Since the inception of television back in the 1950s, it has become a staple in the average household. Providing families with hours of entertainment every day, including gripping TV shows and dramas that keep people on the edge of their seats.
Especially during the Ramadan season, each year, all of us sit down and watch the latest episodes, discussing the plot as it unfolds and rooting for the main characters.
While it’s no surprise that a good show resonates with viewers due to its good writing, direction, and for the article’s purpose acting, sometimes viewers have the lines blurred between fiction and reality.
Audiences get heavily invested in the storylines, and hold deep grudges against the villains who have wronged the main character that they seem not to differentiate that it is not real. Actors who play their roles too well, suffer the consequences of getting online hate, and bullying from their fans.
This phenomenon isn’t limited to villains but to main characters as well, as fans grow to love these characters as if they are real and reach out to the actors directly. It reached the extent of invading their privacy and investing their emotional energy, interest, and time to form a connection.
For example, Jory Bakr, who plays Wedad in Gaffar El Omeda, and Mohamed Abdelazim, who plays Hag Sayed in Taht El Wesaya, have been receiving hateful comments, uncalled bullying, and death threats online, for simply playing their characters well.
Let’s break down this phenomenon. First, we need to define what a parasocial relationship is.
A parasocial relationship is a one-sided relationship between an everyday person and a celebrity or fictional character.
Although audience members are not actually in a relationship with the other person, they feel a sense of intimacy in their parasocial relationships.
We have seen it recently with how people reacted to the latest episode of Gaffer El Omeda when Gaffer was declared innocent in the case of smuggling drugs. People across Egypt celebrate the news as if Egypt won the world cup.
This type of relationship isn't exclusive to Egyptians, as we see it in every country. But this Ramadan season, the degree to which people seem to forget that shows are works of fiction is astonishing.
Viewers are too invested in the characters they see or spend too much time-consuming media such as watching interviews, live streams, and keeping up with the lives of celebrities, without realizing their way of showing “gratitude” or “anger” is crossing the line and destroying privacy towards actors.
According to verywellmind.com, having a parasocial relationship with a media personality can influence someone's behavior, beliefs, and trust toward different groups of people.
Here, we need to ask a vital question, how to end a parasocial relationship? How to shatter the illusion of feeling personal allegiance or complete hatred towards celebrities?
This ends just like any other relationship, with a breakup.
A parasocial breakup happens when a TV show ends. It feels like a breakup without the "it's not you. It's me" cliche. Audiences might miss the characters intensely or move on from admiring the celebrity due to their change of taste.
Even though the parasocial breakup happens when the TV show ends, some types of parasocial relationships are formed with the real celebrity, not just their character.
It’s important to remind ourselves that celebrities, with all their fame and fortune, are still human beings. They have feelings and emotions just like we do. We must respect their privacy and not send hatred or threats towards them.