Audiences build what are called “parasocial” relationships with their favorite media personalities while listening to radio and watching television. These 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. These types of relationships are most common with celebrities, organizations (such as sports teams) or television stars. Audience members imagine interpersonal interaction with the celebrities involved, may seek guidance from the personalities and even hope to meet them face-to-face.
Like real-life relationships, audiences also feel good when the parasocial relationship is healthy and feel bad when there is a breakup. Peter Gregg, assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of St. Thomas, examined the consequences of parasocial breakup analyzing the tweets about the removal of a radio DJ in Minnesota.
The DJ, Barb Abney worked for the Minneapolis-St. Paul radio station The Current, was fired on Jan. 27, 2015. Audiences expressed their discontent over the decision on social media.
The author analyzed 203 tweets about the removal. Results confirmed the presence of parasocial relationship. When a station fires a personality, it makes audiences feel bad. This parasocial breakup also exerts negative impacts on station brand identity.
To read full text of the study: https://bit.ly/2MtTnqS
Gregg, P. B. (2018). Parasocial Breakup and Twitter: The Firing of Barb Abney. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 62(1), 38-50.