Something about the idea of “parasocial relationships” thoroughly freaked me out. Not out of fear that people could develop such a relationship with me, so much as the fear that I could be unconsciously developing those relationships with others. I mean, I won’t try to hide it–from time to time, I do a bit of FB stalking. I like to think that it’s never that intrusive, and most of it occurs when I’m online and bored, and something pops up in my News Feed that seems interesting. “Why is Friend A asking Friend B what happened last night?” Suddenly, I’m reading wall-to-walls, checking tagged pictures, reading other’s wall posts on Friend A and Friend B’s pages. All the while, Friend A and Friend B have no idea that I’m paying them any attention. Is this a “parasocial relationship”? More importantly, do these types of relationship spread me so thin that I’m left without the energy or time to develop deeper, mutual friendships?
About a year ago I joined the Pomona College Class of 2013 group of Facebook, and began adding friends like wild. Before even moving in, I had probably near 100 new friends. This was great! I was going to be the most popular freshman IN THE WORLD! Until I got here and realized FB friending was only half the battle–maybe even less than that. Despite having talked to tons of people, it was just as awkward and fumbly meeting these people in real life as it would’ve been having never known each other through FB. What’s worse is that all the great conversation starters (“So what kind of music do you like?”) had been exhausted over the net. We all knew each other’s favorite directors, high school extracurriculars, home towns, but we hadn’t really learned how to interact as real life friends. Today, most of the people I spend my time hanging out with (with a few exceptions) are people I hadn’t friend requested before meeting in person. I’m sure the experience was different for other freshmen, but I almost wish I hadn’t rushed into trying to make a million friends online.
One of the great things about this class is that so much of what we read is completely pertinent to my life as a 21st century college student. This week’s readings were probably the best example of that thus far. And it wasn’t a particularly nice feeling.