SuperListenMode: On being a fan and Parasocial Relationships

SuperListenMode: On being a fan and Parasocial Relationships

My definition of a Parasocial Relationship is when it’s a one way (or uneven) bond with between someone’s public persona and professional brand [or a fictional character or avatar like Vtubers] versus the consumer, audience, fan and individual. It’s where an individual/audience looks up to (and relates to, cares about) someone who has more online social currency and power because they’ve established an online career upon building a community and audience around them.
It becomes complicated, harmful and nuanced when boundaries are not clear and established on both ends.
Personally I strive to keep a certain emotional distance from online peeps, influencers, streamers and strangers because I don’t really know them as equal, complex human beings.
Yes I’m fascinated with how we portray & express authenticity over social media :0
I’m trying to be more aware when I post things myself!

I recommend what’s released by Shannon Strucci so far on this topic:
Fake Friends Part 1 [20min] and Part 2 [2hr] of eventually 4 parts (?). I watched this at the end of August/start of September. Ooh also check out Lindsay Ellis’ Manufacturing Authenticity video essay too!

Super thought provoking video essays, especially if you spend time consuming media from personalities, personas, celebrities, actors, friends and people! And this is many of us at different points in our lives! As we know, what we see and post on the internet is not 100% authentic…it’s what the content creator/poster wants you and the public to see.

How sincere and honest they are is up to interpretation. And this is out of the original creator/poster’s control once their content is out there. It potentially gets out of hand in the mess of internet drama, many interpretations and miscommunication.

Parasocial relationships are not inherently bad or harmful, just something to be managed and to be aware of in healthy ways and moderation. Hey if all parties generally have boundaries, are not abusing the power dynamic, know what to expect and get out of it, then it’s happening out of awareness, respect, goodness and intention! (:


As an artist who posts on the internet…

…these blog posts, comics and art that I do – they are personal parts of me I’m happy to share and express myself for fun, feelings and for learning. And when I’m reflecting upon the positive, negative and neutral sides of things, I’m encouraging and being real with myself too.

But I don’t show everything about my private life. I’m striving to focus more on art, learning and life lessons rather than anything else I’m not comfortable sharing. I don’t really/necessarily know you (the reader) either. You are most likely an internet stranger to me. And I’m sure you are also careful about your private life on social media too. We’re not friends, kind internet peep! Casual online acquaintances and/or friendly brief interactions is fine too! I’m just some silly lady rambling to herself on the internet who’s super grateful you’re reading this.

Psst, thank you for reading and commenting! :0

It’s tricky when online I’m fine with expressing myself blogging and making art. Always figuring out and evolving my boundaries as I grow. Indeed I usually just post my art and my rambly blog posts. Occasionally I might reach out for help, ask a question or share photos in the moment (:

I was told that I’m authentic and honest online. 

Mostly yes because I’m expressing my internal dialogue in this blog at the least…and only a rare few read them. With social media I’m more selective in how I respond, I remain positive & curious as my online persona, showing more of my silly kid self but I’m not that smart to completely pretend to be somebody I’m not for too long – that’s too much to stress about and remember! I forget things!!

Constantly performing through online posts, interacting and sharing heaps about your life online to get social validation, maintaining online friendships, building your audience/community and checking notifications is too exhausting for me. I felt stuck acting out a perfect, positive, generous, popular, engaging, supportive, “in the loop” persona. I get emotionally drained, depressed, that I didn’t give enough, didn’t interact enough, didn’t build a community, didn’t give things of value/quality, didn’t do enough – so I didn’t think I needed help and I felt empty. Constant social media interaction is not for me.

I’ve tried to reply to everything in the past to uphold that personal standard & to get along and support people I come across but it usually ends up me doing another long social media break to recover – it’s a super energy drain for me. I can’t keep up with everything and how people are publicly doing on social media!! Tried things, learned things and now I’m done with that. If you thrive and enjoy social media, I admire you for managing it all! All the same we’re all doing our best within our own personal boundaries :’)

I believe my social media numbers suffer because I don’t really “socialise” like they want me to and I don’t follow much new people anymore (because I’m jaded, it’s too much noise and I don’t check anyway). It all feels awfully transactional and conditional at times when you’re on social media with the gamified popularity/fame contest and engagement algorithms. It just leaves me feeling fake, empty, insecure, jaded, confused, disingenuous and joyless at the worst of times. I don’t want to play this online human relations/clout building game :’)

Nowadays I post things and hide. I keep to myself most of the time in person anyway. If I’m not feeling up to interacting online, I take breaks from social media until I am – hence my many breaks in recent years. I will read and reply when I check in again.

At the moment, I don’t really plan or worry what my personal brand is and I don’t like being pigeon holed into something – I’m just learning and trying things out in stride and flow. I agree that I need to figure what my “brand” is when I feel confident with where I’m going one day. Or maybe I won’t figure it out and that’s okay! As much as it frustrates me, uncertainty is my constant!

Unfortunately social media values consistency, branding, a good degree of familiarity and niches rather than creativity, spontaneity and experimentation so that’s why I’m often stuck, plateauing and struggling to grow since 2011 :’) 

Anyhoo I say “mostly” authentic because I as much as I do desire connection, get annoyed, frustrated, resentful, upset, hurt, sad, emotionally intense and afraid, I don’t want to focus, dwell and intentionally put out negativity into the world when I post things. Instead I acknowledge, manage and embrace my mixed feelings at my blog, at the risk of being too sentimental, emotionally naive and immature. And I don’t talk about things I don’t know about (as best I can) because I need to shut my mouth, learn and listen instead! Most of the time, I just don’t know enough to have an informed opinion in the first place. I’m not perfect and I’m open to learn from others (:


Meanwhile in person, I prefer to be reserved, quiet, learn and listen as an introvert with most people. 

I have many other sides too like when I’m grumpy, apathetic or low on energy so I give minimal answers. Or when I’m intense and/or excited and actually talk more than listen. And another side of me where I’m rambly and silly with close friends on an activity where I don’t mind how long we’ve spent together. It depends on the connection. I don’t think it’s any less authentic. All sides equally valid and real parts of me. We all have different sides and are complex.

Plus I’m always learning!

Still I don’t want to feel uncomfortable or imposed to act more like the rambly Leonie you see in my comics and blog posts. I’m not that rambly and expressive in person because by nature I’m conserving my introverted levels of energy. Especially in groups. Low social stamina over here -.-;

When I’m with people, it feels like I’m playing a role at improv actually. I can say that since I’ve done some improv classes earlier this year! Where I’m learning, mimicking, listening and processing what others’ intentions, micro expressions, posture, eye movements, where they’re facing me, what their feelings and mood are. It gets super intense as I notice or focus on one thing at at time. Then I need time to process things and people just move on before I can respond or answer their question.

Even if I’m just listening, it’s draining for me to process and choose one person to focus on out of the group. So naturally I need solitary space to recover, I don’t socialise all the time and I desire human bonding that doesn’t mandate constantly hanging out. A rough regular basis would be my sweet spot! Just knowing that we’re there for each other at expected time intervals means a lot as it is. Could be every two weeks, several months, yearly, some years? Admittedly my fickle emotions means I feel left out when I don’t go to things :<

I don’t want to be friends with everyone and probably not right off the bat. I need to slowly build genuine friendships based on common ground, trust, respect, comfort level, time spent together, communication, values, intentions and interests. And that’s a rare thing for me. And I’m sure for most of us too. Not everyone is compatible nor can be friends either.

SLM comics, blogging & my art is how I learn and express myself because I don’t want to ramble people’s ears off about what I’m struggling with or am interested in. It’s a valid fear I have, since it’s happened before ;P It’s my outlet to put it out there, then I move on and forget about it until the next time it comes up again. It’s my internal dialogue for a reason. I’m not expecting responses, interaction or anything but it’s sweet and heart warming when I do!!

In person I would rather be quiet, save energy and listen to others. Hey I might break out of my comfort zone when I feel like it haha


Thanks to my personal comics, a few people attempted to mind read my internal dialogue and assumed things about me with varying results. 

As an artist (content creator?!) it’s also weird when people know a lot about you but you know nothing about them. It’s flattering but also feels super uneven with social dynamics, puts me on the defensive and sometimes very creeped out and uncomfortable. Especially how people assume and know things about my personality and my actions. I’d need some personal space especially when I know little about them in turn.

Genuine connection takes time, personal space, whether I’m feeling mutually interested and in turn I need to organically learn more about you too. I don’t necessarily want to be overwhelmed with your personal background and stories right at the beginning after all! That’s too intense with social dynamics, almost leaning towards emotional manipulation and I’d feel like I’m pressured, manipulated, obliged to give you what you want :<

What I cannot stand is if people explicitly lie and pretend they don’t know me or read my comics, in order to get close or befriend me or whatever possible intentions they may have. I value honesty highly and I don’t want to find out afterwards that you know a lot about me already through my comics and posts but you’re misleading me otherwise. Ultra creepy, insincere and I cannot trust you anymore. Not the kind of connection or friendship I’d want to have. I’m glad it hasn’t happened yet as I don’t really have a large audience and kind people are usually upfront with me even though most ghost me and don’t really interact and/or read the posts themselves. ;P

Hey I’m already second guessing on whether people in general even read my comics! I usually assume people don’t [aforementioned ghosting and lurking that I’m super sensitive to] and so in person I talk about things I might have already covered in my comics or my rambly blog posts. I don’t want to bore people if they know already. I do get carried away rambling~! 🙁

Digressing. As long as it’s not creepy, disrespectful, weird, manipulative, demanding, hurtful, abusive, toxic, malicious and invasive, I won’t worry ;P I have no control over that! It’s cool!

Sometimes people do understand me better thanks to my comics and I’m humbled by it. Thank you. <3


As a consumer of media from internet people myself…

I usually have no desire to meet or invest too much money or time into online personalities of creatives, YouTubers, streamers, artists, experts, podcasters, entertainers, musicians, public figures, actors, game developers, writers, influential figures and even teachers unless I really want to support them – at a respectable, emotional distance.
I don’t really want to pressure and impose on anyone to do what they don’t really want to do. I don’t really have heroes of my own I can actually name. I don’t want to put anybody on a pedestal because we’re all people. It’s all mixed up and not really on the forefront of my mind so I can’t really recall individual people and sources on the spot. There’s countless inspiring people and I hope they keep doing what they do though! <3

I enjoy videos, streams and podcasts because it’s a brief imaginary friend session or I’m learning things about people, their experiences or about games. And then I move on. I enjoy, respect and appreciate what they do and their work. They’ve given me their service, time, work and entertainment. Perhaps some loose semblance of a community and connection in that moment. I might respond with a comment to appreciate them, spam some emotes in Twitch chat, do one-off fanart or donate a bit to support them but that’s it. Personally I’ve moved onto more relaxed personalities and I can’t catch most things live so I’d rather watch recorded streams for games and art I don’t want to miss nowadays. Sometimes I lurk around during live streams and try youtubers/streamers if I’m interested in a given game or topic.

Nowadays I usually don’t follow their social media accounts because all I care about is their content and where they post it. I’d rather not know too much about their personal lives or get too emotionally attached to someone who doesn’t care or know I exist as an individual. I tend to do that to a degree. That’s out of my comfort zone, incredibly one way as a connection and potentially unhealthy for me. There’s a difference between being a dedicated, intense fan and being someone who watches for the content + how the personality/persona adds their own flavour into their work and content.

Many seek comfort, get emotionally attached and invest into a fictional, public version of somebody, virtual companion, inanimate object or someone in fiction. Especially to get through tough times as a way of escapism and/or during childhood. Most are self aware, learn to respect boundaries and have fun with it as fans. I think that’s the appeal that comes with games like Animal Crossing especially and some RPGs and story based games because players develop friendships and emotional bonds with characters in-game. And I have no problems with that, as long as it’s in a healthy, moderate and not harmful way! Increasingly more voices are heard and people are more accessible now over the internet, building many kinds of connections through huge and/or niche communities. The internet is a mixed bag. Again, I agree with Shannon and Lindsay that parasocial bonds aren’t evil and have been around for a long time.


I do feel weirded out sometimes. 

As I don’t really know them. It kind of creeps me out when people care in extreme lengths for someone without knowing them as a person, in person in the first place. To win their approval. To know about their personal life constantly. To fully align with their opinions. To believe that there’s some mutual emotional relationship with the person behind the persona. To live their life revolving around them.
On the other hand lots of content creators are monetising their parasocial relationships with their fans.
For some it is the business of online friendship/connection or even pushing dangerously beyond that.

It can get out of hand, scary, manipulative, creepy, unhealthy and exploitative when the branding, business, networking, sponsorships/selling products and marketing pushes the illusion of genuine, intimate, empathetic, emotional connection and relationship to unethical extremes. Is it an online cult? Are patrons/subscribers expecting/hoping for a romantic/sexual connection?

Plus when fans cross boundaries, disrespecting privacy and engaging in scary, invasive, sexual, personal, intense, one sided interactions and harmful/obsessive/malicious behaviour with the real person behind the persona. Or even together/against the fan community.

Or when the public persona cracks because there’s no personal space and privacy to take care of their mental health, loved ones and identity. Consequently the public figure lashes out of their perfectly curated, professional image and reputation and goes to extreme lengths to break out of it (I’m not rewriting too much of this dated post but reading this now I don’t know what I meant back then! Apologies!)

Or when the real person behind the persona starts taking advantage and abuse their fans’ affection, admiration and their social power over them in predatory, abusive, sexual, manipulative, dodgy, dangerous, traumatic ways. [I’m tired and disappointed that there’s been so many outed internet famous people over the years since I last wrote this post].

It saddens me and makes me more self aware as an artist when people talk about their depression, struggles with privacy, boundaries, health, stress, constantly making content and striving for accolades and numbers like a hamster forever running in their wheel and completely losing their sense of identity, privacy, personal space, friendships and other joys in life. How their needs for freedom, fun, self care, experimentation, hobbies and personal expression are not nurtured and pushed aside for the sake of growing their career on social media and the internet.

We need personal space away from performing, entertaining, engaging and putting out content and even posting about our personal lives in front of an audience. Why do you need to be in front of an online audience in the first place? How much are you sharing? Where we draw the line is up to us. I’m glad and are relieved for them when they (and ourselves) invest in therapy, get emotional support from trusted friends and take care of their mental health and adjust/establish boundaries.

Probably that’s another reason why I’ve stopped being so active on social media. It was too exhausting to be an “always present” persona and interact with people in fear that they lose interest. Living in fear that I’ll “lose” followers (and admittedly I still feel this way whenever I use social media). Those dopamine notifications are so addictive too!

Anyhoo I don’t want to perform and connect with people constantly that way and get too caught up within the social validation cycle. I’m very much the “post something and hide away for a while” and I only check replies remember? ;D I need small amounts of social media and lots of personal space to balance it out! It’s at the point that it’s mostly a few likes now but it makes me cherish people who take the time to respond much more (:

So I rarely actively engage as part of a passionate fanbase or community…because I don’t want to fall into it and I don’t want to care *too* deeply about an appealing, unattainable, curated persona if I can help it. I care enough to enjoy the content itself. At times I get emotionally moved and helped by it too. But as far as I know, I don’t exist as an individual to them ;P

If I realise that I’m overstepping boundaries, that it’s one sided after all and I am starting to put someone on a pedestal, I’ll keep away and learn to be better.

If I’m crushing on somebody, I keep it private, keep it friendly and keep away out of fear of getting hurt – especially once I notice distancing happening on their end and how one sided it is.

Or if I want to be friends but they don’t feel the same. I’m afraid of being too direct, intense or assuming too much of the other person. I tend to do that sometimes because of my lack of social interaction, autism and in the moment self awareness so I keep to myself. I’d rather spend my emotional energy on people on a mutual level…and even that is tricky to discern. Sometimes I get anxious and fall into selfish self preservation mode, shutdown or freeze up when things don’t go to plan or someone I didn’t expect talks to me.

Gosh this is complex, fickle and messy and beyond what I am able to articulate. Please seek more perspectives; I’m only just a homebody person!! :’)

Speaker BurpDoodles and Online Industry connections

Hey I’ve learned better to manage parasocial connections especially when I do Speaker BurpDoodles nowadays. The public connections I make with industry people over social media are usually a one way connection because they don’t know me but I know more about them [especially if they’re a Speaker].

Or the other way around, since I was a speaker last year. It’s not really friendship but probably online acquaintance level at best? I think I kept things friendly and professional whilst I forgot names…I don’t know everyone’s twitter handle or full name. On super rare occasions, social media connections develop and become mutual wonderful friendship! All complex, amazing and confusing!

I’ve learned to curate who I follow better in recent times at least! For people I am comfortable with, know and for people who inspire me in their posts. During rare moments I do follow back. There’s peeps from way back who I follow out of courtesy and obligation but I’m keeping that minimal ;P

Also there are many peeps who are inspiring, would like to know better and I’m pleasantly surprised, humbled and honoured if they happen to follow me but I’m not interested in their social media posts. And Facebook is the platform I use the least, if at all ? Outside of Facebook I don’t know what to do… I would like to get to know them better as people but I don’t want to develop an overwhelming social media feed I’m not interested in again. And people don’t really want to connect through Facebook while I use it to remember who I’ve met and events haha (note this is an old post; I deleted Facebook since Jan 2021)

It bums me out 🙁
I guess we’re not friends anyway…being “friends” on social media without any genuine interaction and connection doesn’t have much value to me.
Yes, I know generally we don’t have to be social media friends to be friends but it’s so hard when we’re usually sooo lazy and not interested to do real life catch ups!! Aaah! You could even say passive online connections aren’t really substantial connections ;P


As you know, I do Speaker Burpdoodles to cope with the in-person networking side [because industry things are overwhelming] by doing something I enjoy: drawing people! And talk about what I learned from them.

I have before but I usually don’t go out of my way to talk to Speakers in person. I don’t often have anything to say at all…especially if I don’t know them beyond their talk! It would be great but I’m not “hustling” to be their friend…I’m drawing for me and to practice firstmost! And then share and credit them about what I’ve learned 😀

When I finally post them online, they either say something lovely in gratitude [which I deeply appreciate that they even saw it at all] or they don’t care. And it usually doesn’t go further than that. It’s all good. Ultimately I get to draw, learn and not worry about socialising! (: It hasn’t happened yet but I’ll happily and discreetly take the post down if a Speaker is not comfortable with their portrait and is respectful in letting me know about it.

Note I don’t draw Speakers nowadays because I don’t enjoy it anymore, feel like I’m being used and that I’m doing work for free :’)

Parasocial Relationships and Me

Generally I don’t put too much of my emotional energy into online personalities as if they are my friends. They’re people I don’t really know. I just know their persona.
But I am fully aware that I’m using podcasts, let’s plays, videos and streams for the feeling of having company while I do art. Instead of going out of my way to meet more people and make real life connections, I spend a lot of my time doing art in solitude. I enjoy my very narrow interests and conserve my energy by listening/watching people doing their thing. At the same time, I do my own thing with art or by relaxing.
I knew and was aware of this before watching these video essays. That I’m using these one way connection entertainment sources to deal with my low energy levels, to learn from others, get some company of pretend friends and not worry about my loneliness. Learning! Towards awareness, growth and acceptance. Hello loneliness, my friend.
Aye, Leonie! I need to keep cherishing my few good friends in real life too!
It’s not a super habit for me but even I agree that some degree of human connection and interaction outside of the internet is super valuable and important. <3
Still parasocial relationships are probably the norm now.
I can’t imagine how this will evolve in the future as technology advances!

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