Parasocial Relationship: What Does It Mean & Is It Healthy?

Parasocial Relationship: What Does It Mean & Is It Healthy?

Have you ever become such a fan of a celebrity, TV character, social media influencer, athlete, or any other public figure, that you feel a strong sense of kinship towards them? If your answer is yes, it might indicate you are in a parasocial relationship.

The term ‘parasocial relationship’ is often used in discussions about the relationship between a media user and a media persona — but what does the term mean? And how do parasocial relationships affect your daily life?

What is a parasocial relationship?

Parasocial relationships are one-sided relationships where an individual invests time, interest, and emotional energy, while the other party — the media persona, barely recognises the other's existence (Bennett et al., n.d.).

It is important to distinguish the difference between being a fan and being in a parasocial relationship. A fan is someone who admires or is interested in something or somebody, such as a musician or TV show. A fan may show devotion, enthusiasm and loyalty to a person and their work and they may feel inspired by a public figure to stand up for a cause or create meaningful work. However, unlike a fan, someone in a parasocial relationship believes that they have a personal connection with a media persona.

Parasocial relationships expand the social network in a way that eliminates the possibility of rejection and allows individuals to identify with media personas of their choice. Social media can have several effects on your psychological well-being. With social media users having 24-hour accessibility to the internet, the growth of internet dependency may lead to the development of parasocial interactions. This is because users can now interact directly with celebrities through social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, increasing the strength and intimacy of the parasocial relationship.

Parasocial relationships form partly because the persona shares about their life so personally. For example, they give frequent updates about their thoughts, daily routine, and even relationships. This may lead individuals to feel that they truly do know the media persona on a personal level, as if they are a family member or a friend. A parasocial relationship forms when the individual starts to think about the persona beyond the direct parasocial interaction (e.g., when watching their Instagram live) (Vinney, 2022).

Are parasocial relationships healthy?

According to Dr Rachel Kowert, a Canada-based research psychologist, parasocial relationships are perfectly normal and common. Human beings tend to feel related to other people due to the nature of being social creatures (Lawler, 2023).

Parasocial relationships can help us feel supported, inspired, and encouraged in a way that we may not receive through real-life relationships. For example, following a singer or actor from a similar background to you who has succeeded can inspire you to follow in their footsteps.

The benefits of forming a parasocial relationship include the following:

Forming stronger social connections

It is common for fans to create online communities dedicated to specific artists, characters, and other media figures, which can lead to forming a strong connection with other people who feel the same way about the persona of interest. Discussing these mutual parasocial relationships can strengthen social relationships as well.

Helps in developing identity

Forming parasocial relationships can help people of all ages to develop autonomy and form their identities by having role models to look up to (Gleason et al., 2017). The different media personas present identities for consideration.

This can help individuals develop their identity and values, as they are exposed to alternative perspectives other than those offered by figures in their personal life, such as their parents or teachers. Celebrities provide adolescents with a secondary group of pseudo-friends during a time of increasing autonomy from parents (Giles & Maltby, 2004).

Provides a safe space

The nature of these relationships is risk-free. A person who is shy or lacks social confidence can feel safe in their interactions because there is no possibility of rejection.

Signs of an unhealthy parasocial relationship

Although there are several benefits to parasocial relationships, the nature of this relationship could take an unhealthy turn if behaviour gets too intense or the relationship takes up too much of your time.

As it might be hard to identify by yourself if the relationship is starting to be unhealthy, it might be a good idea to listen to your loved ones if they mention that your relationship may have gone too far.

Some signs of an unhealthy parasocial relationship are:

Not engaging in the real world and feeling lonely or isolated

According to research, we are more likely to form these parasocial relationships when we feel lonely. People might form parasocial relationships when deprived of human connection. Although the relationship exists only in your mind as a simulation, you still experience the warmth and interaction we are looking for (Johnson, 2021).

Being in a parasocial relationship could worsen the sense of loneliness as you focus most of your energy on your one-sided relationship rather than your real-life relationships.

Prioritising the parasocial relationship over your real-life relationships

Being overly invested in a celebrity or media persona’s life can take a toll on your personal and professional relationships. For example, you might avoid in-person social events in favour of watching a celebrity livestream or status updates. You might also hold your romantic partners to celebrity standards or disregard them in favour of perceived connections to celebrities. In your professional life, you might reject certain opportunities if you think they are not aligned with what your favourite celebrity represents or supports (Gilette, 2022).


Parasocial relationships bring about several advantages but can also be potentially harmful if emotions are not managed properly. Consider seeking mental health services such as individual counselling for adults in Singapore if you feel that your behaviour and thoughts about a media figure interfere with your everyday life or cause you distress.

Relationship therapy in Singapore is also available to help you manage your emotions if your parasocial relationship interferes with your real-life relationship.


Bennett, N., Rossmeisl, A., Turner, K., Holcombe, B.D., Young, R., Brown, T., & Key, H. (n.d.). Parasocial Relationships: The Nature of Celebrity Fascinations

Vinney, C. (2022). What Is a Parasocial Relationship?

Lawler, M. (2023). What Are Parasocial Relationships — and Are They Healthy?

Gleason, TR., Theran, SA., Newberg, EM. (2017). Parasocial Interactions and Relationships in Early Adolescence. Frontiers in Psychology.

Giles, D. C., and Maltby, J. (2004). The role of media figures in adolescent development: relations between autonomy, attachment, and interest in celebrities. Pers. Individ. Differ. 36, 813–822. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(03)00154-5

Johnson, M. (2021). How Loneliness Impacts the Psychology of Parasocial Relationships

Gilette, H. (2022). Fan or Obsession? All About Celebrity Worship Syndrome