Parasocial Interaction, Parasocial Relationships, and Well-Being

Authored by: Tilo Hartmann

The Routledge Handbook of Media Use and Well-Being

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138886582
eBook ISBN: 9781315714752
Adobe ISBN: 9781317501954

10.4324/9781315714752.ch10

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Abstract

An important communication-scientific approach that offers both theoretical ideas and empirical insights into how mediated others may affect people’s well-being deals with parasocial interaction and relationships (Cohen, 2009; Dibble, Hartmann, & Rosaen, 2016; Giles, 2002; Horton & Wohl, 1956; Tsao, 2004). This approach focuses on the way users seemingly interact with and develop personal relationships with others that they only encounter in the media. Because a parasocial interaction, in a nutshell, is about users’ illusionary feeling of being in a mutual social interaction with another character while actually being in a one-sided non-reciprocal situation, the approach traditionally focuses on non-interactive media like television (see, for a conceptual adaptation to interactive media, Hartmann, 2008). A typical example of a parasocial interaction would be if a user intuitively feels a sense of mutual awareness and attention towards the host of a TV news show who looks into the camera to greet the audience. A typical example of a (positive) parasocial relationship would be if users, through repeated exposure, develop a long-lasting social bond and sense of intimacy and proximity towards TV hosts, almost as if they were real friends. Based on a more detailed conceptualization of parasocial phenomena, the present chapter will highlight theoretical discussions and empirical findings from the literature that illuminate how people’s encounters with mediated others may impact their well-being.

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