Parasocial relationships and fandom culture in the “digital” Age 

Obsessing over a celebrity’s life has perhaps been, in my opinion, one of the most explicit proofs of how today the lines between the public and the private, the other and oneself are significantly blurred and evolve to only become blurrier. While paparazzi, carrying incredibly heavy cameras and wearing spy-like attire, used to be the one way of intruding into a famous person’s life, today the fascinating lies in how in most cases, the celebrities themselves give the audience, through sharing content on multiple social media platforms, a solid base of information to build upon the voyeuristic interest on their mostly mundane existence. Today, it feels closer, more intimate, and more personalized. 

The term parasocial, likely not entirely new but with a recent boom since the constant increase in influencer culture, explains a one-sided relationship between an “everyday human” (a concept which by itself  I find extremely enlightening of the Era we live in) and a “famous” human. Simple: we know of them and they do not know of us outside of perceiving the audience as that, as a collective, the fans. Not so simple: everything else. 

The complexity goes from digging up the smallest details in pictures to determine the celebrity’s relationship status, to sticking close to their beliefs without even desiring to investigate the further context that lies behind, to even sensing the faux obligation of having to take care of them to the point of “diagnosing” mental health illnesses based on looks or solely facial expressions…

This manner of relating to each other speaks equally as much about us, everyday humans, as about them, the non-everyday humans. In a way, the celebrities are extremely aware that we exist as the follower number, listeners per month, and concert attendees number are always visible. The constant sharing of content published on the different platforms, functions as some kind of bait for us hungry fishes that are intrinsically seeking out connections and interaction. The ball also goes the other way around. 

Nevertheless, far away from the allegedly mythical and distant relationship between fan and celebrity, fan and fan relationships originate in the digital same space. Fan culture is pretty much embedded within popular culture nowadays, there is a sense of community that is built when people glorify, admire, and adore the same. A common denominator, key for even starting to define any sort of community, starts in this case from the interest in someone else that to a certain extent unifies a group of people.

Until it does not. How many times have we heard about fans being pushed -mostly by other fans- into the font of the metal barricades during a concert? Or, back to the aspect of parasocial relationships, people finding out a small detail on an Instagram story and rushing in front of this celebrity apartment?

This translation of digital-ness into the “real world”, intrinsic to both things, also sheds light on the future of human connection aside from the paradigm of fan celebrity. It offers an angle on why the enormous debate that surrounds the possible “non-physical”, Metaverse suggested form of future interaction and community building is pointing towards a direction far away from the tangible.