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How Can Parasocial Relationships Affect Your Life?

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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.


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)

This article in Medical News Today breaks down the pros and cons of parasocial relationships. It also outlines the differences between being a fan and being in a parasocial relationship. 

What are Parasocial Relationships (Psych Central)

This article examines what a parasocial relationship is and how they are different from parasocial interactions. 

What Is Attachment Theory? (VeryWell Mind)

This article explains what attachment theory is. 

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)

This study in the journal Humans and Computer Behavior shows the connection between parasocial relationships and social anxiety. 

The Role of Media Figures in Adolescent Development: Relations between Autonomy, Attachment, and Interest in Celebrities (Personality & Individual Differences)

The study in the journal Personality & Individual Differences unpacks the role of media figures and celebrities and how they relate to relationships teenagers have in their own lives. 

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