InHorton and Wohl explored the different interactions between mass media users and media figures and determined the existence of a parasocial relationship, where the user acts as though they are involved in a typical social relationship. Since then, the term has been adopted by psychologists, in furthering their studies of the social relationships that emerge between consumers of mass media and the figures they see represented there. Initially, Horton and Wohl viewed parasocial interactions as abnormalities resulting from a lack of time spent with others. The concept of parasocial interaction and detailed examination of the behavioral phenomena that it seeks to explain have considerable potential for developing psychological theory.
Newberg Department of Psychology, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, USA Parasocial interactions and relationships, one-sided connections imagined with celebrities and media figures, are common in adolescence and might play a role in adolescent identity formation and autonomy development.
Adolescents emphasized highly salient media figures, such as actors, for parasocial attention. Gender differences emerged in that boys chose more athletes than girls and were more likely to imagine celebrities as authority figures or mentors than friends.
Celebrities afforded friendship for girls, who overwhelmingly focused on actresses. Hierarchical parasocial relationships may be linked to processes of identity formation as adolescents, particularly boys, imagine media figures as role models.
In contrast, egalitarian parasocial relationships might be associated with autonomy development via an imagined affiliation with an attractive and admirable media figure.
Research on these parasocial processes has primarily focused on their explanatory power vis a vis individual differences in media use and consumption. While much of the research in this area has focused on undergraduate samples, and a growing body of work is examining these processes in children e.
First, adolescents demonstrate greater attention to and preoccupation with media figures and celebrities relative to other age groups Giles, ; Giles and Maltby, ; Maltby et al. Second, theoretically, parasocial processes might play a role in helping adolescents address the tasks of this developmental period, such as identity formation and the development of autonomy from parents Giles and Maltby, Combined with the fact that parasocial processes appear to follow similar patterns of formation and maintenance as real interactions and relationships see, in particular, Rubin and McHugh, ; Schiappa et al.
Consequently, the goal of the current study was to examine adolescent parasocial processes from a developmental relationships perspective. Theoretically, a similar approach could be applied to research on parasocial processes: Much less work has focused on either the identities of celebrities chosen for parasocial attention or the characteristics of the relationships imagined with them.
In fact, to our knowledge, no work has asked the question of whether or in what ways adolescents imagine their favorite celebrities as relationship partners per se.
Theoretically, as adolescents begin to construct their autonomous selves and engage in identity formation, parasocial processes might present identities for consideration and help individuals develop their own perspectives Giles and Maltby, ; Madison and Porter, —meaning that media figure choices might be meaningful.
For example, an adolescent girl in the throes of autonomy development might engage in PSR with an attractive actress, who affords an alternate and attractive affiliation to that provided by her parents Adams-Price and Greene, ; Giles and Maltby, ; Klimmt et al.
Alternatively, she might undertake PSR with a soccer star, who affords an imagined coach for her own achievement goals. To date, only a handful of studies have examined the types of individuals chosen for parasocial attention and the rationale for these choices. Boon and Lomore categorized the vocations of specific media figures chosen for parasocial attention by young adult participants.
These authors noted a high prevalence of actors However, the authors did not explore the appeal of media figures in a chosen category or the types of relationships imagined. A couple of studies suggest that choices of media figures for parasocial attention might be psychologically meaningful.
Adolescents preferred the teenage and young adult characters on the show over older characters and imagined young characters as friends. Similarly, Turner studied variables contributing to PSI in undergraduates by asking them to report on soap opera characters, newscasters, or comedians.PARASOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE 6 PARASOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE Media today make celebrities and pop culture figures more accessible than ever.
Thanks to the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, people can be instantly connected with their favorite celebrity or media figure.
PARASOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE 6 PARASOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE Media today make celebrities and pop culture figures more accessible than ever.
Thanks to the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, people can be instantly connected with their favorite celebrity or media figure. The study examines the associations between adolescents’ emotional and physical aspects of parasocial romantic relationships with media figures, idealized romantic beliefs, perceptions of a current dating partner, and relationship satisfaction.
Despite the one-sided nature of parasocial relationships, there are numerous similarities between these relationships and more traditional social relationships.
Studies show parasocial relationships are voluntary, provide companionship, and are influenced by social attraction. Furthermore, viewers experience a connection with the media user and express feelings of affection, gratitude, longing, . In considering the relationship between parasocial interaction and attachment styles, Cohen () found that individuals who were more anxious media consumers tended to be more invested in parasocial relationships.
In parasocial interaction there is no "normal" social interaction; it is a very one-sided relation. The knowledgeable side has no direct control over the actions of the side it observes, and it .
Despite the noted parallels between social and parasocial interaction, the status of parasocial relationships as relationships is doubtful if using long- established definitions of relationships, such as Hinde (), who argued that “a relationship exists only when the probable course of future interactions between the participants differs.