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Title: Finding friends in fiction: fan writing, parasocial relationships and social belongingness
Authors: Arora, Twinkle
Keywords: Fan-fiction;parasocial interactions;social belonging;social presence
Issue Date: 29-Sep-2022
Abstract: Consistent with the Social Surrogacy hypothesis (Derrick, Gabriel & Hugenberg, 2009), it is possible that, like television and interactive video games, writing fan-fiction may impact social functioning by way of parasocial interactions. This study explores this phenomenon using a mixed methods approach, involving a statistical analysis of data collected through a cross-sectional survey with fan-fiction writers, and a qualitative analysis of the semi-structured interviews describing participants experiences and motivations. Participants (n = 526) were recruited using a combination of the convenience and the snowball sampling methods. Quantitative findings indicate that those who spend more time writing fan-fiction experience significantly higher levels of parasocial interactions and social belongingness. Results of the correlation analyses further indicate that both greater social presence and belongingness are associated with higher levels of parasocial interactions. Finally, it was hypothesized that parasocial interactions would have a mediating effect on time spent writing fanfiction and social belongingness, but the results were non-significant. In the qualitative phase of this study, ten individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted and analysed using a thematic analysis, following the guidelines of Braun and Clarke (2006). The findings indicate that the act of fan writing supports positive coping strategies especially during stressful situations (e.g., the current pandemic). Although the qualitative data brought attention to the various motivations for writing fan-fiction, fan writers engaged with the characters they wrote about using two main processes: parasocial interactions/relationships and identification. Participants’ interview responses confirm that favoured media characters can mimic friendships, possibly alleviating loneliness, especially when they experience rejection or social loss. Conversely, some responses indicate that identification functions to increase self-knowledge, alter beliefs/attitudes, and guide them. These findings suggest that fan writing can give individuals the opportunity to unconsciously express personal feelings and thoughts and provide a healthy outlet to release stressors, suppressed emotions, motivations and desires through fictional characters.
Appears in Collections:Human Studies and Interdisiplinarity - Doctoral Theses

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