Parasocial Relationships

Created by susan on 2019-06-04 15:47:29


Do you ever wonder why some of us want to emulate celebrities or the royal family? It has become more prevalent with social media since we have access to their style, tidbits about their personal lives, and engage directly as followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I love that we can capture a memory instantaneously and build our own scrapbook via social media. But, it can be a slippery slope if you find yourself obsessing about another person. 

Parasocial relationships are defined as one-sided relationships, where one person extends emotional energy, interest and time, and the other part, the persona, is completely unaware of the other’s existence. If you are involved in a parasocial relationship, you may find you are living your life on the sidelines and no longer playing in the game of life! Stars may exploit this tendency, but we are responsible for vetting social media so that it does not wreak havoc on our self-esteem or body esteem.

Historically, parasocial relationships have been correlated to loneliness, fear, stress, depression and social anxiety. Interesting enough social anxiety is symptomatic of formal eating disorders, chronic dieting, and disordered eating. The allure is that parasocial relationships expand the social network and safeguard one who has been deeply hurt in relationships in real life. If you have experienced rejection or fear intimacy, parasocial relationships introduces avoidant behavior and you do not have to take any risks. It allows you to retreat and conceal your emotional vulnerability which sometimes leads to a significant weight gain or loss. Hence, it is a protective shield so you do not have to pursue a new relationship and potentially experience any emotional pain or suffering.

Furthermore, parasocial relationships are cultivated by the media to resemble a face-to-face intimate relationship so it may be misinterpreted as a personal connection. Research shows that parasocial relationships are voluntary, provide companionship, and are influenced by social attraction. You may experience a connection with a celebrity that you misconstrue as mutual feelings of intimacy, affection, gratitude, encouragement, and loyalty. On one end of the spectrum a parasocial relationship may create mental preoccupation such as ruminating thoughts about another person. On the other end we have all seen parasocial realtionships play out when a celebrity is stalked by someone due to obsessionality.

Recent studies equate healthy relationships with positive body image. Therefore, no matter how much one has been hurt or engaged in a dysfunctional relationship become psychologically introspective and learn from each relationship. Make a list of the toxicity you have experienced or take responsibility for the role that you may have played (i.e., betrayal, not monogamous, etc.) and become cognizant and consciously aware of these unhealthy patterns. Write down specific traits and personality characteristics that you feel you deserve or desire in your next relationship: intimacy, communication, respect, sense of humor, etc. This process will bring you closer to Mr. or Mrs. Right! Building healthy relationships requires the following:

  • Overcome codependency and maintain autonomy by not losing sight of who you are as an individual.
  • Boosting your body esteem and self-esteem since we attract partners with the same level as our own.
  • Both parties need to establish the ground rules for conflict resolution skills (i.e., Fight fair without sabotaging yourself or others).
  • A power and control dynamic in a relationship is symptomatic of emotional eating so assess the reasons you allow yourself to be controlled or you feel compelled to control others.
  • Communication is key and use the rules of assertiveness training which helps one avoid the blame and shame game!

You deserve to be in a relationship with someone who is trustworthy, emotionally available, loving, and supportive. I encourage you to settle for more not less in your relationships! I have 100% confidence in your ability to establish healthy and fulfilling relationships which will strengthen your body esteem!