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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Opinion: Parasocial? More like para-so-cool!

Don’t yuck someone’s yum.
Image by Wejdan al Balushi
Parasocial relationships can provide some form of comfort.

When I was a kid, the Bollywood movie “Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai” played on repeat in my household. My grandmother loved the film and I would watch with her, completely absorbed in the outrageous plots Bollywood is known for. According to my family, I became so obsessed with the main character, Raj, that I would confidently declare him to be mine at the ripe age of three.

Unbeknownst to me, that was my first experience with parasocial relationships.

A parasocial relationship is a one-sided personal connection an individual creates with someone in the public eye. American sociologists Donald Horton and R. Richard Wohl introduced the concept of parasocial interaction in 1956.

When people hear the term parasocial relationships, they probably imagine someone in a dark hole in their basement, applying for a marriage license to bind themselves to their celebrity idol for life. That is not the case, most of the time.

Many people have most likely formed parasocial relationships in their lives without knowing what they were. In the digital age, it’s so easy to develop bonds online with figures because people are so open about their lives on social media.

Research indicates parasocial connections can contribute to a sense of comfort, proving especially beneficial for individuals with diminished self-esteem by alleviating concerns about social exclusion. A study conducted at the University of Houston found that parasocial relationships encouraged people with low self-esteem to be more goal-oriented and comfortable in their own skin.

Parasocial relationships aren’t necessarily related to physical attraction. Research has shown that people are more likely to form parasocial relationships with public figures they would be inclined to befriend in real life.

Watching a live stream or following a vlogger on YouTube can feel intimate. Certain influencers may have an inside joke with their followers, creating a sense of inclusivity people associate with genuine friendship.

When speaking about her love for the K-pop group BTS, Lum Chi, a fourth-year student at the University of Minnesota, noted how they helped her focus on self-growth and inspired her to treat others better. The band’s core values resonated with her, and their authenticity drew her in and has kept her a diehard fan since.

It’s all about perspective. Being chronically online is never a good thing. It’s important to create boundaries and understand that no matter who you follow, they are just people.

“I make sure to dedicate some time to my personal life and to my family,” Chi said. “I also make sure to not be delusional like some armies [BTS fans] who literally think that they’re gonna get married to one of the boys. I mean, every fandom has the extreme side, so I’m gonna take the extreme side with a grain of salt.”

There is a fine line between love and obsession. Camping for five months just to get a good view of Taylor Swift at a concert may be pushing the envelope a little too hard, but who am I to judge how a person spends their free time?

Putting anyone on a pedestal will eventually lead to a sense of disappointment. It’s important to create healthy boundaries but to do so, one would first have to acknowledge that their one-sided relationships are just that.

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