The Problem With Parasocial Relationships
Your favorite artist is your friend, but you’re not theirs
By: Andrea Morales
I know everything about my favorite artist. I know the day they were born, their likes and dislikes, even the exes they’ve had, and who their songs are about. I know every inconspicuous interview moment, funny tour instances, and paparazzi shots. I see their face every day when I wake up to their poster on my wall. I know everything about them, but they have no idea who I am. This phenomenon of creating and cultivating “a relationship in your mind between yourself and someone you don’t actually know” is a parasocial relationship.
While it does not always cause harm to the person fostering the one-sided relationship, it has the potential to. It can be easy to feel as if a musician is an actual person in your life. Think about it: how often do you play your favorite artist? In my case, I hear them everywhere and anywhere. In the car, on a walk, at a bar, in the library, in a pregame playlist, at a concert, and more. An artist has the potential to infiltrate every moment of your life, so it’s almost impossible to draw the line between a friend and a stranger who just so happens to make really good music.
As a result of this, as a fan, you are curious. You want to know more about what the artist is singing about, so you dig. You look at their social media profiles and read articles about them – anything to make you feel closer to them. As I got older, I realized these tendencies may not be fair to you or the artist.
It is cliche to say, but famous artists didn’t sign up to become friends with thousands or even millions of people. They are there to make art, and if people happen to relate to that art, then there is a positive impact. However, with access to artists’ personal lives becoming more public over the last decade, the dynamic has shifted. It’s no longer about the music but, rather, the urge to be in the artist’s “inner circle.” You could argue that it is ultimately up to the artist to decide how much to share about themselves within their lyrics or socials, but I don’t think that is entirely fair. They have the right to live their lives how they want without having to worry about whether they’re accidentally nurturing a parasocial relationship.
While artists can be grateful for a fan’s support, at the end of the day, you’re just a face in the crowd to them. They can be your friend, but more likely than not, you won’t be theirs. Enjoy the music, but it’s best to just leave it at that.