Your Heart

Is There A Science Behind Celebrity Obsessions?

By November 30, 2015 0

I love Harry Styles and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Turns out, he and I are in a full-fledged, para-social relationship.

Let me google that for you:

A para-social relationship is defined as “a one-sided relationship, where one person extends emotional energy, interest and time, and the other party, “the persona,” is completely unaware of the other’s existence. These connections are said to be most popular with celebrities and those of unattainable qualities. Basically these relationships are formed between a celebrity and the fan who is crushing hard.

Enter me.

This concept isn’t new to our society. Since the turn of the century and all of the gargantuan media and social shifts that came with it (looking at you Zuckerberg and TMZ) fans have a means of developing a virtual (and psychological) connection with a celebrity that goes a step beyond simple admiration.

The existence of such relationships has been documented as far back as 1956, when researchers Daniel Horton and Richard Wohl argued in an essay that such kinds of relationships have the ability to alter a fan’s mental, emotional, and physical health negatively.


Further research indicates that these relationships work very much in the same way that a typical, mundane two-sided relationship does. The feelings and mental strength required are definitely the same – in fact, the former is considered more strenuous due to the obvious lack of communication and reciprocation from the persona which can take a major toll on the fan.

Now for how these relationships are viewed:

Of course many (if not most) researchers and mediums alike argue that these sorts of relationships are positively ridiculous.

How can someone love someone else that they don’t truly know?!

More to the point, what is the actual point of allowing yourself to feel like that, when an actual relationship is not a viable option?

While these questions do make sense, they are somewhat misguided.

For starters (take it from someone I know), the fan does not necessarily believe he or she will form a deep and “actual” relationship with the celebrity (even if they are outwardly portraying otherwise). Largely, it’s the sport of it: browsing through various junk websites and magazines, glimpsing the person’s character through their social media accounts – it’s all so incredibly accessible given the state of our technology today that it’s almost fun. We’ve got Twitter, Facebook and now even Snapchat to provide us an inside look, so much so that fans truly get to see the unkempt individuals behind the Hollywood glamour.

I mean OF COURSE this can trick the brain into believing that it’s in some sort of a relationship. How could it not?

And now we are arriving at my point.

I don’t believe para-social relationships are nearly as bad as researchers would have us all think.

Through the celebrity, the fan finds a home. With fan clubs, blogs and even fan projects, individuals ultimately discover a sense of belonging through the other like-minded people, who don’t judge them for their love of a celebrity. In most cases, it’s a harmless escape for someone who doesn’t have this kind of support in other aspects of his or her life, because even though the fan comes for the celebrity, he or she makes friends along the way that make life more exciting and fulfilling.

And isn’t that the point? A wild, screaming, t-shirt-bearing, generation-Y support system that is second to none.