The typical association with parasocial relationships, where let’s say you as the reader don’t personally know me as the writer but assume we have a special sort of relationship because you’ve read my writings and have peered into what I’ve told you about myself, is negative. I think there are positives. The primary positive is figuring out your own values as applied to others. The primary negative, then, would be projecting yourself onto other people.
I’ve been in parasocial online relationships for over twenty years now.
Throughout compulsory education, online chatrooms and message boards were my only way of socializing with others, and this was before that became socially acceptable with social media. In those anti-social media days, I didn’t know much about how people acted or reacted, and generally in real life, I was picked on enough to where I didn’t want to interact with people in person, so digital words represented friendships for me.
I now have real-life friends and even meet with them in person, sometimes.
Mainly, though, I’ve kept some degree of personal distance just because that’s what’s most comfortable for me. Meeting up with people even once a week can be difficult. My colleagues at work are by far the most social I am, and I was thinking of that on the drive into work as it contrasts with the online circles I’ve been in and am in now, where how much do we really know about each other?
I only know what these colleagues of mine have told me about themselves.
Are they, then, too, parasocial? In some regards, these social relationships we have with acquaintances at work or even friends or family are still one-sided, somewhat, in that we imagine them having certain characteristics. What happens if I suddenly stop writing and publishing for one month? That would be a drastic change in character and would be an unpredictable change. Yet actions like that on smaller scales are common, because the images we build of others in our minds reflect actions seen socially and parasocially.
Colleagues talk about colleagues all the time.
We just tend to say things like ‘X is running late into work,’ ‘Y helped me out a bunch,’ with endless variations on that, to where we have inferred one behavior in one instance to imply behavior in future instances. If X ran late once, will they run late again? If Y helped me once, surely, they’ll help again… When we consider these sorts of external interpretations of relationships, sometimes, they’re helpful, and sometimes they’re harmful.
It’s just a matter of wondering how much value you place on these relationships.
Ideally, the relationship we should hold the closest is the one we have to ourselves. My relationship with myself should be the strongest and truest relationship I have available to me. I Should always be able to trust that I have my best intentions at heart, and even when I make mistakes, it was with the sense of never harming myself. We can only be so sure of that in others, but in ourselves, we should work toward having that level of confidence. Anything else will see us placing false pretenses on others.
I can admire certain attributes of others without admiring all of their attributes.
For myself, though, I should admire everything about myself. If I don’t, then I should change those aspects about myself to make them more admirable, or know that they are less than admirable and accept that when they come up, they represent aspects of myself that are not the best. We cannot be perfect, however, if we can trust that we generally are looking out for our best interests, then we can work toward having more positive relationships with others, whether social or parasocial, in-person or online, digital or real, and all aspects in between.
I’m overall comfortable with almost all aspects of myself.
The factors of myself that I don’t like I can work toward changing and I know that compared to years ago, I am a better person, overall, so I can trust that I will act with those continued best intentions. For others, however, I cannot know for absolute certainty if they will act with my best intentions, and especially when we see people present their best versions of themselves, we may think about how cool they are for doing A or B, but does that represent all that there is to know of that person? Are they hiding that they’re doing C? Since we know that we, ourselves, do C, we’re more likely to be critical of others doing that, and if we don’t know they do it, we might assume they don’t, if we like their parasocial persona.
Ideally, we should know the A to Z of ourselves.
We can’t know the A to Z of anyone else since that would require fully living that person’s life to its entirety, understanding why they picked one decision over another based on what they’ve learned or what they’ve burned in the past, but we can know that of ourselves. If we know why we do certain actions, we can trust in ourselves like we would want to trust in others, particularly in parasocial situations like ours, where you may know about me from my writings, but you don’t know the real me that resides within my mind.
I know that real me.
That real me is- well, that would ruin the fun if I told you all about that version of me, so let’s conclude this thought by thinking that the more we know about ourselves, the more we can learn about others, and the more we can accept their flaws, because we have our own flaws, and if we know that we can begin to appreciate and even respect that. It takes time. I probably still don’t even know all that much about myself.
I do know more about myself than I did years ago, and I think I’m cool enough.
|Sources: My personal experiences.|
|Inspirations: Being part of the PCP Radcon 4 Discord and thinking through all their podcasts where they talk about the parasocial relationships that fans have with them, then just jamming on those thoughts, sometimes in long-winded labyrinthine sentence-paragraphs, sometimes in similar thoughts.|
|Related: Other Media Meandry and Applied Self-Confidence essays.|
|Picture: The screenshot above was from Discord, and the photo below was taken of a poster I was involved with in regards to Radcon 4. Ben Saint, then, drew the avatar with muscles. I love it. Russel, famous from one of Ben Saint’s Nuzlockes, is to the left.|
|Written On: 2020 March 11 [From 12:36am to “‘X is running late into work,’ ‘Y” at 12:47am. From 1:06am to “I should admire” at 1:10am. From 1:34am to 1:44am. Gdocs.]|
|Last Edited: 2020 March 28 [Adapted from Gdoc, so, second draft; final draft for the Internet.]|