By: Elise Dunaway
My original idea was a vaguer version of my final idea. I wanted to write about the connection college students feel to pop culture. In Fall 2017 I took an Introduction to Interpersonal Communication course. One of the concepts we talked about was parasocial relationships. In a parasocial relationship, one person puts in a lot of time and emotional energy into the relationship. The other party does not reciprocate because they’re a fictional character, celebrity, athlete, or other media figure. They don’t know the person exists. Writing about parasocial relationships was a more specific way to talk about my original idea, and I could still apply it to college students.
I first emailed Dr. Julia Moore, the professor for the Introduction to Interpersonal Communication course I took. I also emailed a lot of professors from the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah who focus on social psychology. Dr. Bert Uchino, the Department Chair, emailed me back and was able to answer my questions. I reached out to a friend, Lily Chidester, so that I could also have the perspective of a college student. I think they were the best sources because Dr. Moore and Dr. Uchino had a lot of knowledge about the concept and Lily had a lot of experience with it. I feel like her comments are reflective of many college students’ experience.
The only real obstacle I encountered was setting up interviews with my sources. I never heard back from a lot of people I emailed, but luckily heard back from Dr. Moore and Dr. Uchino. Finding data to use in my story was slightly difficult, but I ended up finding a great study that added a lot of insight to my topic.
I decided to focus on college students because they’re the audience for my article. I also think that teens and college students are more likely to experience parasocial relationships than older people due to the use and presence of social media in their lives. When doing research, I kept notes of what information I felt was the most relevant to the article I was trying to write. Having the notes kept me organized because I didn’t have to go back and scour through websites to find the information I wanted.
I approached writing this article as I did the other articles I had to write for this course. I found my topic, gathered sources, and tried to arrange the information in the most engaging and accessible way. I used quotes from my sources in places where they explained the concept better than I could.
There were quite a few interesting details that didn’t make it in. My friend Lily was pretty in depth about how her parasocial relationships has strengthened her interpersonal relationships. I wasn’t able to include all of what she said about that. Dr. Moore mentioned that parasocial relationships can possibly help decrease prejudices. Dr. Uchino talked about how relationships can influence how long a person lives. While there haven’t been any studies done to see if parasocial relationships are part of this, Dr. Uchino guesses that a positive parasocial relationship could be good for mental and physical health. I wish I could have included everything they said, but my story would have been too long if I did.
Nothing in particular about writing this surprised me. A lot of what I learned about parasocial relationships made sense. I think it’s interesting that the concept of parasocial relationships isn’t more well-known because it’s something everyone experiences.