Parasocial Relationships and the Future of Connection
I wrote an article titled ‘The Epidemic of Indecisiveness’ last year. I shared how seeing the highlights of others' lives on social media confuses our generation about who, what, and where we want to be individually.
Para-social relationships are another part of this problem; one-sided relationships where one person extends emotional energy, interest, and time, and the persona we see through the screen is completely unaware of the other’s existence. Think of this through the scope of social media influencers, podcast hosts, and fandoms.
When we interact in a one-way virtual relationship we’re clinging to an artificial connection built on a perception of someone's life. In short, it’s kinda like having an imaginary friend. You’ve made an image of them while you are not even real in the scenario.
Viewing someone else's actions, events, and thoughts through the one-way mirror of our phone makes us believe we are connected to them. After all: they are talking directly at us through the screen. They are discussing their relationships, ideas, and goals in a way that a friend would have a conversation with you.
But this is the problem: they are not our friends because we can’t interact with them. We can’t have a reciprocal dialogue. It is a one-way street of communication.
These activities create pseudo-interactions that attempt to fill a connective loss in the real world. This loss can be seen in fandoms as well; between fan accounts for celebrities, athletes, and even fictional characters; all of these represent a parasocial relationship with someone who cannot reciprocate the real-world structure of communication and connection that creates a true relationship.
Are any of these dynamics causing harm to people who enjoy them? Probably not. In all actuality, parasocial relationships may evolve with technology to become something much more akin to a real-life friend that can discuss memories, philosophies, and world events in a way that is indistinguishable from a real person.