MEL Notes: Parasocial Contact

Posted by on Mar 12, 2016 in Cover Stories, MEL Notes Blog | 0 comments

The week of February 29, the class discussion revolved around various forms of audience involvement, the psychological response a person has to mediated messages. The individual or media persona featured is arguably an important element of fictional narratives and news that fosters and even encourages audience involvement. From identification to fandom to worship, media viewers/consumers can engage with content and narratives to varying degrees through their connections with the individuals (media personae) featured. Our discussions primarily revolved around parasocial aspects of involvement.  Theoretical arguments surrounding parasocial aspects of viewer-persona connections suggest these connections are an additional form of social interaction. Parasocial contact may allow for us to learn about and come to understand individuals or groups that we may not otherwise have interactions with. Such contact has been found to reduce prejudiced attitudes. Parasocial interactions (PSIs) are instances in which we feel the connection is being reciprocated. This includes a sense of mutual awareness, attention from and adjustment to media personae. Think reality show confessionals or instances when you’ve advised the next victim in a horror film not to go into the dark house. Given this, PSIs occur during the viewing experience.  Parasocial relationships (PSRs) may develop during exposure but extend beyond a singe viewing experience.  PSRs refer to the more enduring social and emotional bonds one may have with a mediated figure. And these bonds matter (think McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy, may he rest in peace).

The posts in this series cover a lot of ground and explore the complexity of how we engage with individuals featured in narratives, but also how we benefit from such engagement. To read this week’s posts, please click here.  Or you can click on each post, below.

March 11, 2016: MEL Notes: In a Parasocial World…..

March 13, 2016:  It’s Complicated: Breakups with Mediated Characters

March 18, 2016:  Ahh, Do I HAVE to Say Goodbye??

On another fun note, I asked the students to share with one another reflections on parasocial connections they’ve had in the past, or existing ones.  The images you see below represent they’re responses.

colebad bluenope obamasfriends sookieanne

girls  newgirltrump