Oops! All Parasocial!
So… it’s not exactly a secret that I’ve struggled to make friendships in life. I’ve never been good at reading social signals, I’m always direct about things that most people are at least somewhat awkward about, and I’ve always had a lot of niche intrests that most people I know knew little to nothing about. On top of that, I have social anxiety! Which for me means that obviously someone not replying for a while means that I made a social misstep that I didn’t notice and not that they’re busy or something.
Combine all of these together and you get a kid who struggles to make real life connections, but thrives on the internet. Unfortunately, I’ve never made any internet friends (so far,) so instead I’ve become someone who has a lot of the oft-maligned parasocial relationships.
A parasocial relationship, for those of you who don’t know, is a one-directional relationship between someone who creates content and someone who consumes that content. An example of this might be people who trust Tucker Carlson on everything because he talks in a way that speaks to them and feels personal, so people begin to trust him, form relationships with him, and value what he values. All of this is, of course, one-sided. He has no idea anyone in his audience exists in particular, and he’s just there to make some money and spread some hate.
Parasocial relationships, despite all of their downfalls, have gotten me through a lot of my adolescent years. Even if I fully know that this is just a person observing a content creator, I still feel more close to some youtubers who I follow than some of my own peers. I mean, these people make things that I find very funny, very relatable, and very enjoyable. If I just knew them in person instead of observing them from a distance over the internet, we would be good friends, right? I’m anxious, they’re anxious, I’m into weird indie games, they’re into weird indie games, I’m 17, they’re… 26.
I can’t be the only person who finds themselves desperately wanting to be famous on the internet just to join those social circles that look so fun, can I? The chaos of Alpharad, the nerdy theatrics of Brian David Gilbert, the unbridled honesty of Jaiden, Illymations, and Let Me Explain Studios…
I know I’ll never meet these people, and I know it’s stupid and probably creepy, but I don’t know if I’d be here today if I didn’t have these pieces of content to bond to. People are hard and misunderstand you. A youtube video won’t describe your weekend plans and then call you a loser for not going out to the beach with friends without even knowing that what they just described as pathetic is the only thing you can do without having a panic attack over potentially inconveniencing someone.
I have real life friends. I wrote most of this post while a friend was hanging out at my house. But I’ve never had many, and there’s always some distance. I will always, to some degree, crave the anonymity, chaos, and joy of having a cool group of people on the internet to spend time with. It may fade away someday, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Anyways yeah if you’re an awkward “loser” who feels like the internet makes more sense than people do and you would be doing so well if you could just get into those circles, then know you aren’t alone. No matter how much it feels like it.