In my dream the other night, to clarify. There we were. She in cutoff blue jean shorts, aviators and a brown floppy hat. I in a white crop top with my hair in a loose braid wearing a black hat similar to hers. We were dancing to Outkast. I remember she said, “Robin, they’re finally here!”And then I said, “I know where’s Kendall!?” right before shaking it like a polaroid picture. I wish I was lying. Well no, no I really don’t. Because I was in California. Dancing. To Outkast. In the sun. With Kylie Jenner. And my hair looked bomb.
That dream got me thinking. Not about the Jenners or the Kardashian crew-I have already wished the best for Northwest and Kanye’s arrogance is not my cross to bear. And it didn’t get me thinking about Coachella either. The dream did, however, get me thinking about parasocial interactions.
Parasocial interactions (from Wikipedia): a term used by social scientists to describe one-sided, “parasocial” interpersonal relationships in which one party knows a great deal about the other, but the other does not. The most common form of such relationships are one-sided relations between celebrities and audience or fans.
I first heard this term in college when I signed up for a study. I found out later it was testing to see if college students were developing parasocial relationships with characters from television shows. The study asked questions like “Are you sad when the character on the show is sad?” “What do you like about this person?” “Do you know about this person’s family?” I remember thinking parasocial relationships were extreme. Things that happened to the same people who couldn’t give up tv for a week in elementary school. I remember thinking I was basically accused of having an imaginary friend at 18. I was slightly offended. I had real friends. People who I could text and call and touch. I didn’t need to develop parasocial relationships. That study tried my life.
Then Instagram came.
Never before has it been easier to follow someone’s daily life. It doesn’t even have to be a celebrity. We all know them. Your girl friend who is obsessed with getting to know her ex’s new girlfriend. Ladies, step away from the stalking. You’re one scroll away from an accidental like. If you tried to zoom in on Instagram then you’re already slipping. The guy who every Wednesday posts the same picture of Halle Berry as his Woman Crush Wednesday. Fellas, she’s taken and will always be taken- probably in a dysfunctional relationship, but still taken nonetheless. Same applies to Kate Upton. Stop it. And then there’s the Beyoncé craze that takes no prisoners. I know. I know. It’s a tough pill to swallow. I, too, am waiting on her to text. I think she’s just busy filming a secret movie or else she would have reached out by now.
Sometimes it’s hard to let go of these fake relationships. Kylie Jenner is just one example. I’ve been on a broomstick with Harry Potter right before we won a quidditch match. I’ve been on a yacht with Drake while he sang “Rockin’ Robin.” I also thought the Obama family was near and dear to me. The New York Times told me I was not alone. But is there any danger in having a one-sided relationship? Some studies say parasocial relationships are fine. One researcher said that when viewers felt they knew Oprah they lived healthier, more productive lives. Although it seems that many more studies point to negative effects claiming these relationships are based around loneliness and emotional distress. I believe there’s a fine line between having dreams about someone and then actually referring to this person as if you know them. I thought the dream was funny then I shrugged it off. No parasocial relationships for me.
THEN FOUR DAYS AGO I SAT ONE TABLE AWAY FROM REGGIE BUSH and Reggie Bush’s wife and Michael Strahan.
I’ll try my best to describe the experience. Imagine what it was like being a freshman in high school and seeing the most beautiful senior boy/girl walk into the cafeteria. Then multiply it by a million and take off your braces. My friend was watching the Maverick’s game. I was watching Reggie. My friend was like, “Robin do you ever-” “Wait,” I said through gritted teeth. “I’m looking.” I turned into a different person. Nothing else mattered. It was just me and Reggie. Watching the game. At our favorite bar (that I’ve only been to once). We were laughing. Talking about how we missed California. Oh and New Orleans! How we missed eating beignets in the springtime. Then I chided him for dating Kim Kardashian and he cocked his head back and let out a single laugh.
When I left the bar I texted and called my friends to tell them the news. Robin was he tall or short? Perfect. Does his wife really look like Kim Kardashian? I forgot he was married. Okay, fine. She does. Well, did you say something to him? No, I didn’t, but I wish I was lying. Well no, no I really don’t. Because that’s where parasocial relationships gain another positive effect. They may be fake relationships, but they give you something to talk about in your real ones.