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parasocial relationships 

So there's a post going around Tumblr that's basically something like "people keep saying parasocial relationships are bad but they never give any options for the alternatives? help?" and I keep thinking about just... How Much that is.

Like I get the impression the poster is relatively young and thus has grown up in Peak Influencer Culture and the question is earnest but, still.

parasocial relationships 

So like Hot Take maybe but an earnest question deserves an earnest answer, so:

The "alternative" to parasocial relationships, particularly if you feel you're susceptible to forming them in unhealthy ways, is to actively block yourself form forming parasocial relationships.

parasocial relationships 

That means stop watching that show or listening to that podcast that's in any one of those "'friends' around a table" formats that are designed to prey on this kind of relationship. Unfollow all "famous" people on social media. Block all social media "personalities" (you know the ones I mean; the people who aren't famous per se but always show up in reblogs). Just fucking say no to "influencer" culture.

parasocial relationships 

This doesn't mean that you can't enjoy things produced by or featuring particular individuals, but stop seeking out anything (or, worse, feeling entitled to) anything beyond the work they produce.

Humans are not commodities for consumption, no matter how much money companies like Patreon and TikTok make trying to convince you otherwise.

parasocial relationships 

@alis What about parasocial relationships with non-influencers? I think a lot of people also suffer from loneliness that has them seek connections to others online who are not "internet famous", whom they view as "friends", even if they never become close to them. It feels as if you know a person, but you really don't.

parasocial relationships 

@Cassiopeia12727 That’s not a parasocial relationship, though?

parasocial relationships 

@alis I guess not, since the traditional definition involved people in the media. I do wonder if there aren't parallels, though. If everyone is broadcasting to the world, and there is so much room for interpretation, especially with the increasing isolation in our society, isn't it kind of the same?

parasocial relationships 

@Cassiopeia12727 A parasocial relationship is a mediated relationship between an audience member and a performer via some kind of mass media. The point of it is the performer is putting on a persona that the audience treats as an authentic expression of that person’s whole self, and in turn the audience member gains an false sense of intimacy with said performer (who, in turn, generally doesn’t know the audience member exists as an individual person).

parasocial relationships 

@Cassiopeia12727 You can definitely argue people can form a type of parasocial relationship with randos on social media, but I’d caution against overextending the metaphor.

Like, as a rule of thumb, it’s only a parasocial relationship when there’s an imbalance of intimacy, the extent of which is not realised by the “audience” party (generally for some monetary/professional gain on the part of the “performer”). Just casually knowing, or knowing of, people isn’t enough.

parasocial relationships 

@alis @Cassiopeia12727 asymmetric friendships (where one person thinks the relationship is closer than the other) are not an outlier, they're the norm! According to some research, anyway. So that "internet rando friend I don't actually know" is just... people. That can happen offline as well.

Idk, but I think parasocial relationships are a mess not for the asymmetry, but for the way they're formed (by design, for someone's gain) and the impact (fans acting shitty).

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