parasocial

“We are on a break!”

“We are on a break!”

“We are on a break!:” A look at parasocial breakup and Friends Jane LeGros is a second year masters student in the Manship School of Mass Communication. Her research interest is in media and fandom. Follow Jane on Twitter at @janelegreaux   Where were you on May 6, 2004 during the Friends series finale? Were you one of the millions who tuned in to watch Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Ross, Phoebe, and Joey say goodbye? Were you sad? Were you upset that your weekly trips to Central Perk with the six friends were ending? Professors Keren Eyal (Sammy Ofer School of Communication, IDC Herzliya) and Jonathan Cohen (Department of Communication, Haifa University) explore this in their 2006 study, “When Good Friends Say Goodbye: A Parasocial Breakup Study.”   What is parasocial breakup? Parasocial breakup basically explains the effects and emotions a person may feel when a character on a television show leaves, a series ends, or the viewer chooses to end that relationship for various reasons.   Parasocial breakup can happen when there is a parasocial relationship (PSR) between a person and a media figure. Originally defined by Horton and Wohl (1956) as being a “seeming face-to-face relationship between spectator and performer,” a great example of one type of interaction that may lead to a PSR is your grandmother yelling at her favorite soap opera after the umpteenth plot twist involving her favorite character (because you know you have a grandmother who yells at the TV). These relationships do not replace relationships with other people, but are still interesting because they provide enjoyment and give insight into viewers’ emotional states.   The study Eyal and Cohen (2006) looked at Friends because the show had been on the air for 10 years and it was a show about, well, friends. There were plenty of possibilities for parasocial relationships because people had loved the characters for years… remember “the Rachel” haircut?   The study looked at 7 hypotheses: The more intense the PSR, the more distress viewers will report following PSB. The longer a viewer reports watching Friends, the more distress he or she will report following the end of the show. The more committed viewers report themselves to be to watching Friends, the more distress they will report following the end of the show. The more a viewer holds positive attitudes toward the show, the more distress he or she will report...

Read More