Taylor Swift’s breakup is not the end of your world

How parasocial relationships with celebrities are affecting fans

Jennifer Moglia, Staff Writer

I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to get overly attached to whatever piece of media I’m hyper-fixated on at the time. One obsession that I haven’t grown out of is my love for Taylor Swift.

 I heard one of her first big hits, “Our Song,” on the radio for the first time when I was just five years old, and now, 15 years later, I’m jamming out to her latest single, “Anti-Hero,” every time I get into my car.

When you feel like you’ve grown up alongside an artist, it’s easy to feel like you’ve bonded with them. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve cried watching videos of Swift thanking fans who have been following her career since she started making music because sometimes it really does feel like she’s talking right to me. However, it’s important (and sometimes difficult) to remember that she isn’t speaking directly to me, because I don’t want to develop a parasocial relationship.

According to FindAPsychologist.org, “Parasocial relationships are one-sided relationships, where one person extends emotional energy, interest and time, and the other party, the persona, is completely unaware of the other’s existence. Parasocial relationships are most common with celebrities.”

The Swifties engaging in parasocial relationships with their idol were devastated last week when People Magazine reported that Swift and her boyfriend of six years, actor Joe Alwyn, had broken up a few weeks prior.

The way that some of Swift’s fans, or Swifties, act falls in line with the aspects of a parasocial relationship. They are the ones putting time and effort into following Swift’s career, and in most cases, the star doesn’t even know who they are.

This isn’t to say that Swift doesn’t care for her fans. Out of all of the celebrities making headlines, I would argue that she is one who is genuinely thankful for her supporters.

According to Twitter user @SwiftNYC, the artist said on stage this past weekend, “I’ve always loved putting on shows, always loved that connection … knowing you have felt the same way… I need you guys very much for my well-being.”

Now, I completely understand being attached to an artist when they say they need you “very much” for their well-being. However, taking this sentiment to heart can be dangerous.

Some of the negative impacts of parasocial relationships can include anxiety, loneliness, isolation and even strained real-life relationships, according to Medical News Today.

Since the news broke, fans have seemingly turned into FBI agents, assuming that every move the singer makes is a comment about her relationship status. Whether it was switching out a love song for a breakup tune at a concert or getting dinner a few blocks from an apartment she once shared with her partner, fans have been overanalyzing Swift’s every move.

In addition, they’ve been making social media posts about how they no longer believe in true love or can’t listen to certain songs in the artist’s discography anymore because they were allegedly about Alwyn. For example, on April 8, Twitter user @TiedWithASwift said, “I will not be believing ANY break up rumours because you cannot tell me that Taylor Swift wrote Cornelia Street, The Great War and Sweet Nothing about this man only to have an ‘amicable’ breakup.”

Some fans seem to be aware of their attachment to Swift reaching unhealthy levels in light of the breakup. For instance, Twitter user @holy_schnitt wrote, “doing a funeral procession down cornelia street because I am a totally normal person with a healthy amount of love for my favorite musical artist,” referencing the location where Swift and Alwyn got their first apartment together and her song “Cornelia Street.”

It’s important to realize in situations like these that our experiences are not universal. Just because your favorite pop star had a bad breakup with someone she thought she’d spend her whole life with doesn’t mean that your relationship is bound to fail.

Furthermore, unless we know Swift personally (which a large majority of us do not), we don’t know all of the details of the split. Maybe they really did just grow apart. No matter what we think, we will most likely never know what really happened behind closed doors.

So, the next time you find yourself bummed over a celebrity breakup or picking apart every nuance of your favorite musician performing a certain song, take a step back and remember that it’s okay that you don’t know the full story. Taylor Swift isn’t your friend, so you shouldn’t act like it – unless you’re reading this and your name is Selena Gomez, in which case, go crazy.