How Your Celebrity Crush Affects Your Self-Perception, Because Your Long-Term Relationship With Ryan Gosling Or Emma Watson Is Not Real
Raise your hand if you’ve been in a long-term relationship with someone who doesn’t know you exist? I’m not talking about some cutesy shy girl secretly crushing on the hottest star athlete scenario, please excuse my 90’s high school clichés. But I’m talking bigger. As in, hundreds of thousands of likes and followers bigger. As in, international stardom bigger. As in, a very strong attraction to celebrities. Basically, you’ve been in a long term imaginary relationship with Ryan Gosling or Emma Watson for the past how many ever years and it’s starting to get complicated. Because I mean, obviously, they don’t really know you exist.
That’s the problem with parasocial relationships — they’re completely one-sided. One person exerts all this time, energy and emotional interest when the other person is completely unaware of the other’s existence. Ever wonder why Rihanna never shows up to dinner? Or why Chris Evans never responds to your texts? You’re in a parasocial relationship, and it’s not good for your sense of self.
In a study done by Susan Boon and Christina Lomore of the University of Calgary, 90 percent of the young adults surveyed said they felt a strong attraction to a celebrity at some point in their lives, while another 75 percent said they felt attachments to more than one celeb. For me, it was totally Leonardo DiCaprio because, I mean, hello. And of course, Justin Timberlake with the ‘fro.
Back in the day, and I’m talking late-90s to early 2000s, if we wanted to “talk” to our celebrity crushes, we’d have to physically write out what we wanted to say using those ancient tools called pens and papers. Then we’d have to fold it up neatly and put it in an envelope, and beg our parents for a stamp and a trip to the post office where we’d have to mail a letter to whatever fan club address was listed. I know, right? Mailing a letter? Who does that anymore? Such an old school concept. If we wanted to see what they were up to, we’d have to go to the store and flip through copies of Tiger Beat.
But today, with social media and the works, interactions with celebrities are so much easier. Because we see updates from Kim Kardashian and our real life friends all on the same news feed, the lines between which relationships are real and which aren’t become blurred. And therein, lies the problem.
Brian Spitzberg, a professor at San Diego State University’s School of Communication said, “We aren’t just dropping a text to our friend, but to our famous friend … This phantom reciprocity may be one of the reinforcing aspects of the sequential and ongoing process of receiving messages from the celebrity, which despite going to thousands, can feel uniquely responding to that fan’s devotion.”
If people feel like they can easily communicate with celebrities, they start to feel like the celebrity is truly invested in them. I mean, after all, how many times has saintly Taylor Swift treated her fans to hang out at her house or fork some money over to pay for someone’s student loans? But the very bottom line reality is, social media has just played a role in intensifying the parasocial relationships we have with these celebrity crushes. It’s not healthy.
Just think back about a couple years ago when One Direction was at the top of their game. Fans would threaten suicide if they didn’t get followed by one of the guys. Social media has upped the ante on parasocial relationships. Now, people want more. They expect more from their celebrity crush. They expect to be noticed. They expect to receive some kind of love and acknowledgement back for all the time and effort they spent investing into their crush's lives.
Back when I was 12, I would just die of happiness to receive a generic, “Thanks for your support!” letter from my favorite Backstreet Boy, Nick Carter. But 12-year-olds now would literally die if they sent a Follow Request to Harry Styles and he never responded back. It has now become this obsessive relationship that has no positive implications whatsoever.
Sure, "dating" a celebrity may seem like a harmless, stupid, childish thing. But it may have negative implications on yourself, if you're not aware.
Yeah, I didn't think so.