My intention of this article does not revolve around picking sides or pointing blame. I strongly believe you already have your opinions, just as I have mine. However, I want to decipher why this has been constantly on our TVs, social media feeds, and in our minds.
If the previously stated statistic is true (which I believe is the case) we all likely know someone impacted by or have experienced intimate partner violence ourselves.
Secondly, we were created as social beings. We long for connection and meaning — and we can often find that in the form of celebrity status. This can be better explained by a term called social surrogates.
Social Surrogates are symbolic social connections that feed our desire for social functions. Within social surrogates there are several categories, with one that applies to this trial.
Parasocial Relationships consist of celebrities, political leaders, artists, authors or influencers that an individual forms a one sided psychological relationship with.
With our phones constantly at our finger tips, we are actively immersed in the world of celebrity which only enables our ability to form these one sided relationships with those we follow, watch, or subscribe to.
We know that these relationships are obviously not real. Research has shown that our connection to these celebrities elicit cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses that mimic the very real relationships we are often engaged in. One reason we may cling to these one sided relationships is we never have to face the possibility of rejection. It is very unlikely that I will ever meet Johnny Depp or Amber Heard, let alone form a relationship with them. Therefore, I don’t have to fear them rejecting me.
This is one of the first high-profile court cases that has been live streamed to this extreme. It’s on the news, booming on TikTok, and livestreamed on most platforms. This means there are very few who would lack access to viewing it.
For those of you who have been fans of these two long before this case, you have likely established a parasocial relationship, drawing connections to Johnny or Amber. In my opinion, your level of connectedness is only strengthened if you have a close experience of intimate partner violence or know someone who has.
So the next time you find yourself yelling the TV or googling a recap of the trial, think about why you are so invested in this case. Could it be the real and raw personal experience you have survived? Or have you established a personal connection with the celebrity on your screen?
© Jade Schnoor 2022