John Stokvis

September 22, 2022

Want to see a parasocial relationship in action?

Check out this video of a fan talking about catching Aaron Judge's 60th home run ball.

At 0:53 a reporter asks "Do you have any expectations about catching the ball and receiving anything in return?" Michael, the fan gets visibly emotional and replies, "No."

"Just wanted to give him's a success any way I could give back to Judge who's given so much to the organization. Just do my part." Why does he feel such an emotional connection to a person who he's never met? 

Why does he give up something that is probably worth 1000s of $ to someone who is a multi-millionaire (and because he's a free agent next year is about to become MUCH richer)?

Because parasocial relationships are real relationships.

Some people think of parasocial realtionships as somehow fake or a human bias. i used to think this way. but the more i observe this happening, the more i think this is just another form of human connection. it feels fake and weird because it's new.

The smart famous people understand this and treat fans with a respect and gratitude as you would a "real" friend even though the relationship is asymmetrical and to the famous person doesn’t really exist (in a way we traditionally understand friendship) with any individual fan.

This fan is (in this moment) acting as a stand-in for all fans. Giving the ball without asking for anything in return is basically THE WHOLE FANDOM giving Judge this meaningful gift in exchange for the feelings of joy and togetherness he gave them (by playing well for their team)

Like all human relationships (even "real" irl friendships) parasocial relationships can be abused or used to extract money or favors from people. That doesn't make it less real (if anything it proves the point that it IS a real relationship - because it matters).

But as we live through the age of mass media and now the internet and these relationships flourish, it's just another example of how humanity adapts new technology to do the most ancient and human of all things:

To connect with other humans.