Streamers: One-Way Mirror
It’s 2019. In The Thotful Spot in Fantasyland, a five-year-old is being encouraged to hug Tigger. Mom and dad have waited in a line for 30 minutes to meet the giant creature.
The kid is obsessed with Tigger. Meeting him was a thing they came to the park to do. They have the autograph book and everything. It’s their turn…
And they freeze up completely. Eventually, the parents push them forward and Tigger gives them a big hug. The tyke is too paralyzed to even hug back.
So what exactly happened here?
There are a few obvious things. One, the theme park Tigger is not voiced by Jim Cummings. He is not a lean, 6-foot-ish ball of energy involved in harebrained adventures. He’s a man or woman in a big suit.
But there has to be more, right?
It’s worth noting that face characters, a.k.a. non-masked ones at Disney parks, are now given children’s names before they get to the front of the line. But even a generic line (“Hey Michaela, thank you for visiting my undersea grotto. Did you get here OK?”) doesn’t change that this is a one-sided relationship.
And if you’re a streamer, you might have thousands of them.
People who watch online gaming skew younger than the average population. And in America, as around the world, people are increasingly isolated. You might be one of only a handful of people who talk to your viewers every day. It’s unavoidable, but there is a psychological impact.
In the next few articles, we will talk about the origin of parasocial relationships and how you can protect yourself and your fans.
Until then, thank you for visiting the underground grotto. Did you get here OK?
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