Parasocial Relationship: Definition and Meaning

The concept of reciprocity underpins all relationship theories. Even though the link is created over the internet, an underlying expectation of reciprocity exists. For example, if you email someone and never receive a response, you cannot claim that you and that person had a dialogue or a connection. Because a parasocial connection differs from a social relationship, the word parasocial is employed here. However, other individuals believe that the connection is fictitious and that the person is delusory that the media celebrity is in a relationship with them.

What is Parasocial Relationship?

A parasocial relationship is a psychological interaction experienced by members of an audience in their mediated contacts with specific artists in the mass media, notably on television. The concept of mass media has grown to embrace significantly more modern and interactive platforms (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) A sense of closeness develops as these interactions grow more common and viewers spend more time with these media personalities. These characters become extremely predictable over time, and the audience can "understand" or "know" their next move. Because of this sense of intimacy and a comprehensive comprehension of the character and its identity, the spectator feels that these characters are included in their circle of friends by extension.

Developmental Aspects of Parasocial Interactions

It is essential to describe how PSIs grow over the lifetime when considering various facets of parasocial connections. The function of media in children's lives has been extensively examined, and as we have previously established, the role of media in children's lives is always changing. According to PSR research, when consumers identify with media characters and create relationships, they form a type of relationship akin to an interpersonal one. According to research, children build an emotional and parasocial affinity with media characters long before they begin preschool.

Such PSRs often suggest that youngsters connect with these characters as people, have internalized behavioral standards, and wish to have these characters as friends in real life. We all know that children spend much time watching cartoons like SpongeBob, Peppa Pig, Dora, Mickey Mouse, Chota Bheem, and others, but they also spend much time with various media channels. As a result, it impacts the development of specific features in a kid. Many studies have found that people spend significant time learning from television characters, building possible relationships with these characters, and being impacted by the visuals they see. It also influences the type of friends individuals choose, including whether they choose same-sex pals. It may help them comprehend social rules, language, social roles, and culture.

PSRs are widespread in adolescence; they pay more attention to and are more preoccupied with media figures and family than other age groups. They may play a significant part in teenage identity formation, autonomous development, and the maintenance of meaningful contacts and relationships. These partnerships reflect the societal issues of this developmental stage as well. As teenagers establish their autonomous selves and engage in identity formation, parasocial processes may provide several identities for their consideration; they may draw inspiration from these media characters, which may aid individuals in creating their perspectives.

As a result, the selection of media figures may be significant. For example, an adolescent girl may participate in PSR with a popular, beautiful actress who provides a different and more appealing connection than her parents. Adults, on the other hand, compare media figures to their neighbors. In addition to or instead of friendship, adolescent relationships with celebrities may appear supportive and hierarchical, similar to those with mentors or coaches.

Factors affecting PSRs

The following are the primary variables influencing parasocial relationships −

  • Identification and empathy with the character − According to research, media viewers judge media figures using comparable criteria to persons they meet in real life. If people identify with a media character similar to them or aspire to be like them, they are more likely to identify with that character. It also appears plausible that after we have formed an opinion about a media figure or assigned personality traits to them, we will respond to that figure "as if" it fills our physical location, gradually merging it into our social reality. As a result, we credit identical psychological processes to parasocial and face-to-face connections. Understanding From the standpoint of homophily, we examined parasocial contact and discovered that resemblance is a significant component in the strength of the parasocial connection.

  • The consumer's gender and age − Individual gender also influences identifying with and imitating a media persona. In this scenario, let us use children as an example. It has been discovered that youngsters prefer same-sex peers. There are few female figures for youngsters to relate to and bond with in today's media world. As a result of this predicament, females are forced to pick between a male character and a very restricted variety of female characters. Girls are far more likely to choose their favorite male characters than males are to choose their favorite female characters. Children's media contacts may also have a social influence on their proclivity to play with opposite-sex pals. Most teenagers (61.1%) regard their favorite media icons as potential romantic partners. They discovered that guys preferred athletics over ladies and regarded celebrities as authoritative figures or mentors rather than their buddies. Girls tended to be more interested in actresses.

  • Prevalent trends − It is sometimes the craze or trend that determines which media figure becomes famous and is followed by people. Dhinchak Pooja, for example, became a craze and gained a lot of media attention once her music videos were launched. Soon after their respective releases, they gained millions of views on YouTube. Another well-known character, Khabane Lame, often known as "Khaby Lame," is a social media influencer renowned for releasing viral videos. It all started when one of his TikTok videos went viral, and now he is famous on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Another new popular trend is "stand-up comedy," Many comedians have become popular, particularly among teens and young adults.

The Changing Landscape of PSRs

The way media consumers interact with personalities has developed over time. This is partly due to the emergence of the internet and social media, but advertising and data titans also play a significant role in this shift. This means that while platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter encourage a larger population of people to form a larger number of PSRs, algorithms that suggest content and advertisement companies that curate content specific to every one of the millions of internet users have also played a significant role in shaping the PSRs that are being formed today. The following are a few examples of how PSRs have evolved−

  • The number of PSRs − As the content industry expands, with new models, producers, and influencers appearing daily, individuals have a greater opportunity to develop more PSRs. As the world becomes increasingly individualistic, the demand for parasocial ties grows.

  • Increasing PSR intimacy − With the advent of reality television and talk shows, viewers may get as close to a media persona's life as possible. This has resulted in a gradual escalation in the intensity of the developed bond. This may be explained by the fact that as more information about the character gets available (and stars who are "genuine and relatable" gain attention and support), the more "real" the PSR becomes.

  • Increasing accessibility − Are PSRs no longer one-way connections? Unlike when the word was developed, PSRs today have the potential to become, at least partially, two-way partnerships. When a celebrity answers a Tweet from a fan or critic, organizes a live vlog, or schedules a meet & greet, followers, get to connect with the character behind the screen.


A one-sided relationship envisioned with media people and celebrities is referred to as a parasocial relationship. As the spectator's sense of closeness and connection with these identities and personas grows, the viewer begins to believe that these characters are an extension of their circle of friends. Some of the most fundamental aspects of PSR include the fact that these connections are one-sided and voluntary, requiring customers to devote time, energy, and emotions.

Different elements that apply to interpersonal attraction also apply here, and they, like real-life relationships, require upkeep. PSRs are distinct from stalking, delusional behavior, and other socially unacceptable and potentially hazardous behavior. The landscape of PSRs has evolved dramatically due to the internet, numerous types of social media, advertising, and data corporations.

Updated on: 02-May-2023


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