Lately I’ve been looking into and thinking about the intensifying phenomenon of PARASOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS.
I say intensifying because, while parasocial relationships have existed in various ways for at least centuries I’m sure, the direct-to-consumer marketing platforms of today have given rise to unprecedented access. Media personalities indulge their fans by with endless transparency into their personal lives as we fall all over ourselves for the most authentic, most behind the scenes making of, most personalized experience.
Somebody asked me today if a parasocial relationship is the same thing as stalking, which made me think about it in a new way.
I imagine there’s a Parasocial Spectrum. Like ADD, OCD and so many other behavior patterns, the everyday average version of these are common and unthreatening. I think many people, myself included, exhibit many characteristics of “ADD” but they aren’t severe enough to require treatment.
Here’s my diagram of the Parasocial Spectrum.
As you see, most people fall to the left of center–yes, they have things they love, some things they may even obsess over in some ways, but they aren’t actually crazy. The further to the right extreme you go, obsessive and delusional behavior probably becomes more pronounced.
So, parasocial relationships are not usually anything like being a stalker. At the far side of the spectrum, however, I bet that the kinds of activities that many classify as “stalker-ish” are part of the relationship equation. Many of those activities are often associated with one-sided relationships, like when that girl from Econ. class just didn’t seem to get that you’re perfect together so you started leaving mysterious notes in her car.