Parasocial interaction (or para-social relationship) is a term used by social scientists to describe one-sided, "parasocial" interpersonal relationships in which one party knows a great deal about the other, but the other does not. The most common form of such relationships are one-sided relations between celebrities and audience or fans.
Evolution of the term 
The term was first introduced by Donald Horton and Richard Wohl in their widely cited 1956 academic paper, "Mass Communication and Para-social Interaction: Observations on Intimacy at a Distance", published in the Psychiatry journal.
Parasocial interaction has become an increasingly common phenomenon during the latter half of the 20th century, as it is coupled with the growth in popularity of television and film media. They involve a real person on one end, but on the other end can have a real celebrity (talkshow host or famous sport player), an organization (sports team) and/or an entirely fictional character.
Even though such one-way friendships are based on illusion of interaction via television or radio rather than actual social interaction, a bond of intimacy is created and the viewers feel they really know the media character. The viewer is made to believe that the person on the screen is communicating directly to them, even though the other participants—actors or players—have no knowledge or attachment to fans, other than as an aggregation of numbers comprising an audience and their income.
Television executives have actively promoted parasocial relationships, and the celebrities will often engage in the illusion of 'one-on-one' interaction with the audience, for example by addressing them directly. Talk shows for example are a type of a media programme that heavily relies on parasocial interaction. The talk show is such a popular format because of the actual methods used in the program. In particular, the host seeks to establish a sense of "togetherness" with the viewer. Moreover, shows like Ricki Lake have as their goal a sense of reconciliation, contributing to a feeling of solvency and contentment within the viewer. Soap operas are another popular genre. In many ways, the plots of soap operas involved overly romanticized versions of everyday interpersonal activity. Thus, the genre appeals to many as a way to realize a sense of excitement which may be lacking in the interpersonal relationships of the viewer.
In parasocial interaction there is no "normal" social interaction; it is a very one-sided relation. The knowledgeable side has no direct control over the actions of the side it observes, and it is very difficult for it to contact and influence it.
Though most literature has focused on parasocial interaction as a television and film phenomenon, new technologies, namely the Internet, have necessitated a closer look at such interactions.
In 1998, John Eighmey, from Iowa State University, and Lola McCord, from the University of Alabama, published a study titled “Adding Value in the Information Age: Uses and Gratifications of Sites on the World Wide Web.”  In the study, they observed that the presence of parasocial relationships constituted an important determinant of website visitation rates. “It appears,” the study states, “that websites projecting a strong sense of personality may also encourage the development of a kind of parasocial relationship with website visitors.”
In 1999, John Hoerner, from the University of Alabama, published a study titled “Scaling the Web: A Parasocial Interaction Scale for World Wide Web Sites,” in which he proposed a method for measuring the effects of parasocial interaction on the Internet. The study explained that websites may feature “personae” that host to the visitors to the sites in order to generate public interest. Personae, in some cases, are nothing more than the online representations of the actual people, often prominent public figures, but sometimes, according to the study, will be the fictional creations of the sites' webmasters . Personae “take on many of the characteristics of a [real-life] companion, including regular and frequent appearances, a sense of immediacy…and the feeling of a face-to-face meeting.” Additionally, the study makes the point that, even when no such personae have been created, parasocial relationships might still develop. Webmasters might foster parasocial interactions through a conversational writing style, extensive character development and opportunities for email exchange with the website’s persona.
Hoerner used the Parasocial Interaction (PSI) scale, developed by Rubin, Perse, and Powell (1985), and modified the scale to more accurately assess parasocial interactions on the Internet. They used the scale to gauge participants' reactions to a number of different websites, and, more generally, to determine whether or not parasocial interaction theory could be linked to Internet use. The study concluded, first, that parasocial interaction is not dependent on the presence of a traditional persona on a website; data showed that websites with described "strong personae" did not attract significantly more hits than other websites selected by the study conductors. "The literal, mediated personality from the newscast or soap opera of the past [around which the original PSI-scale was framed] is gone. The design metaphor, flow of the web experience, and styles of textual and graphic presentations of the information all become elements of a website persona and encourage parasocial interaction by the visitor/user with that persona."
The study also confirmed the accuracy of the "PSI web scale" as a way to gauge consumer parasocial interaction with websites.
See also 
- Ashe, Diane D.; Lynn E. McCutcheon (2001). "Shyness, Loneliness, and Attitude Towards Celebrities". Current Research in Social Psychology 6 (9). ISSN 1088-7423.
- Horton, Donald; R. Richard Wohl (1956). "Mass communication and para-social interaction: Observations on intimacy at a distance". Psychiatry 19 (3): 215–229. PMID 13359569. republished in Particip@tions 3 (1) ISSN 1749-8716
- Freda D., Lewis (2000). Getting by: Race and Parasocial Interaction in a Television Situation Comedy. Dissertation.com. ISBN 1-58112-105-9.
- Brooks, J. Michael (January 1997). "Beyond Teaching and Learning Paradigms: Trekking into the Virtual University". Teaching Sociology (Teaching Sociology, Vol. 25, No. 1) 25 (1): 1–14. doi:10.2307/1319107. ISSN 0092-055X. JSTOR 1319107.
- Cole, T., & Leets, L. (1999). Attachment styles and intimate television viewing. Insecurely forming relationships in a parasocial way. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 16, 495-511
- Cohen, J. 2004. Parasocial break-up from favorite television characters: The role of attachment styles and relationship intensity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships , 21: 187–202
Further reading 
- Burnett, Ann; Rhea Reinhardt Beto (2000). "Reading Romance Novels: An Application of Parasocial Relationship Theory". North Dakota Journal of Speech & Theatre 13.
- Christine, Camella (2001). "Parasocial Relationships in Female College Student Soap Opera Viewers Today". CTA Senior Thesis Papers. Hugh McCarney, Western Connecticut State University. Retrieved 2006-07-01.
- McCourt, Andrea; Jacki Fitszpatrick (February 2001). "The Role of Personal Characteristics and Romantic Characteristics in Parasocial Relationships: A Pilot Study". Journal of Mundane Behaviour 2 (1). ISSN 1529-3041.
- Rubin, R. B.; M. P. McHugh (1987). "Development of parasocial interaction relationships". Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media 31 (3): 279–292. ISSN 0883-8151. (print) (online).
- Nass, Clifford; S. Shyam Sundar (1995-06-02). "Is Human-Computer Interaction Social or Parasocial?". Social Responses to Communication Technologies research group, stanford University. Retrieved 2006-07-01.