Parasocial Relationships: How Fictional Characters Become Our Friends

The cast of  One Tree Hill

The cast of One Tree Hill

The people you see in the photo above? Those are my friends from high school. We grew up together. 

Just kidding.

Sort of. 

While Lucas, Peyton, Haley, and Nathan are not actually real people, but rather fictional characters from the soapy hit series (and my all time fave), One Tree Hill, it does actually feel like we grew up together. I have so many memories watching marathons of One Tree Hill with my best friend Emily when home from boarding school, and watching it in real time on a big screen at school with my dorm mates. I remember clearly watching the series finale during my first year at Mary Wash, and feeling my heart hurt a little when Sophia Bush tweeted a picture after shooting her last scene, complete with the hashtag #goodnightbrookedavis. Sob. Even now, I re-watch episodes all the time when I just want something to watch, and I even crave it when I need something to veg on. Overall, I have watched the complete series multiple times, and especially when watching the high school episodes, it feels as though I am just hanging out with old friends. It is comforting and nostalgic, and some may find it ridiculous, but One Tree Hill is one of my things, and I will not be ashamed. 

The truth is, I know that I am not alone in feeling attached to fictional characters. Did you cry when Friends ended? Do you wish you could spend an evening picking Olivia Pope's brain, while snacking on popcorn and drinking red wine out of those luscious wine glasses she has? Have you ever experience the blow of seeing George Martin mercilessly kill your favorite character off Game of Thrones?  Does hearing "I Don't Wanna Wait" throw you straight back into your adolescence? Do you remember the first time you met Harry, Ron, and Hermione? Whose side are you on--Gale or Peeta's? 

According to this article from Darling Magazine, there is a name for this type of relationship: parasocial. Parasocial relationships can extend even further than just fictional characters, in fact often we experience the same feelings of "closeness" with the actors and actresses who play them on screen, or are our favorite reality TV-personalities. The article goes into the positive and negative effects that parasocial relationships can have on us, and how through them we open ourselves up to influences just like real relationships. Definitely worth a read and a thought. 

Who are your best fictional or celebrity friends?

Happy Wednesday!



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