What is Parasocial Relationship :Signs, Example, Effect and How to End?

Last Update on January 6, 2023 : Published on January 6, 2023
parasocial relationship

Twitter is all about parasocial relationships and interactions these days but what is it? What’s all the buzz about? Parasocial is not a new term but recently it was used on twitter by the fans of  John Mulaney and actress Olivia Munn for the people who were critical about their relationship with the fans.

It’s only 3-4 months back that people started talking about parasocial relationships and interaction. Until then I was completely unaware of this phenomenon. I mean I had heard of a one sided love story but parasocial relationships are slightly different from that.

In this article I am planning to cover all the important information about a parasocial relationship. Let’s begin with understanding the meaning of the word ‘parasocial’ first…

What’s The Meaning Of ‘Parasocial’?

According to the dictionary, Parasocial is defined as a one-sided relationship. It is a combination of two words para + social, Para means Near or next to and social basically meaning relating to the society or social media or being outgoing or knowing off someone.

Basically parasocial means that you think you know someone because you have seen them a lot in your society, culture or social media but in reality you just ‘know off’ them, you don’t really know them personally.

What Is The Meaning Of A Parasocial Relationship?

parasocial interaction

Parasocial relationships can be defined as having a one-sided relationship with someone who might not even be aware of your existence. Usually ‘parasocial’ is used in relation to the relationship shared by the media viewers and a mideo persona.

Simply put it is a relationship between two people, one of which is a fan and the other might be a celebrity or a public figure who is often featured by the media. It is also known as an illusion of friendship. The easy access to public figures because of social media through their personal profiles ha made people get a sense of perceived closeness.

For example, if you are an iron man fan and you feel like you know him completely, relate to him, feel joy or sadness when something good or bad happens to him, you most likely share a parasocial relationship with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).

What’s The Psychology of Parasocial Relationships

The exact reason why someone might develop a parasocial relationship is unclear as of now. But it has been seen in various studies that loneliness is one factor that was constant in each study.

There might be other psychological reasons too but loneliness surely has something to do with parasocial relationships. When you are lonely you might incline towards a parasocial relationship to kill the loneliness. Lonely people might resort to a perceived friendship with a media persona so that they feel a little less lonely.

Another psychological factor that is responsible for a parasocial relationship might be low self esteem. People with low self esteem might indulge in a parasocial relationship only to increase their self esteem by modeling the social life of a person who has high self esteem.

Fear of rejection also had a scanty presence in some of the studies. Since there is no scope of getting rejected because you can’t physically reach the celebrity or public figure, you’ll never be rejected in this kind of relationship (after all it is a one-sided relationship)

Also read: Are We Teaching Attention Seeking Behavior to Our Children via Social Media?

Examples Of Parasocial Relationships

Examples Of Parasocial Relationships

Most celebrity stalkers begin their obsession with their parasocial relationship with a public figure. Other than that there are various behaviors that point towards a parasocial relationship. For example:

  • You change your body language just like your parasocial partner,
  • You change your likes and dislikes according to your celebrity crush/friend,
  • You write emotional comments on their posts frequently,
  • Go on a war with hater of the celebrity,
  • Daydream about them a lot,
  • Do everything that they are doing, whether is a holiday or a new hobby, etc

Recognizing a Parasocial relationship

Parasocial Relationship signs

Richard Wohl & Donald Horton, sociologists, coined the phrase “Parasocial connection” in 1956 to describe a single-sided connection between such a media personality & a viewer. However, a media figure might be a mythical figure or a living or dead individual.

A para – social connection emerges with time as a result of repeated listening or viewing conditions, such as listening to podcasts or watching TV. The media user envisions that they’re communicating with the actor throughout these events – a Parasocial engagement.

Beyond the watching experience, an individual may consider and discuss the media person as if they are close friends.

Is A Parasocial Relationship Dangerous?

Is A Parasocial Relationship Dangerous

There are mixed views about this Parasocial relationship being dangerous or not. Some people argue that having a parasocial relationship is completely normal. It has been said that as we are social animals, forming a parasocial relation can come naturally to us.

“Parasocial connections may have both beneficial and harmful mental health repercussions,” Anderson explains.

He suggests that Parasocial contacts might boost sentiments of social assistance by allowing individuals to interact with one another in meaningful ways.

He adds that they might promote self-esteem by allowing individuals to appreciate and evaluate themselves to superstars. Following a sports star on social networks, for example, may help drive you to create positive health & wellness improvements.

You may even discover that your perception of others alters as a result of Parasocial connections. However, not that all Parasocial connections are successful.

“On the bad impact, Parasocial contacts may result in false expectations,” Anderson argues. “This could be due to people idolizing celebrities and wanting them to become flawless.”

These false expectations may affect not only your own identity, but also the ways you see people around you. Like you may reject a love partner who does not match the same requirements as your perfect Parasocial connection.

Anderson also warns that you may become more attentive to celebrity rumor.

When you have an emotional attachment to a media figure, you may feel extremely empathic with their situations, to the extent where it impacts your mood.

When your parasocial relationship turns into an obsession there is a high chance you develop erotomania. Erotomania is when you fall madly in love with a person who isnt even aware of your existence and you can go any limits for them.

How Can You End a Parasocial Relationship?

It’s not like all parasocial contacts are detrimental. A parasocial connection can supplement your social circle. The idea is to perform it in balance and to maintain additional important contacts with other individuals in your life.

Nevertheless, if you indulge in this connection to the point where it replaces all other types of social engagement, you must take action.

  • You have to figure out what is real and what is the reel. Social media is a virtual life that does not exist in reality.
  • Try to manage your time on social media and invest time where it gives you mental peace
  • Frankly speaking, social media is a waste of time and it would be better for you if you understand this fact.
  • Instead of wasting time on social media invest your time in books, dancing, planting trees, or anything that is productive.

The much more significant fact is to admit it. You are not required to feel awful about it, however, you must be conscious of it. Whenever you don’t have somebody to communicate to you & about it then you know it’s not healthy for you, then in this case you should see a therapist.

Also read: When Affection Turns To Obsession: Understanding Obsessive Love Disorder


Just a single-sided engagement between a public performance and an audience is referred to as a Parasocial connection. Although if they don’t meet or interact in reality, the spectator feels a strong attachment to the image.

Parasocial contacts could be a source of motivation and inspiration for certain individuals. The media personality may have a beneficial impact on others and motivate them to use their abilities & skills. Parasocial connections, on the other hand, should not be used to substitute real-life social relationships & interactions.

That’s all about a parasocial relationship. I hope you enjoyed reading the blog. Are you in a parasocial relationship? Do comment down below if you wish to read more about parasocial relationships.

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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