OPINION: The dangers of parasocial bonds with celebrities

Audrey Trevarthan, Opinion Writer

Everyone has that one celebrity whose life they are invested in. Whether that’s a musician, actor, model or influencer, they are up to date with their life.

Celebrities can influence people’s choices. They might be seen as a role model to someone, fashion inspiration or just have a fascinating life. In most cases, celebrities are very different from the people keeping up with them. The Kardashians are an example of a lifestyle revolving around fashion and other luxuries, which a lot of people find interesting to observe through their reality TV show.

Cancel culture refers to a celebrity being hated by a large group of people until they have lost all support. Canceling people has become a source of enjoyment for some. They love to get invested in celebrity scandals.

In a lot of cases, things have gone too far. No matter what the scandal is, many people use social media to harass the people involved. A lot of times it is hateful speech being sent toward celebrities through the media, but sometimes it goes as far as death threats. From celebrities to influencers and sports teams to companies, no brand is safe from cancellation.

Taylor Swift was canceled for years, due to a phone call scandal involving Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. Her social media was filled with hateful comments, including death threats. Even since the phone call recording was proven to be edited, she has not returned to her prior active social media status since #TaylorSwiftisoverparty was trending on Twitter.

I am not one to resort to sending death threats, so the most logical approach would be to just stop caring what the person who is “canceled” does. Just move on.

But I can’t help but keep up with celebrities’ lives. I find myself watching videos about celebrity problems, even when I don’t know who they are.

We have constant access to celebrities through social media. However, celebrity culture has always been a thing. Even before the internet, news about elite, rich people was a hot topic. The upper class held the same effect as celebrities; people looked at and judged what they were wearing and how they were living, even though it was so far-fetched compared to the average lifestyle.

What many psychologists found is when people keep up with a celebrity, they can subconsciously start to feel a sense of closeness with them. The closeness someone can feel toward a celebrity can become an unhealthy, toxic relationship.

This is described as a parasocial bond. This is a relationship that is one-sided, usually involving a celebrity, where one side of the relationship is unaware of the other’s existence. It doesn’t always go as far as the hit Netflix show YOU, where the main character forms intense parasocial bonds leading to stalking and extremities, but it does explain why we can get invested in a celebrity’s life.

We find entertainment in keeping up with celebrities because a parasocial relationship is typically formed to relieve someone of their actual relationship’s stress. Sometimes it is easier for the mind to care about who a famous person is dating and what they’re wearing, rather than dive into their own personal matters.

Liking a celebrity and their work is normal, even keeping up with their life isn’t out of the ordinary. However, once someone starts to feel a closeness or feels like they know a public figure personally, it gets out of hand. A hyperfixation on someone else’s life isn’t healthy, no matter how much they share on social media.

Audrey Trevarthan is an opinion writer. Contact her at [email protected].