Guide to Parasocial Relationships in Streaming and Social Media

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The term “parasocial” is becoming something of a buzzword among the gaming community recently. The advent of huge streaming personalities that appeal to vulnerable audiences has long been an issue in the community. From Twitch metas to VTubers, to streaming ban appeals, everything about the current Twitch culture is about cultivating and tweaking the parasocial relationship between the viewers and the streamers. The term “parasocial relationship” is tossed around to refer to the unhealthy results of bad parasocial practices.

What is a Parasocial Relationship?

We’ll start at the beginning. What exactly IS a parasocial relationship? The term may sound like a complex ‘abnormal’ condition, but it is actually very simple and a common and critical part of the human experience.

A parasocial relationship is when an individual experiences a one-sided relationship with another individual, group, or organization that doesn’t know that this individual exists. The individual feels all of the genuine emotions and connection that come with this relationship, however it is not reciprocated. The term was created by sociologists Donald Horton and Richard Wohl in their 1956 research article. They observed that viewers of mass media experience real emotional connections to the figures on the television and radio programs they consumed. They noted that these relationships were one way, but the emotions and cognition of the individuals were the same as if they had a face-to-face relationship with the mass media figures.

Parasocial relationships are voluntary and the individual often experiences positive emotions like happiness, gratitude, loyalty, love, and encouragement. The individual will also often feel that they identify with the media parties, sometimes the experience can help the individual find and reinforce their own personal identity.

Is it Bad to Have a Parasocial Relationship with a streamer?

Parasocial relationships are not bad in and of themselves. Studies have shown that these relationships build positive emotions that are crucial for mental health, and that individuals actually grow their social connections through parasocial relationships. The stereotype that it is only lonely sad individuals that form these parasocial bonds is entirely incorrect. People form parasocial relationships all the time and the vast majority of these parasocial relationships are healthy and productive. Have a favorite sports team? What about a historic role model that inspires you? Favorite band? Do scientific institutions make fill you with marvel at the possibilities of the future? Well, all of these are examples of parasocial relationships.

The one-sided nature of parasocial relationships is great for building self-esteem. The individual is free to engage sincerely in the emotions and bond in safety without the rejection, meanness, manipulation, and abuse that can show up in other relationships.

How to Spot When Para-social Relationship is Unhealthy?

The signs of an unhealthy parasocial relationship are very similar to those found in other unhealthy relationships. The individual can experience body image issues. Parasocial relationships also become unhealthy when the individual’s feelings become obsessive causing them ruminate on these negative thoughts. Parasocial breakup is a phenomenon where the individual experiences a break-up of their parasocial bond with the other party. This results in all of the pain and mental distress that accompanies break-ups in other types of relationships. The individual can experience feelings of bitterness, resentment, and anger towards the party.

Parasocial Bonds and Twitch Streamers

The advent of social media has given viewers more access to mass media than ever before. People can spend all day watching content, and engaging in fandom of their favorite creators. However, this comes at a price because social media is designed by function to create and exploit parasocial relationships. Streamers learn to foster parasocial bonds because it creates a fiercely loyal fanbase that will always engage with content. In some cases streamers will feed their own narcissistic and manipulative traits by cultivating toxic fanbases where no criticism of the streamer is allowed. These streamers will even rally these fanbases as a personal attack force to go after critics and other creators. The tier three sub meme has come to represent these fans that have crossed the threshold into unhealthy parasocial relationships with streamers.

Too many streamers and people in the industry see the toxicity of these parasocial relationships and make an attribution error, blaming the toxicity on parasocial relationships rather that looking deeper and seeing that it is the way in which that relationship was cultivated that is what makes a parasocial relationship shift from typical to unhealthy. This is the same thing as when people say that all relationships are bad rather than looking at behaviors of the individuals involved in a relationship and how they maintained it.

What Can We Do?

As a viewer it can be difficult to maintain a proper perspective in the age of social media and content creators pushing closer and closer parasocial bonds to drive engagement and views while at the same time ultimately treating their fans as faceless nobodies at best, and holding them in utter contempt at the worst. It’s important to keep these things in mind when enjoying your favorite content:

  • Remember the streamer is selling a product at the end of the day. Approach it as your would any other salesperson.
  • Your feelings are your own, and they are valid. However, the streamer is never obligated to reciprocate.
  • Always take care of yourself first. A friend wouldn’t want you to deny yourself or suffer for their sake.
  • It’s okay to take breaks. There is nothing wrong with unplugging from your favorite streamers/content for a while.
  • Try to friends and forge new bonds with other members of the streamer’s community.
  • Explore other streams and types of content. Spread your wings and broaden your horizons.
  • Respect yourself. If a streamer/creator is legitimately mean or abusive to their audience, you have the power to walk away. You don’t need to announce it or give a reason why.
  • Enjoy yourself. If the parasocial relationship between you and a streamer/creator is causing you pain take a step back and assess if the bond is healthy one, and if it isn’t consider changing your perspective or taking a break.
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Arrangement of “Meta Knight’s Revenge” from Kirby Super Star Wins Grammy Award

The 64th Annual Grammy Awards took place this past Sunday, and during the show the song Meta Knight’s Revenge became the first piece of video game music to win a Grammy award.

The 8-Bit Big Band is a full-sized orchestral band that started in 2018 and since then has composed a plethora of covers of famous songs from popular video games.

Jake Silverman and band leader Charlie Rosen were nominated for, and won, the Grammy in the category for “Best Arrangement, Instrument and A Cappella” for the band’s cover of the track “Meta Knight’s Revenge” from the game Kirby’s Super Star for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Rosen has previously won a Tony Award for his orchestration for Moulin Rogue: The Musical.

You can listen to the arrangement by 8-Bit Big Band here:

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Nintendo Announces That the Sequel to Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Will be Delayed to Spring of 2023

Today Nintendo posted a YouTube video in which Eiji Aonuma, the director of the Legend of Zelda series, announced that the highly-anticipated sequel to the Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild will be delayed. The reason given for the delay was to extend the development time for the game a little. The game was previously scheduled to release in late 2022, and has now been delayed until spring of 2023.

Aonuma spoke a little bit about the game stating that they have expanded the game world beyond just traveling over the land and through the sky and that there are a lot of new game play features in store.

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CD Projekt Red Announces that a New Witcher Game is in Development

Today CD PROJEKT RED announced that a new game in the Witcher franchise is in development. A teaser image accomanys the announcement that shows what appears to be a Witcher medallion on the grown half covered with snow and below it text saying “A New Saga Begins”. At this point it is unsure if this is a new variation on one of the existing Witcher Medallions or if it sports a new animal signifying a new Witcher clan might be in the game. The posts states that this new game will be developed in Unreal Engine 5 rather than the CD PROJEKT RED’s proprietary REDengine platform. The post confirms REDengine will still be used to develop updates and content for Cyberpunk 2077.

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Updates Come to Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl that Bring Darkrai, Arceus and More

Updates are now live on Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl that grants players access to the Arceus and Darkrai events in the game. The update also grants access to the Global Wonder Station (GWS) that lets players Wonder Trade Pokémon with players from around the globe.

The Mystery Gift that allows players to download the Member Card necessary to begin the event that lets them catch the Mythical Pokémon Darkrai is now live. The games also granted access to the Azure Flute event that allows players to catch Arceus. To get the Azute Flute players must have a save file of Pokémon Legends: Arceus with the game story completed.

Patch 1.3 has come to the games, and this patch activates the long-awaited Global Wonder Station which allows players to put their Pokémon up for wonder trades. Over the previous patches to the game ILCA addressed the gliches that allowed players to make clones of Pokémon in the games. The GWS has a filter that prevents players from uploading clones to to the servers to trade.

Final Trailer and Movie Poster for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Film Released

This week the social media for the upcoming film Sonic The Hedgehog 2 released the final trailer for the film. They also showed off the movie poster which pays homage to the game art for the Sonic The Hedgehog 2 video game for the Sega Genesis console.

The film is coming to theaters April 8, and ticket pre-orders are open now.

Pokémon Journey’s Voice Actor Daman Mills Accused of Sexually Molesting a Minor

Today a man going by ‘Duncan’ posted a Google Doc chronicling his experience. Duncan met Mills over Facebook in 2012, at the time Duncan was 15 and Mills was 19. Over the next few years a friendship would develop that was characterized by Mills engaging in grooming behavior toward the 16 year-old and on several occasions molesting the minor. According to the document, every attempt made to express his discomfort with Mills sexual advances and was met with anger from the actor. Over the course of the relationship Mills moved closer to Duncan’s home and started visiting the house regularly. During the visits Mills would force Duncan to sleep in the same bed as him, and on these occasions a variety of instances of harassment and molestation would take place. Mills would use his fame to intimidate and pressure Duncan’s friends and family. The behavior described matches the textbook characteristics of a grooming situation.

Mills is most famous for his role as Freiza in Dragon Ball Super dub. He has voiced several characters in the Pokémon Journeys English dub. He has also voice characters in several video games including Fire Emblem:Three Houses, Disgaea 6, Shin Megami Tensei V, and Lost Ark.

As of this time Mills has made no statement. There have also been to statement made by The Pokémon Company or Crunchyroll.

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True Pokémon Open-World Games Announced. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet Versions Coming to Nintendo Switch in Late 2022

During today’s Pokémon Presents the 9th generation of Pokémon was finally revealed. Pokémon Scarlet Version and Pokémon Violet Version were shown off in a trailer that gave a look at some details from the upcoming games.

The trailer shows off a vivid open open world filled with different environments brimming with Pokémon. Many existing Pokémon are shown to be in the game, confirming that the titles will have a mix of older Pokémon alongside the newer Pokémon. The graphical style has stepped up from the previous entries with closeups of Pokémon showing off the detail in their fur and scales. The visual style looks like it combines the modern sensibilities and style of Pokémon Sword and Shield with the vast open spaces of Pokémon Legends Arceus.

The three starter Pokémon were shown at the end of the trailer, after the stream The Pokémon Company revealed the names and details of the starters along with the official art for the Pokémon as well as the main characters:

Sprigatito
Category: Grass Cat Pokémon
Height:  1′4″
Weight:  9 lbs.
Type: Grass
Ability:  Overgrow
The capricious, attention-seeking Grass Cat Pokémon.  

Fuecoco
Category: Fire Croc Pokémon
Height: 1′4″
Weight: 21.6 lbs.
Type: Fire
Ability: Blaze
The laid-back Fire Croc Pokémon that does things at its own pace.

Quaxly
Category: Duckling Pokémon
Height: 1′8″
Weight: 13.4 lbs.
Type: Water
Ability: Torrent
The earnest and tidy Duckling Pokémon.  

Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet are scheduled to release in late 2022.

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343 Industries Community Support Staffer Melts Down and Attacks a Fan on Twitter Over Halo Wars 2 Outage

Over the past 36 hours the servers for Halo Wars 2 have been down. This has caused a lot of concern for fans who have been unable to use any of the game’s online features. Twitter user Team Respawn tagged the Halo Support team and asked them why they haven’t properly communicated to the fans that there would be an outage.

Postums (Twitter username: @343Postums) who is a Community Support & Engagement Coordinator posted a reply to the fan ranting about Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine in a post implying that the fan didn’t care about global events. Postum’s tweet earned a lot of backlash with peopling calling him out for using the crisis as an excuse to deflect legitimate concerns about 343’s continued lack of transparency with the playerbase regarding game services.

Team Respawn has received death threats over his tweet thanks to Postums public and inappropriate response. As of this writing Postums has made no comment on his rant, and offered no apology to the fan he attacked. 343 Industries has also made no comment.

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Pokémon Presents Stream Announced for Pokémon Day

Today The Pokémon Company announced that there will be a Pokémon Presents streaming event to commemorate Pokémon Day on February 27th 2022.

The stream will be 14 minutes long, and as of yet it is unknown what will be revealed in the stream.

The Pokémon Presents stream is scheduled for Sunday February 27th at 23:00 JST, 6:00 A.M. PST, 9:00 A.M. EST and will air on the Japanese and English official Pokémon YouTube channels.

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