Do you feel a special connection with a famous person? You might be in a parasocial relationship. Parasocial relationships are one-sided relationships between a media viewer and someone famous like an actor, musician, athlete, or influencer. Parasocial relationships can have benefits. For example, hearing about an athlete’s struggle with depression might inspire fans to address their own mental health concerns. On the other hand, parasocial relationships are one-sided by definition. This can cause problems, especially if they take the place of real-life relationships.
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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.