Parasocial Relationships: The Wrong Direction

  Parasocial relationships between young girls and boy bands have been around since the Beatles pandemonium of the 1960s, and even before. However, in today’s social media world, these relationships are more “personal” than ever. Instagram and Twitter give celebrities a platform to connect to their fans on a seemingly intimate level. One Direction band members follow fans back on Twitter and Instagram. Thousands of Instagram accounts exist purely as a dedication to One Direction. But what does this new type of “personal” connection mean for both sides of this relationship? There are obvious benefits for celebrities and their brands. Album and movie sales increase with social media attention, and self promotion is now easier than ever. However, fake intimate relationships that young girls conjure up in their heads and play out on social media can be troubling. One Direction fans in particular are extremely passionate on Instagram about boys they have never met, as they have created a “real” relationship in their minds. Parasocial relationships can have negative effects when these young girls start to allow the members of One Direction, whom they have never met, to negatively impact their real lives. Earlier this year, former One Direction member Zayn Malik dropped out of the band. Girls expressed their distraught on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Many filmed themselves crying and posted absurd comments about suicide. Zayn Malik’s decision should not be effecting these young girls in such an extreme way, as he doesn’t know any of them. Also, whenever these boys are photographed with a girl, or are speculated to have a new girlfriend, the girl is often attacked on social media by obsessed fans with death threats. Parasocial Relationships: The Wrong Direction The young, crazed fans seem to believe that their dreams of meeting or even marrying band members are real.  This is not a healthy phenomenon by any means. Young girls should not be allowing celebrity figures to determine their own lives. Social media significantly perpetuates the unhealthy illusion of a real relationship with unattainable celebrities.
One Response to “Parasocial Relationships: The Wrong Direction”
  1. David Sisson says:

    It is indeed frightening that young girls are threatening suicide over a boy leaving a band but isn’t this partly what social media was created to facilitate, make us feel more connected? There is a paradox that the more connected we are the more isolated we become, maybe as we spend more time in front of a screen than in front of actual people the online relationships will appear to be more real than reality. Maybe the reasons parasocial relationships are so common is that cultivation theory has allowed the viewer to enter into the idealized world in which the star of a band is truly a perfect person. And when a part of that world is threatened, like when Zayn left One Direction young girls feel as if the world they created and inhabit has been threatened or destroyed so they try to make it last in any way they know how. It’s just a thought. Also, possibly they were primed by a concert they just saw or a video they just watched to feel strongly about One Direction at that time and the reaction when the announcement reached them was more based on circumstance than on their existing relationship.

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