However, watching a YouTuber can be more satisfying than a casual time

Watching celebrities online offers positive reinforcement, even when no response is given

One-way relationships with YouTubers and other online figures, or even fictional characters, are more emotionally satisfying than talking to random friends, according to a new study.

A study by the University of Essex found that people feel that watching their favorite YouTubers can lift their mood more than casual socializing, such as spending time with acquaintances who are not close relationships, such as neighbors or coworkers.

Research shows that watching celebrities online provides positive reinforcement despite no reaction.

Dr Veronica Lamarche, from the Department of Psychology, hopes the research, published in Scientific Reports, will shed light on the role these connections, known as parasocials, play in society during the development of social media.

Lamarche said: “Parasocial relationships are an important part of our psychological toolbox when we feel that we have people who recognize our value and can support us in times of need.”

And it’s not just the very young or the very lonely, he says.

“In our research, we have people of all ages who report having a strong connection to at least one fictional character, celebrity, or person they’ve never met online,” she explains.

The context of the study

Researchers surveyed more than 1,080 people in three studies to assess how they perceive parasocial relationships.

The majority of participants (52%) said they had a strong parasocial connection, and 36% said they felt close to the YouTuber.

They surveyed people in Britain and America, with an average age of 36, and found that people believe that “one-way” friendships can fulfill the same emotional needs as traditional relationships.

These imaginary relationships with someone they’ve never met or with a fictional character were judged to be more effective in satisfying their emotional needs than simple acquaintances or other weak relationships with real people in their everyday lives.

However, strong two-way relationships, such as romantic relationships or very close friendships, were the best for satisfying emotional needs, according to participants.

“People naturally believe that intimate relationships are the best way to satisfy their emotional needs,” Lamarche said.

“However, when asked to think about an experience in which someone with whom they had a close relationship hurt their feelings, some people became even more confident that their parasocial relationship could meet their needs.”

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