I’ve been juggling parasocial relationships for most of my life. In the early 1990s, as a young online user, I downloaded software that allowed me to create fan art of my favorite bands, Dashboard Confessional and Blink-182. Now, two decades later, I still refer to them by their first names to my family and friends (Chris Andrew Mark). And, on forums, I defend them passionately. TikTok has allowed me to know with certainty what their kitchens looked like, who their dogs were named and what ingredients they used in their morning shakes. It’s no wonder that I feel as if I know them.
Internet arbiters may call me insane or tell me that I should get a better hobby. But actually, experts say, parasocial relationships aren’t nearly as toxic as public perception makes them out to be. Decades of research suggest that they’re good for the majority of people who engage in them—and for the celebrities on the other side.
“I fell into studying fandom because I became a passionate fan of something myself,” says Lynn Zubernis, a clinical psychologist who loves the TV show Supernatural“And I instantly thought, ‘Oh my God, have a. “And I was instantly like, ‘Oh my god, have I a.) lost…