The Problem with Parasocial Relationships on Twitch


Sean Yang, Staff Writer

As we are still currently in a pandemic, a lot of people have turned to online entertainment as a way to keep themselves occupied while at home. One specific platform that has experienced growth during the pandemic is Twitch, a streaming platform that allows viewers to watch games and creative content broadcasted live. However, having spent so much time watching a streamer, some viewers have started to consider the streamer their friend, despite having never seen them in person before. As a result, the root of a parasocial relationship begins.

The definition of a parasocial relationship is when a viewer comes to consider a media personality as their close friend after watching or listening to them over a long period of time. With the help of the pandemic, Twitch has become a website that has created many parasocial relationships. 

When streamers interact with their viewers, they are effectively creating a community for their viewers. Viewers are pleased with this because they get to interact with the streamer, someone with whom they can identify with. After a while, the viewer will learn more and more about the streamer, as they continue to watch and may even consider them a friend while the streamer knows almost nothing about the viewer other than a screen name. There is nothing wrong with this, as Twitch has specifically designed it this way so that viewers know that they are watching some sort of show rather than interacting with a person. 

However, problems begin to occur when a viewer decides that they are involved with a streamer’s personal life just because they have supported the streamer immensely. Some people believe that when the streamer gets involved in some drama, they immediately have to defend the streamer from any criticism. This is evident in the 2019 OfflineTV situation where Albert “Sleightlymusical” Chang was found cheating on Lily “Lilypichu” Ki.

Despite Lily saying that she didn’t want any hate towards Albert, fans of the streamer immediately began to harass the other party. Fans hounded Albert to delete his channel and even sent death threats to him. To escape the harassment, Albert had to get off social media entirely and isolated himself so that fans could not identify him. It wasn’t until a year later that he would be able to return without receiving hate at any moment. 

Ultimately, viewers have to understand that streamers are people as well. Just because they give you a glimpse at their personal life does not entitle you to interfere with their lives. Viewers should not consider a streamer as part of their life if the streamer has never interacted with them before, and I don’t mean by saying their name in chat. Hopefully, fans will begin to realize that streamers are just regular people just like everyone else.


Graphic courtesy of THEVERGE.COM