Well, really he’s not but-
How much do you know about your favourite celebrities’ personal lives? Their birthdays? Their favourite food? What about when their last vacation was? Or what they did last week?
Social media has made it easier than ever to feel engaged with people’s personal lives, even if you don’t know the people personally. Over the pandemic we’ve seen a heightened rise in unhealthy parasocial relationships.
Parasocial relationships are one-sided relationships where one party is unaware of the other, while the other party has assumed companionship with them. There’s lots of different places where these parasocial relationships grow. In elementary schools, students usually have a skewed idea of their closeness with their teachers. They might feel a close friendship where there isn’t one. There are people who believe they have familiarity with the players on their favourite teams. In the past there’s even been research done on people who develop parasocial relationships with fictional characters in media.
It’s a term that can encompass a lot of different interactions – but especially lately there has been an increase in assumed familiarity between viewers and streamers. The pandemic saw an influx in Twitch usage, both on the side of people streaming, and watching. Idle hours spent at home with little opportunity to interact with others made streams an ideal way to socialize from the safety of your home.
There’s been a lot of questions on whether or not parasocial relationships are healthy or not. On one hand, they are proven that they can be an inspiration of self efficacy. Watching someone you feel closely to do the things you want to be able to do can improve confidence and speed the learning process. Like all relationships, parasocial relationships can become unhealthy. As this phenomenon becomes more commonplace, there have been multiple reports of parasocial relationships getting out of hand. People who feel a negative visceral reaction when the point of their attraction or connection displays affection for someone else. People have gone as far as to make death threats and harass the icon of their obsession.
As a creator it’s important to have an understanding on what your boundaries are and how to set them. There’s nothing inherently wrong or harmful with calling your audience “friends” or “besties”, and it’s important you know how to put your foot down when someone takes those terms too far. As someone ingesting that content, it’s important to understand the divide between you and the influencers you interact with. Not every one of them is as open to friendship as you are, and some might have vastly different opinions on your closeness to them.
Are there any streamers or influencers that you enjoy that you feel close to? Perhaps you stream yourself and have someone that feels this way towards you. What are some of the boundaries you have or plan to set up to prevent an unhealthy parasocial relationship?