Running Head: PARASOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS
The Antecedents, Facilitators and Consequences of Parasocial Relationships:
A Review of the Literature
Every day, tens of thousands of vloggers look into their camera lenses and muster a familiar phrase: "Hey, what's up guys?". This is more than a simple start to a video. They're putting on a friendly face, saying hello, initiating a hangout. It follows that for every successful internet personality there are thousands of people who feel like they know them. Decades before the dawn of the internet celebrity, researchers Donald Horton and R. Richard Wohl coined a term for these illusory relationships just as '50s TV presenters started acting like viewers' pals — parasocial relationship (PSR). Parasocial interactions (PSI) and Parasocial relationships refer to the one-sided connections people imagined with media figures (from celebrities to fictional characters), as a result of mass media usage. Although the concept has been used consistently across the past two decades in media research, it has not been sufficiently developed at a theoretical level to be taken up by psychologists, and a number of issues can still be further addressed. Firstly, what kinds of psychological motivations predict increased tendency to engage in PSR; secondly, what processes and media use over time would facilitate PSR between media user and media figures; thirdly, how PSI might, as its originators put it, be “integrated into the matrix of usual social activity” (Horton & Wohl, 1956) and what impact would it bring. This paper attempts to answer the above questions by reviewing existing literatures and give suggestions for future research directions on the topic.
1.1. Psychological Predictors – Solitude & Need to Belong
The need to belong (NTB) is a fundamental human motivation that underlies a myriad of human interaction and behavior, failing to meet this need would have a negative impact on one’s health and well-being (including depression, anxiety, and loneliness) and people would naturally initiate goal-oriented behavior in to order to satisfy it (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Although Baumeister and Leary highlight that the ideal way to fulfill belongingness needs is through frequent positive interactions premised on mutual care and concern, individuals may still derive partial satisfaction from various substitute interactions when close friends or relatives are unavailable. Therefore, I propose that imagined bonds with media personas, while perhaps less optimal than the bonds formed with real-life others, may provide one such substitute interaction and thus contribute to individuals’ belongingness needs.
A series of research offer support for this hypothesis. Twenge and colleagues (2007) found that writing about a favorite celebrity, friend, or family member functioned to reduce aggression after social exclusion, concluding that social connections w...