The Psychology of Parasocial Relationships

From Above the Noise.

Do you feel a special connection with a celebrity or famous person? You might be in a parasocial relationship. Myles Bess explores the psychology of parasocial relationships and seeks to answer the question: Why do some people have them and are they harmful?

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*What is a parasocial relationship?*
Parasocial relationships are one-sided relationships where one person spends all this time and energy on another person, usually someone famous like an actor, musician, athlete, or influencer, and that second person has no idea the other person even exists. They’re pretty common.

*Why do some people form parasocial relationships?*
There are a few different ideas for why some people might form these bonds. One theory is called parasocial attachment theory, which suggests that forming parasocial relationships has a lot to do with your attachment style. Attachment styles describe how you relate to people and it’s thought to be influenced by how you bonded with your caregivers when you were young. People with avoidant attachment styles tend to not form these types of relationships, whereas people with more anxious and secure attachment styles tend to have a wider variety of parasocial relationships.

*What are some benefits of parasocial relationships?*
Parasocial relationships can actually help motivate positive changes and well-being for some people. The tween and teen years in particular are a time when people tend to form parasocial relationships, and some research suggests those relationships can help with identity formation and autonomy. Some research has found that when celebrities share their mental health struggles, can motivate people to seek out information about mental health and make people feel like they are part of an in-group that might have similar struggles. Additionally, some research suggests that parasocial relationships can actually help decrease prejudice and stereotypes.

*What are some of the downsides of parasocial relationships?*
Parasocial relationships can be problematic if they interfere with or take the place of real-life relationships. For example, research has found that they can contribute to anxiety, loneliness, and social isolation, especially if they involve social media. And there’s research that suggests that intense parasocial relationships can be linked to addiction to social media platforms. And if someone feels a parasocial connection to someone who displays problematic or negative behavior or traits, then that person might also pick up some of those things as well.

What are Parasocial Relationships (Medical News Today)

Parasocial Relationships: The Nature of Celebrity Fascinations (Find a Psychologist)

What are Parasocial Relationships (Psych Central)

What is attachment theory? (VeryWell Mind)

New Thriveworks research shows abundance of parasocial relationships in the US (ThriveWorks),in%20real%20life%20(IRL).
The relations between YouTube addiction, social anxiety and parasocial relationships with YouTubers: A moderated-mediation model based on a cognitive-behavioral framework (Humans and Computer Behavior)

The role of media figures in adolescent development: Relations between autonomy, attachment, and interest in celebrities (Personality & Individual Differences)

0:00 Intro
0:40 What is a parasocial relationship?
1:47 History of parasocial relationships?
2:47 Parasocial attachment theory
3:59 Potential benefits of parasocial relationships
5:48 Potential drawbacks of parasocial relationships
6:46 Parasocial relationships and human nature