It refers to a kind of psychological relationship experienced by an audience in their mediated encounters with performers in the mass media, celebrities, organizations (such as sports teams) or television stars. Viewers or listeners come to consider media personalities as friends, despite having limited interactions with them.
They are one-sided relationships, where one person extends emotional energy, interest and time, and the other party (i-e: the persona) is completely unaware of the other’s existence.
In the past, parasocial relationships occurred predominantly with television personas. Now, these relationships also occur between individuals and their favorite bloggers, social media users, and gamers.
The Internet allows for 24-hour access to media users, and increased internet dependency may lead to increased parasocial interactions. While parasocial relationships still remain one-sided, they have transformed into more interactive environments, allowing individuals to communicate with their media personas, and increasing the intimacy and strength of the parasocial relationship.
Despite the one-sided nature of parasocial relationships, there are numerous similarities between these relationships and more traditional social relationships. Studies show parasocial relationships are voluntary, provide companionship, and are influenced by social attraction. Furthermore, viewers experience a connection with the media user and express feelings of affection, gratitude, longing, encouragement, and loyalty towards them.
Historically, parasocial relationships were viewed as pathological and a symptom of loneliness, isolation and social anxieties. However, one study found there was no correlation between loneliness and the intensity of viewers’ parasocial relationship with onscreen characters but taking parasocial relation to a intense level leads to more issues in real Interpersonal relationships.
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