Every other week the EFG staff will be defining a gaming term that is either confusing or ill-defined. Please leave a comment with any terms you are confused by and we will try to include them in future editions!

The gaming definition this week is a term that is actually relevant in both the gaming space and elsewhere: Parasocial Relationships.

In the age of the influencer, the line between the audience and the personality on the other end of the camera has become rather blurry. We’re made to feel like the person we’re watching on Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram is our friend, someone that surely must care about us as much as we care about them. In actuality, this one-way parasocial relationship was defined back in the 1950s by psychologists Donald Horton and R. Richard Wohl as the result of television hosts establishing “the illusion of intimacy” and making their fans feel like the broadcast is just for them. 

Parasocial relationships rarely apply to one-off viewers, since they can sometimes treat the person on the other side of the camera with much more detachment. 

Now that we’re interacting with both social media stars and actual celebrities in more ways than not, parasocial relationships have wormed their way into our lives in relatively normal, but sometimes insidious, ways. Streamers and influencers create interactions that feel deeply personal to those that they’re interacting. Parasocial relationships are entirely one-sided, which means that even if you feel particularly attached to a streamer or influencer, they aren’t your friend. It’s not that parasocial relationships are bad. In fact, quite the opposite! There are a number of studies out there that have explored parasocial relationships and their benefits, including for young people finding their own identities and for those with lower self-esteem.

Dr. Rachel Kowert published a great video on this subject. I’ve embedded it below so you can take a look!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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