Vicariously experiencing parasocial intimacy with public figures through observations of interactions on social media

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-342
Journal / PublicationHuman Communication Research
Issue number3
Online published30 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


Social media posts display public figures’ interactions with different social groups, prompting observers to identify with individuals in the interaction based on shared social categories. This research shows that audiences can vicariously relate to public figures by observing and identifying with the individuals who interact with public figures online. Specifically, seeing a confirming reply from a public figure elicited greater parasocial intimacy from the observer toward the public figure than did a disconfirming one. When a confirming reply from a public figure targeted an ingroup rather than an outgroup reply recipient, observers identified more with the recipient and experienced greater parasocial intimacy toward the public figure. A second study suggests that the model does not pertain to relatively less recognizable public figures. The results have implications for parasocial, vicarious interpersonal interactions in mediated contexts.

Research Area(s)

  • Identification, Interpersonal Confirmation, Observation, Parasocial Intimacy, Social Media, Vicarious Interaction