We value parasocial relationships too much.

Written By August Stephens, Opinions Editor

Human beings in the age of the internet have exacerbated parasocial relationships. They are one-sided relationships where one person is extending all of the mental and emotional energy out to another party. 


This can include one other person, but mostly now it includes an entire follower base. Content creators routinely push out video content for people they do not even know to be receptive to it. 


The real issue is when fans start following or responding in an often overwhelming and traumatic way to the online creator. 


One example which is still apparent in my mind to this day is when a fan hacked an airport’s security cameras just to watch One Direction. Yes, they watched One Direction do nothing while other Directioners joined to watch with them through the live video recording feed.


Obviously this is an extreme example, but people who hold a presence online are often left with personal comments of fans dumping their lives to them, the risk of doxxing, and death threats solely based upon the content they upload to their respective platforms. 


Actively telling a creator that you “love them,” borders on the Intense-personal category of parasocial relationships, according to Simply Neuroscience. Although few creators heavily impact our lives enough to feel that amount of passion towards them, we should be cautious when expressing such serious feelings for someone you have likely never met in real life. 

The behavior of parasocial relationships is formed on the basis of toxic fandom culture. Daniel Howell, a content creator whose focus includes social commentary, nihilism, and self-deprecation, released a video two months ago detailing his decade long experience with the parasocial relationship between him and his fans. He is one of the few people who outwardly speak out in detail about how being in pop culture does not create a positive experience with fame. 


Eventually an influencer, content creator, or celebrity is expected to enact whatever their fanbase expects of them. For certain creators, there is little control over their own brand. Assistants or other professionals form how a person is perceived through the public eye. 


According to Howell in the “This YouTuber hid a massive secret from you. I spent a day with DANIEL HOWELL” YouTube video on Anthony Padilla’s channel, the entire point of one tour with roommate Phil Lester was just that. They would do mostly anything the fans asked of them during their live shows. The audience could influence the outcome of the show, to an extent, in a matter of minutes. 


Like with any relationship, we need them to actively be more healthy for all parties. You are allowed to tell your favorite actors, content creators, or celebrities how much you appreciate them without the compliment coming across as overwhelming. 


In the end, as long as a creator is safe and comfortable with their online presence – that should be reciprocated by their audience. If your favorite artist has one terrible interaction with a fan, they may stop their career entirely. We need to protect the people who guarantee us celebrating art.