Attachment Theory & Celebrities
On January 26th, 2020 the shocking news of Kobe Bryant (daughter and 7 others) dying in a helicopter crash hit many close to home. This tragedy quickly went viral and made many hurt, and morn this loss as if he was a close friend.
How do we become so attached to those who don’t actually “know?” Kobe played 20 seasons with the LA Lakers and was regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. It felt like we knew him. We took personal pride in his career and his life accomplishments.
When social media happened, Kobe became more than just a player we were able to watch on tv, or if lucky in person at a game. We are able to interact with celebrities in the same digital spaces where we have our social lives. This gives fans an unprecedented feeling of connection and a sense of friendship.
“Research suggests that, for young people, the parallels between their feelings for celebrities and their feelings for people in their own lives can play a role in developing their conception of self and their perception of relationships. A study in Human Communication Research found that 75 percent reported ‘strong attachments’ to more than one celebrity.” – PS Mag.
Why does it feel so real? Why do we think we know a celebrity through their social media? If they tweet back at us, why does that feel like a “real” conversation? Why when we see a photo of something very intimate, such as a new baby, feel like we share that connection?
Through the theory of Tie Strength by Granovetter we can see that 3 of 4 of his pillars of relationships connect us to these celebs.
- Intimacy, or sharing secrets and personal information
- Emotional intensity
- Time (which includes how long we have known someone, how often we interact, and the duration of our interactions)
When we follow someone, online or in-person we spend time and energy on them. We invest our emotions in them. We get all of the things we need from friendship, from an online presence.
This illusion of a relationship with celebrities is called “parasocial interaction.” Even if the perceived relationship is just an illusion, the feelings a fan or “follower” has around it are real.
Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space (Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969). And yes, we will and always be attached to Kobe Bryant.