Parasocial relationship is a one-sided relationship with someone who doesn’t even know they are in it with you. Pathological or beneficial?
A parasocial relationship is a one-sided relationship. Although being completely infatuated with another person, the person they are “in a relationship with” has absolutely no idea. In the past, parasocial relationships were considered unhealthy. The internet is changing the way psychologists and specialists view parasocial fascination and how it affects someone’s life.
What is a parasocial relationship?
In a parasocial relationship, an individual invests a tremendous amount of energy, time, and emotion into someone they typically don’t know. Although usually associated with celebrities or sports heroes, the internet changed the face of parasocial relationships.
Many people often feel as if they are in a relationship with their favorite blogger, social media guru, or even a reality television personality who posts regular tweets and reaches out to the masses online.
Is a parasocial relationship beneficial?
Traditionally, parasocial relationships occurred with television or musical personas. And, it was a fascination whereby someone followed them, knew everything about them and invested an enormous amount of time in a relationship, that it was believed, they got nothing in return.
However, there is a new give and take, using social media platforms that allow users to interact with their parasocial object of desire altered that downside.
We have all been infatuated with a celebrity….
I don’t think there is any girl out there who can’t relate to being “in love” or even in a relationship with their favorite pop star growing up.
We all recount a time when we stood in the front, middle, or last row of a concert and secretly thought the band member of our parasocial relationship sang right to us. Trying to continually make eye contact, we invested as much time in the likes of Justin Bieber as we did our first crush. [Read: How to find your fictional character crush in real life]
Enter the internet…
With the surge of the internet, fans increasingly blur the lines between what is real and what is not regarding relationships. Being able to access your favorite persona, receive updates constantly, and the 24/7 nature of correspondence makes parasocial relationships much more prevalent.
People develop an increasing and strong intimacy with those they see in the media around them. And, equally, celebrities use platforms to give the most intimate details and feelings of their lives. Which only makes the bonds of parasocial relationships that much stronger.
What does the research say?
#1 Both traditional and parasocial relationships have emotional benefits. Although only one-sided, there is evidence to suggest that there aren’t that many differences between traditional relationships and parasocial ones in the way a person processes their feelings and the benefits regarding their emotional well-being.
It was once thought that a parasocial relationship was a waste of time and reserved for the lonely and emotionally stunted. Viewed as a negative type of relationship, studies begin to show parasocial relationships benefit those who carry on with them. [Read: How to make people like you: 35 tips to charm absolutely anyone]
#2 You gain the same things from a parasocial relationship. There is evidence to show those who engage in parasocial relationships attain the same longing, encouragement, gratitude, loyalty, and affection from the relationship, which isn’t a bad thing.
In a new age of social media, it makes sense that you don’t have to be face-to-face with someone to carry on a relationship. When someone is in a parasocial relationship, they often feel as if the persona “gets them” or values them just as much as someone in a real relationship would.
The benefits of a parasocial relationship
Parasocial relationships give a person a sense of empowerment and negate any rejection that you might get in a real and lasting relationship, which is why considered, in the past, to be pathological. But, that is not what new research shows.
It isn’t just those who are lonely who benefit from parasocial relationships. Feeling connected with someone whether it is one-sided or not, might be highly beneficial to someone’s psychosocial health.
#1 The term one-sided might be misleading when it comes to parasocial relationships. Although there might not be a one-on-one relationship, in a parasocial relationship, people gain relational maintenance in the same way that they would any other type of relationship.
#2 There are outlets to connect you with your parasocial. Previous psychologists theorized that people who carry on parasocial relationships do so to protect themselves from loneliness. The one-sided nature of the relationship was likely to result in feelings of social anxiety and isolation, which was only perpetrated because only one person was “truly” involved in the relationship.
But, social media changes the one-sidedness and provides those who have parasocial fascination an outlet to connect with someone, which helps to expand, rather than limit their social network.
#3 Being a part of something like a following might make people feel more connected rather than less. Think about the isolated person, either physically or emotionally. It is better they have words of encouragement and interaction whether real or superficial with someone whom they connect with than not to have an outlet to express themselves. The internet gives people community, not limited or taken away. [Read: Social media and relationships: The good, the bad, and the ugly]
#4 Social media and emotional wellness. Although many studies show social media could cause increasing feelings of isolation and depression around the globe, for some it might be the only way they connect with others. It empowers them, gives them strength, and allows them to feel part of a community.
If you are involved in a parasocial relationship, as long as you get something in return and don’t limit yourself from meeting other people, then it grants you strength and a feeling of not being alone.