Parasocial Relationships | The Dangers of Internet Fame

Parasocial relationships are one-sided relationships, where one person extends emotional energy, interest and time, and the other party, the persona, is completely unaware of the other’s existence. Parasocial relationships are most common with celebrities, organizations (such as sports teams) or television stars.

Parasocial Relationships: The Nature of Celebrity Fascinations

I just heard a new list about what children, ages 6-17, want to be when they grow up.

The NUMBER ONE ANSWER was:

YouTube Star

All I could think was, “These kids don’t know what they’re asking for.”

There have always been children who want to grow up to be famous, however, the internet has made that dream more achievable.

Kids want to be YouTube Stars

Internet fame is accessible to the mentally & emotionally immature. That’s a dangerous thing! They don’t understand the subconscious issues behind stardom. They also have no idea of the problems that crop up among fans of those stars; very serious mental and emotional reactions happen when someone gets too obsessed with their favorite YouTuber.

Ya’ll need to be aware of all this.


On the side of a fan:

  • Wishful Identification– The fan begins to imagine the people they watch in an idealized way. They see their idols as perfect, & someone to aspire to be like, without acknowledging that they (the fan) don’t truly know the people behind the screen.
  • Self-Perception– Almost always negative in nature, the idolization of the YouTube star takes a toll on the fan. They want to be like the star, yet often feel that goal is unattainable. This leads to negative feelings about themselves.
  • Behavior Changes– Not always ‘bad’, but still a sign of being too invested, a fan may take on behavioral characteristics of the person they admire.

Now, the sad thing is that a YouTube star definitely will have an effect on their fans, but there’s nothing they can do about whether it’s positive or negative on an individual basis. They could be the most up-beat, happy, optimistic person in the world & that can still negatively impact fans.

How? By making them think they should be that way too.

Remember, it’s very easy for fans to fall into idolizing the person they see on screen, not realizing there are things happening off camera. When something does go wrong in a family (ex. marital scandals, family drama, disciplining children, etc) it can seriously upset people, sometimes more than it should! That happens because the fan idolized the content creators & put them on a pedestal, expecting to only & forever see their idealized image of the YouTuber.


On the side of the YouTube star:

  • Take Comments Too Seriously– The star starts to base their self-perception on the things fans say about them, good or bad. Positive comments can make the star narcissistic, mean notes might make them depressed.  The star begins to hold false perceptions about themselves based on fan reactions.
  • Believing The Persona IS Them– Many YouTubers present a certain kind of image; in essence, it’s part of themselves, but not their whole self. They only show the funny or the good or the smart. Sometimes, they begin to think that’s all there is to them.
  • Dependency On Praise– The star craves approval from their fans. They put out videos solely for the ‘likes’ & positive comments. It’s all about needing approval & life revolves around this need.
  • Profound Loneliness– It becomes difficult to tell who really knows & likes you for more than your fame or the persona you put on the internet. The star feels detached from their fans & even people in their real life.

Many YouTube stars feel close to their viewers, they love & appreciate them.

To an extent.

The thing is they don’t usually know their fans in real life. They wouldn’t know them by sight or the sound of their voice. The relationship between them is very superficial and built on positive comments alone. They like the feeling of confidence boosting comments, but that doesn’t mean much. As soon as the star does something ‘wrong’ in the mind of a fan, the relationship turns sour.


The only way to truly combat these issues, in both cases, is to have strong relationships with people off the internet. People you can see & speak to face-to-face. People who genuinely know & love you, who are honest with you about hard topics.

If you’re someone in the situation of being on your own, maybe you’ve been hurt in the past & have trouble trusting others, then be sure to stay grounded. If you watch YouTubers remember, 10 minutes of clips is nothing compared to a full, uninterrupted 24 hours in real life.

No matter how sweet the kids seem, there are tantrums.

No matter how organized the closet looks, there is a mess in the other room.

Remember, by and large people show the good. They don’t whip out the camera to show you their screaming toddler, flipping out in the store for a piece of candy.

10 minutes is not 24 hours

If you’re someone trying to reach internet stardom, be it on YouTube or Instagram or a blog, remember you don’t know your fans & they don’t know you. You can appreciate your followers or fans, but do not become dependent on them.

Don’t forget who you are in the real world.

Please, tell me what this post made you think of in the comments!

Have any of you had any weird fan experiences? Maybe your kid, or a friend, is obsessing over someone? Or, were you the fan who went too far?

 

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