Scrolling Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, or even watching movies and TV shows, you may be enamored by celebrities you see on your screen. Over the past couple of years, the phenomenon of parasocial relationships has become habitual for many social media users. To like a celebrity and follow them on social media is normal, but devoting all of your free time to following their every move is a bit overboard. Even though celebrities and influencers may be relatable to you, you don't know them, and they are not your friends.
Psychology professor Sarabeth Golden describes parasocial relationships as “A one-sided relationship where one person perceives there to be some kind of relationship with another who's typically a celebrity or a famous person.” The relationships could be called a “one-way street” with one person following a celebrity's every move through social media.
With the power and access of social media, you have access to celebrities' everyday lives. “People who have parasocial relationships just know a lot about what [celebrities] are doing, what they're thinking, their attitudes, what they like to eat,” said Golden. “There's just so much more information out there, depending on the celebrity, I think because it's become so normalized to put personal information out there into the universe through social media, we can identify with that.”
Parasocial relationships could be the first step into a very unhealthy obsession that could even turn into stalking. When influencers are vulnerable or relatable on social media it can be easy to connect with them, but it isn’t an invitation to get involved in their life.
People who have a parasocial relationship could be using this to cope with not finding connections with the people around them. Following this celebrity could make you feel like you are not alone. However, it’s important to remember that people on social media do not care for you, no matter how much you care for them. If your priorities and responsibilities like school, work, or your social life take a back seat to someone you haven’t even met, it may be time to take a break from social media. Connect with the people around you, spend time with your friends, and remember that there are people in real life that care about you more than the people on social media.