The nature and intimacy of these relationships have become more mature due to the interactive environment and scope of face-to-face communication with their media personas. Today, an individual can easily develop, maintain, and even strengthen parasocial relationships. Thanks to digital technology!
In this digital age, parasocial relationships have numerous similarities with traditional social relationships. According to studies, parasocial relationships are voluntary and offer companionship. They are influenced by social attraction. Both celebrities and viewers can easily express their feelings of love, gratitude, encouragement, and loyalty towards each other.
Earlier writing letters or emails to media figures were time taking and the chance of getting a reply was low. Today, Facebook messages or blog comments make disclosure of personal feelings and anecdotes more likely and response is instant.
Relational maintenance is important to maintain and strengthen our relationships with real-life friends and folks. Isn’t it? Similarly, relational maintenance also occurs and it seems equally important in parasocial relationships. Just staying tuned with the latest social media posts or website blogs does it all.
As discussed earlier, parasocial relationships give you the advantage of “no rejection”. Instead, there are high rewards, and most important being the increased sense of “knowing” the personas. Thus, parasocial relationships are popular within these social media platforms.
But, how long will parasocial relationships last? Is there anything called parasocial breakups just like real-life relationship breakups?
Existing research on this subject highlight that media consumers can experience parasocial breakups when a parasocial relationship ends.
- It may happen due to the end of television or movie series
- A character deciding to leave the show or maybe replaced by someone else
- Media figure deciding to practice digital detox and no more accessible through social media
- Media consumers deciding to no longer watch or listen to a show, where a media figure appears.
Just like stress, anxiety and unhappiness are part of real-life relationship breakups, they are also part of parasocial breakups.
For example, people were highly disappointed and sad when the TV sitcom Friends ended its broadcast run. According to a 2006 study, the deeper the media consumer’s parasocial bonds with the media figures, the greater the consumers’ distress when the show ended. The emotions exhibited are the same as the loss of a real-life relationship but were less intense overall.
Here again, you get the similarities between parasocial and interpersonal relationships. But, please don’t forget that parasocial relationships are always one-sided, with no scope for mutual give-and-take.
The rise of parasocial bonds in the digital age is a stepping stone for more interesting research in this field. Scholars are yet to figure out the social, emotional, psychological, and mental impact of parasocial relationships and breakups in the long run.
What is your opinion about parasocial bonds? How many do you have? How do you feel when these bonds break? Would you prefer a parasocial relationship over a real relationship?
Leave a comment below.
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References 1. Dibble, Jayson L., Tilo Hartmann, and Sarah F. Rosaen. “Parasocial interaction and Parasocial Relationship: Conceptual Clarification and a Critical Assessment of Measures.” Human Communication Research, vol. 42, no. 1, 2016, pp. 21-44, ; 2. Eyal, Keren, and Jonathan Cohen. “When Good Friends Say Goodbye: A Parasocial Breakup Study.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 50, no. 3, 2006, pp. 502-523, 3. Horton, Donald, and R. Richard Wohl. “Mass Communication and Parasocial Interaction: Observation of Intimacy at a Distance.” Psychiatry, vol. 19, no. 3, 1956, pp. 215-229, https://doi.org/10.1080/00332747.1956.11023049