Researchers Explore How YouTube Connections Satisfy Emotional Needs, Contrasting With In-person Relationships

A recent study published in Scientific Reports says that people fulfill their emotional needs by watching creators on Youtube rather than through their family and friends. The researchers of the study aimed to explore more about parasocial relationships and how they can help individuals fulfill their emotional needs. Public figures like celebrities or influencers cannot reciprocate the feelings an individual feels for them which makes it easy for them to form real and meaningful relations in their heads.

The researchers conducted three studies to find out how effective and fulfilling parasocial relationships are for people. The researchers chose Youtube as a platform because Youtube generally has many videos of celebrities, influencers and fictional characters.

The participants in the study were asked to identify two types of in-person relationships– the person they are very close to and the person they are not that close to but are on friendly terms. Similarly, they were also asked to identify two types of Youtube creators– the creator they feel a strong parasocial connection with and the creator they don’t feel that much parasocial connection with.

In the second study, researchers gathered participants from the USA and UK who were fluent in English. The reason for this study was to reach a broader concept of parasocial relationships by studying people’s parasocial relationships with celebrities and fictional characters. They were also asked to identify weak and strong in-person and parasocial relationships.

The results of the both studies revealed that people could easily fulfill their emotional needs through their parasocial relationships. The participants felt strong emotional connection with their strong in-person relationship, followed by strong parasocial relationship and weak in-person relationship. The participants felt the least emotional connection with weak parasocial relationships.

The aim of the third study was to find out how people in parasocial relationships try to come to terms with their emotions after social rejection. For the study, the researchers gathered 960 participants with socially hurtful experience or a pleasant experience. First, the self esteem of these participants was measured and then they were asked to choose a Youtube creator they felt the most parasocial connection with and whom they knew would fulfill their emotional needs.

People with more self esteem resorted to their parasocial relationships when experiencing a hurtful experience, rather than going to their in-person relationships. Participants with low self esteem would go to their parasocial relationships if they experience a hurtful or joyful event. This proved that people go to their parasocial relationships on Youtube if they are in need of some emotional care and they know their relationship with creators on Youtube would definitely respond to that.

Image: DIW-Aigen

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