06 SES 10 A, Connecting, Relating & Preventing
The paper analyses parasocial relationships, as imagined one-way relationships between the followers of younger generations in Spain to determine who are their influential idols in social networks. The study is based on a literature review on the components that generate media interactions and bonds, based on recent studies grounded in the influence on the development of social identity for youngers and adolescents. The younger generations were chosen in this study because, in comparison with other age groups, they show more attention to Influencers, both famous and proclaimed (Maltby et al., 2005; Gleason, Theran and Newberd, 2017), developing links of greater intensity (Cohen, 2003; Klimmt et al, 2006) and, therefore, with a greater degree of influence or impact at different levels.
Parasocial relationships are described as a psychosocial phenomenon that happens in the interaction between a media person and a non-media person (Frederick et al., 2012), understanding that it is a relationship in a unilateral sense, only perceived by the spectator, who considers the interaction real and intimate (Sokolova & Kefi, 2020). This interaction leads to the desire of identification, even imitation of the idol, generating high levels of empathy and admiration (Frederick, Lim, Clavio, and Walsh, 2012; Kim and Kim, 2020).
In the case of Influencers, these are influential public figures (Freberg, Graham, McGaughy, and Freberg, 2011) who may have been famous people before, have genuinely obtained their “fame”; or become a focus of attention from the public exposure they have built (Boerman, 2020). Precisely because of the credibility attributed, and despite the fact that interactions with the audience can vary and changes with the logic of the global trends of social networks, an influencer is not always a person with a high number of followers. It is relevant for their popularity that they can show availability and generate a certain dependency from the frequency of interaction, which has to be continuous and constant; along with the degree of self-revelation of values, with respect to beliefs or personality patterns that feed the link and the intimate connection (Chambers, 2013; Rivera et al., 2010; Kim and Kim, 2020).
For an influencer, to be perceived as a person who is close, accessible, and easy to relate to is due to the strong impact of the dissemination of their contents (Veirman et al., 2017), and the possibility of interaction through public and private responses with followers. The elements of such interactivity provided by social networks are essential, but it is also required a style of frequent interaction and interpersonal closeness (Frederick, Lim, Clavio, and Walsh, 2012) that leads to not perceiving distance or asymmetry with the idol.
This study aims to shed light on how influencers contribute to generate parasocial relationships, considering the axiological and social dimensions, with special attention to the audiences of adolescents and young people. For this aim, after a literature review, the study analyses the quality and quantity of interactions in Instagram, considering: the selfies bias or unreal positivism, and the values revealed in explicit messages (publications) or implicit (luxury products or body caring): personal interest, goals, beliefs or feelings. Based on the publications generated by influencers that are highly consumed by adolescents and young people in Spain, the study aims to verify how influencers contribute to the construction of parasocial relationships and whether it is possible to untangle social and axiological dimensions through their publications and interactions. After examining the more consumed Instagram profiles by young people in the Spanish context a number of seven influencers were selected for the analysis, chosen by the highest incidence and publications. The methodological approach is quantitative, through a study of the open-sourced data found on their public Instagram accounts of these 7 Instagrammers. The characteristics of the most popular profiles among young people were analyzed during three months according to four dimensions, via an interpretative approach of the type and contents of the publications and replies from the Instagrammers selected. The dimensions and variables of the content analysis were the following: (1) Sociodemographic dimension (country, influence, name, age, language, studies, descriptors, other networks or websites, likes, IGTV, number of comments, and reels); (2) Social impact dimension (number of followed accounts, number of followers, number of publications day/week/month, and stories); (3) Axiological dimension (solidarity initiatives, respectful language, positive values, honesty); and (4) Prosumer dimension (published brands, website, and products they sell…). Funding and Acknowledgements: This work is framed under the development of two research schemes. Firstly, a national R+D project: “Hyperconnected identity of young people and their perception of time in digital pastimes”, funded by Spain’s Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Universities (Ref. PGC2018-097884-B-I00). Secondly, within the framework of Alfamed (Euro-American Network of Researchers), with the support of the R+D Project; Youtubers and Instagrammers: Media Competence in Emerging Prosumers; (RTI2018-093303-B- I00), financed by the State Research Agency of the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Under the media cultures, Instagrammers are changing the forms of interaction between the population, generating new models of parasocial relationships. The number of followers and followed, the publications, the brands, the ads, the models, the dress and identity with, or the live ones they broadcast are followed by young people from all over the world, who consume published and shared content. From the social network interactions generated by the influencers, parasocial relationships can be established with their followers. For this reason, the use of respectful language with expressions in which they respond in an agile and responsible way stands out. This reflects what type of values shared and defended by these, within the new parasocial relationships that are established between young people and adolescents, which, in turn, influence the construction of their own identities (Gleason, 2017). Likewise, among the products that are shared and promoted by the influencers, there are mainly those that are related to fashion, beauty, and aesthetics, as they also affirm Fondevila-Gascón et al (2020), who show that the most followed content is that linked, among other aspects, to fashion. The question raised by this statement is whether we are prepared to face this new reality, via media education. In the words of Brailovskaia, (2020), one of the reasons for using social networks is the search for information and inspiration, as well as social interaction, aspects that have been reflected in the analysis of the Instagram profiles of the influencers analyzed. These events appear to respond to the needs of younger generations (Rodríguez and; Benedito, 2016). In similar researches (Fondevila-Gascón, et al. 2020), there are unrealistic expectations among young people about shame, low self-esteem, or desire for perfectionism.
Boerman, S. (2019). The effects of the standardized instagram disclosure for micro- and meso-influencers. Computers in Human Behavior |10.1016/j.chb.2019.09.015. https://sci-hub.si/10.1016/j.chb.2019.09.015 Chambers, D. (2013). Social media and personal relationships: Online intimacies and networked friendship. Springer. Cohen, J. (2003). Parasocial break-up from favourite television characters: the role of attachment styles and relationship intensity. J. Soc. Pers. Relat. 21, 187–202. doi:10.1177/0265407504041374 Fondevila-Gascón, J., Gutiérrez-Aragón, O., Copeiro, M., Villalba-Palacín, V., and Polo-López, M. (2020). Influence of Instagram stories in attention and emotion depending on gender. [Influencia de las historias de Instagram en la atención y emoción según el género]. Comunicar 2020; 63, 41-50. https://doi.org/10.3916/C63-2020-04 Freberg, K., Graham, K., McGaughy, K., and Freberg, L. (2011). Who are the social media influencers? A study of public perceptions of personality. Public Relations Review, 37(1), 90-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2010.11.001 Frederick, E. L., Lim, C. H., Clavio, G., and Walsh, P. (2012). Why we follow: An examination of parasocial interaction and fan motivations for following athlete archetypes on Twitter. International Journal of Sport Communication, 5(4), 481-502. Gleason, T. R., Theran, S. A., and Newberg, E. M. (2017). Parasocial interactions and relationships in early adolescence. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 255. Kim, M., and; Kim, J. (2020). How does a celebrity make fans happy? Interaction between celebrities and fans in the social media context. Computers in Human Behavior, 10.1016/j.chb.2020.106419. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2020.106419. Maltby, J., Giles, D. C., Barber, L., and McCutcheon, L. E. (2005). Intense-personal celebrity worship and body image: evidence of a link among female adolescents. Br. J. Health Psychol. 10, 17–32. doi: 10.1348/135910704X15257 Rivera, M. T., Soderstrom, S. B.; Uzzi, B. (2010). Dynamics of dyads in social networks: Assortative, relational, and proximity mechanisms. annual Review of Sociology, 36, 91-115. Veirman, M. D., Cauberghe, V. and; Hudders, L. (2017). Marketing through Instagram Influencers: Impact of number of followers and product divergence on brand attitude. 36(5), 798-828
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