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How to Distinguish Your Allies -- The Parasocial Fallacy

Updated: Aug 10

Layers of connections.

(Philosocom Directory on Friendship)

A parasocial relationship is a one-sided relationship that we have with people we do not interact with physically. It is not to be confused with the paranormal. A parasocial relationship undoubtedly exists, even if one of the parties is purely fictional. It is a relationship that we have as well, dear readers. Because we are not friends or even close in any way. Thinking otherwise is a fallacy.

It is called "para-social" because it is not exactly based on real social interactions. Some of you read me, but that does not mean all of you have any real, mutually-recognized connection with me, correct? I communicate with some of you once in a while, however, but it is not in person; it is only virtual. Only in text, and if I made videos frequently, then in that form of media, too. Our connection is not that deep or sincere, even if feels it is. It is flat, even if not dishonest.

As such, much of this world, and much of our connections are in fact fake. And we only delude ourselves that they are not. Here's an article I wrote on friends, fans and followers.

"The parasocial fallacy" occurs when one mistakes a parasocial figure, such as a writer, a celebrity, or any other public figure, to be their real friend. It is merely a mistake in understanding; in identifying people, and in the estimation of their value in relation to yourself.

The parasocial aspect of society is now bigger than ever, thanks to mass media and virtual accessibility. You no longer need to go to a physical space, such as a bar or a coffee shop, to create connections with others. All you need is to send a virtual message, such as an e-mail or comment, to start a potential parasocial relationship.

Even being a frequent media consumer of a specific figure can be an example of the parasocial. Especially if you develop some kind of loyalty to them. Loyalty that keeps you coming back for more of the content they provide.

As I said, it also involves fictional characters. Some of us may feel close to certain fictional characters; that is one of the variants of the parasocial aspect. The fallacy of that variant is expressed when we do not distinguish between fiction and reality, when we believe Superman can come and rescue us. Children may have this variant the most.

How can we overcome the parasocial fallacy? All we need to do is understand that not everyone we admire is a friend. Not every contemporary philosopher we agree with is a friend. To mistake someone for a friend just because their content is valuable to us, is an example of the parasocial fallacy.

Make no mistake, however. Feeling a close connection to someone who isn't a friend isn't necessarily a non-legitimate emotion. I don't even know if there are illegitimate emotions to begin with. I would argue that an illegitimate emotion might as well only be used as a logical fallacy.

The point is this: When that emotion of admiration or appreciation deludes us, that is when the parasocial fallacy can emerge. In thinking someone is more than he or she is. The use the term "friend" today because it can deceive us pretty quickly. Right?

If you want to be someone's friend, all you have to do is ask. Send them a request, not in a social media-type fashion. Make sure the other side sees you as a friend. Otherwise, what is the point in seeing a positive impression as fact?

It has nothing to do with narcissism. Boundaries may be important to anyone. Making sure you see eye-to-eye with another person when it comes to expectations, is imperative. Otherwise, logic dictates you'll become disappointed eventually.

This is why I don't use the term "friend" lightly. Not every non-friend is an enemy or a stranger, and not every ally (reader, social media follower, and so on) is a friend.

A friend is more than a regular ally, correct? A friend is someone you trust, someone with whom you have a mutual connection, not only professionally. It is someone who sees you as a friend, as well.

Can a friendship truly be recognized by only one side of the involved parties?

Then, why call someone a friend without first making sure, he or she sees you as one, too? That is the parasocial fallacy in much of today's interactions: When you regard someone, you consider them to be a friend, just because you have positive impressions of them, even if you interact with them.

I am aware I am autistic, but I don't want to let this neurodivergence get in my way of a greater understanding of reality. It is no longer a reason when learning is possible.

Understand -- there should be nothing childish in sending actual friend requests to people, and not only on social medias such as Facebook. If you want true friends, speak not only to them but to their hearts. Develop a deeper relationship with them, and gain their trust. As you can see, creating a real friendship is more complex than one might think. And it is also something that can be learned by studying and applying social skills.

A "Facebook friend" is very miniscule in comparison to a real friend. Because a real friend regards you one as well.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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