on him, brought his creation to life.
Not only have parasocial relationships not disappeared with the popularization of digital technology, but they have become much stronger and more widespread. Today a person can broadcast his life to other people, and social networks form a kind of parallel reality. Another type of parasocial relationship has also appeared, when a person follows the updates of the Internet pages of those people with whom he or she does not communicate in real life or even does not know at all.
How parasocial relationships arise and manifest themselves
Several factors strengthen the emotional attachment of a person to his virtual “companion.
There is a correlation: the more time the user spends in front of the screen, the more vulnerable he is to parasocial relationships. Gradually, the emotional connection with the object strengthens.
Another important factor in strengthening such relationships is that “communication” increasingly takes place in a warm, even intimate atmosphere: for example, when the star shoots vlogs, rumors, and so on.
Media personalities themselves are also dependent on parasocial relationships. They listen to the demands of the public and, if necessary, change their line of behavior. At the same time, they cannot become full-fledged participants of communication, although today’s media are interactive – for example, they offer the opportunity to comment. A public person is often physically unable to respond to all messages. More often than not, they are not even aware that their “interlocutor” exists.
Movie actors and presenters, bloggers, and even book or movie characters become part of our lives. The actions of strangers can occupy our thoughts, and following them occupies our time.
The feelings associated with an idol can be as strong as those of a real relationship. We do deeply empathize with characters from the screen or book pages who evoke an emotional response from us. By the way, if you are looking for a real relationship, check here
What are the consequences of parasocial relationships?
On the one hand, parasocial relationships create a false sense of intimacy. Such “communication,” at least outwardly, is very similar to real communication, because many of the formal attributes of live communication are observed. We listen to the parasocial “interlocutor’s” stories, follow his voice, gestures, and emotions, and take his advice.
This can lead to a variety of consequences. We discuss the public person’s personal life and actions as if we live in the same family, and see him as our friend or enemy, lover or object of worship. But in fact, all these are only phantoms and illusions that exist only in our heads.
The situation can be exacerbated when a person has trouble communicating in person. Parasocial relationships are alluring because they give a sense of control: they arise at the will of the beholder and terminate in the same way. With real people, this is impossible.
A person deeply immersed in a “relationship” with an idol may, in time, feel that he knows him better than anyone else, and understands him as no one else does. After all, he most often sees the ideal on the other side, and the stars themselves try to show only their best qualities.
The discrepancy between the real person and her image in the eyes of the fan can be extremely painful. Disappointment can escalate into harassment and take a tragic turn.
Thus, in 1996, singer Bjork tried to kill fan Ricardo Lopez – after he found out that she had a beloved man. Before that, Lopez had been “corresponding” with the singer in his diary for eight months.
In 2014, a man broke into Sandra Bullock’s house because he thought he was her husband. Five years later, a distraught fan attacked Japanese singer Ena Matsuoka with a knife and injured her face. To find out where she lived, the 26-year-old man carefully studied selfies of the girl and checked the reflections in her pupils against panoramas on Google Maps.
But parasocial relationships don’t always mean a severed connection to reality. They can even help expand one’s social circle and make new friends with similar interests. This is what the phenomenon of fandom, a community of fans of something or someone, is based on.
Idols also often inspire fans to create their work. And these can be fanfics (compositions based on existing books, songs, movies, and so on), but also original works.
What to do if you are in a parasocial relationship
The emergence of parasocial relationships is probably due to decreased social contact in modern society. People try to compensate for this lack of connection in different ways. And the easiest way is to do it without taking your eyes off the screen.
If you find yourself prone to parasocial relationships, you should first ask yourself: what do you need them for? Perhaps they simply make up for the lack of communication and create a sense of friendship, friendship. In that case, there is nothing wrong with them, as long as they do not turn into a manic obsession.
But you have to understand that parasocial relationships can eventually supplant real ones, if not form false ones, as in the examples with Bjork and Sandra Bullock. It can also cause feelings of worthlessness and insecurity.
Suppose you feel that parasocial relationships have become too time-consuming. In that case, you are consumed by your idol, and you can’t get enough of such mediated “communication,” it may be worth seeing a psychologist or psychotherapist.