Imaginary Friends | Parasocial Relationships


Easily one of my favorite fictional books
is Paper Towns by John Green. I read it at a pivotal moment in my life and
it really opened my eyes to the fact that we’re not just characters in each other’s
stories. We all like to think of ourselves as the protagonist. But everyone else isn’t just an extra in
our story, they also think they’re the protagonist in their own story and they have their own
motivations for doing things. And even though deep down we know that, we
still like to attribute their motivations to us. They’re doing that just to spite me, they’re
wearing that because they know I like that color. No, in fact they probably weren’t thinking
about you at all. This sounds intuitive, but it took that book
for me to realize I had been doing that for most of my life. You guys aren’t here for me… well okay
you’re here for this video r- you guys don’t exist just for… can we just roll the new
intro please? Leading up to your teenage years, you developed
egocentrism. It’s a normal part of adolescence, if you
remember your Piaget, it occurs during the formal operation stage, when you finally develop
abstract thinking. You typically grow out of it, but some people
hold onto it well into adulthood. During that time, you think you’re the center
of the universe and that all of your novel, abstract thoughts are unique, you’re the
first person to ever think them. You haven’t quite developed your theory
of mind yet either. Meaning that you don’t have the ability
to figure out what other people are thinking or the concept that other people have their
own motivations, everything is still about you. And everyone else is also thinking that exact
same thing. But during this stage of development, you
likely had what is called a Personal Fable, a story you told yourself about how special
and unique you are. It can range from rather mild to laughably
supernatural. Maybe you’re a pop star who hasn’t been
discovered yet or a scientist who hasn’t reached their potential, nobody is taking
you seriously yet, but you’re destined for great things. Or, maybe, you’re Peter Parker or some other
superhero with special powers, but during the day you’re just a normal high school
student, nobody knows your secret. This is different from a delusion, because
deep down you know it’s not true, but you allow yourself to indulge in the fantasy – at
least in your own head. If you were ever asked by a therapist or even
a friend, you’d of course deny it. But the very next day while you’re walking
through the halls at school, you’ll be thinking about how one day you’re going to save the
world… and nobody knows it yet. While it may be a little embarrassing, it’s
a completely normal part of development. The stories vary by gender and culture, but
there are three subtypes of or aspects to Personal Fables. They all blend into each other, you likely
had elements of all three mixed in. The first subtype is omnipotence, since everything
you’re currently learning and experiencing is new to you, and you’re still incapable
of thinking of others complexly, you think you’re the first and only person to know
that thing. And really, what teenager doesn’t think
they’re the smartest person in the world or at least, smarter than their parents. Next is invulnerability, again this isn’t
a delusion, deep down you know that bullets can hurt you. But you can totally do a backflip off that
roof. It’s thought that this aspect of the Personal
Fable feeds into the risk-taking behavior that is so often seen in teenagers, especially
boys. You kind of have to take risks to learn your
own capabilities and limitations. And lastly, uniqueness, what teenager doesn’t
think that they’re special, and they’re the only one who likes Britney Spears as much
as they do, or Star Wars or Harry Potter or whatever the kids are into these days. And when they’re sad, nobody has ever been
this sad before – this is the most devastating thing ever and you just wouldn’t understand! We do understand, we’ve all been a teenager
before and, outside of a few extreme circumstances, we’ve all experienced loss and sadness. That said, this is your first time experiencing
it, so of course it feels unique to you. But because you feel omnipotent and invulnerable
and unique, you are the hero of your own story, so naturally, everyone else is watching you. Again, this isn’t a delusion, you know they
aren’t really… but they might be. This is called the Imaginary Audience, when
you somewhat believe that you are the center of attention and that everyone is listening
to every word you’re saying, cares about what you’re wearing, and can totally tell
that you’re sweating just a little too much. This isn’t true, and you’ve probably heard
this before – but every single person is thinking the exact same thing. Like Personal Fables, Imaginary Audiences
are a normal part of adolescent development. Having an Imaginary Audience helps you construct
your social image and helps you maintain cultural and societal norms. Thinking that people are watching you helps
you fit in. Now obviously, your friends or people you’re
talking to are realistically watching you, but everyone in school or people at the park? No… and deep down you know that. But if you legitimately think they are, you’re
suffering from a delusion. There are some people who legitimately believe
they are the star of a reality show, they are being watched, and everyone around them
are just actors or extras. You probably know this as the Truman Show
Delusion or simply the Truman Syndrome. It went by a number of different names like
Persecutory or Grandiose Delusions, but the reality show aspect makes it unique, because
it didn’t really exist until the movie came out in 1998. It’s almost like they took what they saw
on TV, incorporated it into their Personal Fable and Imaginary Audience, and turned it
into a delusion. If you haven’t seen the movie, Truman has
had his entire life, since birth, broadcast to the entire world as a 24/7 reality show. You get that from the trailer, it really isn’t
a spoiler. But several times during the movie, we get
to see the perspective of audience members around the world. People who know every intimate detail about
Truman’s life, they basically think of him like a friend or family member, and yet Truman
has no idea who they are… in fact he doesn’t even know they exist. This is called a Parasocial Relationship. This is when you have a somewhat meaningful
connection to a celebrity, sports team, fictional character, or social media personality, that
isn’t reciprocal. It’s one-sided, you’re the only one who
is really aware of that relationship. You might remember when they used to dye their
hair or what their pet’s name was, maybe you like the same movies as them and you follow
them on social media… maybe one day you make a video about BIRGing where you talk
about them at length. Ha! You thought I was talking about me and you,
didn’t you? But while we’re on the topic of me and you,
there’s actually quite a lot of you now… I can’t even picture that many people in
my head. That’s more than the entire population of
Iceland. And it was just sort of an abstract number
on my screen until I started getting messages from you and even starting meeting a few of
you at conventions. The first person to come up to me was wearing
a light up tie, I’m sorry I don’t remember your name, but I’ll never forget the tie. So now you guys aren’t just a number, you’re
real to me. So now that I’ve been on both sides of parasocial
relationships, I thought I might offer a different perspective. Let me start by saying there’s nothing inherently
wrong with parasocial relationships. I still have parasocial relationships with
youtubers I haven’t met – and even some that I have – it’s completely normal these
days. But you do have to keep a few things in mind. While you may have been watching someone for
months or even years, when you walk up to them and say hello, that’s the start of
the interaction in their mind. You’ve known who they are forever, they
just met you. So if you start asking about intimate details
of their lives that they haven’t personally brought up yet, it can be a little disorienting. They’ll probably realize that you heard
it in a video, but still. If you’ve ever been working somewhere and
a customer comes up to you and calls you by your first name, and you’re like “how
did you know my name? Oh it’s on my name tag…” It’s kind of like that. Similarly, you may have just watched that
video the other day and want to ask them about it, but for them, they filmed that years ago. So there’s a bit of a time distortion and
information imbalance in the relationship. They’re also not your lawyer, or accountant,
or therapist, and while you may think of them as a friend you’ve had forever, they just
met you. So if you start asking them for life advice,
you might come off a bit strong from their perspective. Think of your first date, if you unload all
of your problems right out of the gate, you’re going to scare them off. And that’s the natural issue with parasocial
relationships, it’s been one-sided up until this moment. Now, I enjoy reading all of your messages
and comments and tweets, I may not be able to respond to them all, but I still enjoy
my side of the parasocial relationship. I can’t help you with all of your problems
though, I have plenty of my own to deal with. And I’m more than happy to meet you and
have a chat – at the appropriate time and place. Speaking of, I’ll be at Vidcon London and
Vidcon US this year. But I’m not a vlogger, I don’t invite
you into my home… okay well… this is my actual living room, this isn’t a set or
anything. In fact, I basically sit right in this spot
whenever I’m playing Fallout 76, or Red Dead, or Smash… or whatever the kids are
playing these days. The point is, I have boundaries. I don’t tell you about my day or invite
you into my daily life, I’m an education channel, and almost all of you seem to respect
that, which is great… I don’t want or need any stalkers. Stalking is what happens when a parasocial
relationship goes wrong, but what if your Imaginary Audience has malicious intent? You end up with another delusion known as
Gang Stalking. Gang Stalking is when you feel your neighbors,
coworkers, and even random people on the street, are all secretly watching you and even trying
to kill you or destroy your credibility. There are no documented cases of that actually
happening, it’s basically just in movies. Gang Stalking is specifically the delusion
that it’s happening and studies done on self-identified “targeted individuals”
have shown them all to be delusional. Unless the psychologists were also in on it,
I guess. In her book, How to Deal with and Defeat Gang
Stalkers, the author lists several ways to tell if you’re being gang stalked. Pay attention and see if any of these apply
to you. You notice that your things are not in the
same place you left them. Neighbors making extra noise, seemingly on
purpose. Frequent appliance or electronic malfunctions. Airplanes flying over the place you stay at
timed intervals. People turn on their headlights everywhere
you go, especially parking lots. Frequent car repairs. Staged car accidents along frequently traveled
routes. Hopefully you can see why this is typically
classified as a bit of a narcissistic delusion, there are fairly rational explanations for
all of those events. And I’m willing to bet most of you have
experienced these regularly, but don’t think anyone is out to get you. But there is a section that a lot of rational
people do buy into. The sense that you are being watched and followed
everywhere you go. People around you pay attention and listen
to everything you do and say. You have a sense that there is no privacy
in anything you do. You feel that those around you have access
to your communications. You’ve probably seen videos of people testing
out whether Google or Facebook are listening to you to serve you ads based on what you’ve
been saying in random conversations. They aren’t, there’s a rational explanation
for that too. It’s called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon,
when you start paying attention to a thing, and then start seeing it everywhere – whether
it’s ads for cat food or even something like the Wilhelm Scream. It’s always been there, you’re just looking
for it now. She wrote this book because she claims to
be a victim of Gang Stalking, and she specifically says it’s very unlikely that the CIA or
FBI is wasting resources to stalk you. So who was gang stalking her? Google? Facebook? Who would spend the time and effort to hack
into her computer and delete the first drafts of this book? The Milwaukee School of Engineering… with
a student population of 2600… I’m not kidding. In fact, it’s quite likely that if she ever
sees this video, she’ll think that I was paid by the Milwaukee School of Engineering… I wasn’t. This video was brought to you by CuriosityStream. A subscription streaming service that offers
over 2000 documentaries and nonfiction titles from some of the world’s best filmmakers
that you can access across multiple platforms. I recommend starting with the series Digits,
hosted by fellow youtuber Veritasium, about how the internet does surveil you. The internet is a medium that watches you
while you watch it. And how the internet has shaped our social
interactions. We’re beginning to interact with the internet
as if it is the only other social being we have in our lives. You can get access to their entire library
for as little as 2.99 a month, but if you head over to curiositystream.com/knowingbetter
and use the promo code knowingbetter, you get your first month completely free, you’ll
also be supporting the channel when you do. As he eluded to, the internet is an amazing
tool, but it has also amplified some of the less healthy aspects of our psychology. Back in the day, if you thought people were
watching you, that’s basically where it ended. But now, you can get online and find entire
communities of people who also think they’re the victims of some grand conspiracy, which
only fuels the delusion. And thanks to social media, our Imaginary
Audiences aren’t necessarily imaginary anymore and it’s completely changed our relationship
to celebrities. A parasocial relationship feels as real to
you as any of your IRL friendships, you get the same rush when a celebrity you follow
actually responds to you. And if they block you or delete their Twitter,
you go through a Parasocial Breakup, which is just as emotionally devastating as a real
one. So maybe take a step back and reevaluate your
relationship with the internet before you go looking up someone’s wikifeet page, because
now, you know better. Hey look, new outro card! I’d like to give a shout out to my newest
legendary patron Alexander, if you’d like to add your name to this list of parasocial
relationships, had on over to patreon.com/knowingbetter. Don’t forget to gang stalk me by clicking
that subscribe button, following me on Twitter and Facebook, and join us on the subreddit.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. Another sign of gang stalking that I didn't read out…
    You start recording some audio for your friend's YouTube video and then both of your neighbours decide to start mowing their lawn 👀

  2. I don't belive you to be a real person since you said "play fallout 76" no one can play that game, it is impossible.

  3. wtf are you talking about with the personal fable shit. I have never experienced any of that. takes off glasses and looks down at superman logo on chest

  4. I’m a junior in high school and I’ve never experienced a personal fable before, I didn’t even know it was a thing until now.

  5. Oh, good, it's normal that I believe I'm a god banned to be reborn as human until I can finally ascend back into godhood and bring war into their world to finally open the world up to true freedom!

    Yea I basically ripped some of the Ideas from one of the popular images of Lucifer… Damned from the plane of god with only one goal, to topple god and deliver true freedom to all of gods servants.
    I… No… I'm not a modern Satanist ._.

  6. So he talks about "omnipotent" and describes it as, "You think you are the first and only person to know that thing." What is the relationship to the word "omniscience"?

  7. its different for me…i just made a little story about a character BASED on me…i attribute it to myself and yet i dont.

  8. 7:25 back in October 2018, I got to experience my first FFA national convention for a day. In my school, people competing get to stay for the whole week, but we are close enough to convention that everyone gets to go for a day. The whole thing was in official dress. Dress shoes/heals (or flats), black slacks/skirts, black socks, white button up shirt/ blouse, FFA tie/scarf, and the famous blue jacket with your name, state, state, chapter, pins, and FFA emblem on it. On the way back we stopped at a McDonalds. They had my name on my receipt without me telling them, and I was confused until I remembered my name was on my jacket.

  9. i had a parasocial relationship for years with someone who is now a close friend! they were an artist i looked up to, and we started actually interacting in 2014, a few years after i'd been following them. i was 17 at the time and surprisingly i managed the transition pretty well, i had to work hard to remember that they're a normal person and not to put them on a pedestal. i had burning questions about past events in their life that i had to hold back. it took a while but eventually i became normal about the whole thing. they're a great friend!

  10. I thought i would be the new Jesus and that i had to prepare to become the Messiah. 😅
    My family is atheists by the way…

  11. That's a really good way of putting it. "You may know a lot about them, having followed them for a long time – but they've just met you."

  12. As a teenager watching this, I've never experienced any of these things. I guess I'm just the smartest and most wise person ever. 🤷‍♂️

  13. There was a piece of paper stapled on a telephone pole near my neighborhood that said 🚫 NO GANGSTALKING 🚫.

  14. Actually I have many existential crises about only being a very small part and that each people have their own lives that are completely different from mine but they might think they’re stuck in a boring routine.

  15. I just love how everyone is expected to know what Iceland is these days. It wasn't that way in the 90's. Greetings from Iceland! (And yes, you have way more subscribers than we have people.)

  16. FINE. I'll try out this damned CuriosityStream if it gets Google to stop gangstalking me. I'm not getting Grammarly, though.

  17. Facebook ang google – whild not going after anyone in particular – is collecting data en masse, just watch the DEFCON 21 "stalking a city for fun and frivolity", to see what can be fone without resources.
    Saying that google & facebook don't collect data, is denyinbvthd existrncd of events like the cambridge analytica scandal

  18. I am 13 and have thought about an idea how every thought has already been thunked and even this thought just not established, so I guess I skipped parts of this, although not all of it as I believe that I’m super smart(this could be attributed to many of my friends saying I’m smart as they believe I am smarter than them) so good video

  19. Is it bad that I feel I haven’t completely grown up from egocentrism despite being 21? Because at the start of the video I think about how I kinda still relate to doing what he mentioned… then I remember I’m legally an adult.

  20. It's fair to note that you can rationally recognize a delusion and still be unable to shake the existential sensation (regardless your internet usage)

  21. What about the delusion that an all powerful entity is watching them at every moment dictating every aspect of their reality?

  22. When you/the book mentioned planes, I heard a very loud plane fly over my house

  23. That was the smoothest sponsorship transition I've ever seen hot damn. Like, that beats out some of TierZoo's. Bravo.

  24. This has been rather helpful, as a teen who is still learning things in the world it seems like certain historical events, words, and such just pop into existance after hearing about it once.

  25. I used to do parkour when I was in high school, so the whole invulnerability feeling was something I felt.

  26. 12:31 – Somewhat ironic that finding other people who believe they are the target of a conspiracy fuels the delusion that they are also being watched… What government agency / evil corporation has the resources for a grand conspiracy targeting more than one person…?

  27. I didn't think I was being stalked before watching this video. Now I do. YOU ARE IN ON IT, AREN'T YOU!!! Just trying to convince me I'd be delusional to believe this.

  28. Yes! Thanks very much for this video, I really wanted you to make a video on parasocial relationships and you did! That just goes to show, you and me are on the same wavelength, or you must've listened to my ideas. That's why we get along so well 🙂
    (In case someone didn't get that the irony here was intentional, it was, pls don't go off at me)

  29. Like in the SNL skit where William Shatner tells a roomfull of basement dwelling trekkies to "get a life!"
    Which, more or less made him famous ON TOP of Trek, itself.

  30. What’s really difficult is living with a sense of superiority.
    You know deep down that you’re not some blessing to the world, but you can’t help but feel like you are in certain cases.
    It makes you second guess what you actually are doing better than someone too.

  31. Funny you mention algorithms and advertising. I avoided this channel for months because it was flooding my recommendation list after watching Today I Found Out videos. I figured you were an asshole who figured out how to manipulate the tagging system so i avoided you. I'm glad I gave you a chance.

  32. I wonder what happens when someone that suffers from gang stalking get caught in a show of Michael Carbonaro. You know the hidden magic TV show..

  33. I was a rather intelligent kid, comparatively speaking. Mostly raised in a Single Mom household. Moved a lot as a kid, always displaced.

    I read a lot, and was doing Encyclopedia Britannica for fun. I was perceptive as well. My mom enjoyed going to Psychics, when you'd actually drive to a place instead of a 900 Number, and I was able to pick up on the schemes they would employ. For her it was entertainment though, so when I'd debunk them she'd tell me she knew, but that it was still fun for her.

    But sometimes I'd be aware of something and not know how. At a Museum in Tennessee I noticed the name of a Dinosaur was wrong. They argued with me a bit, more wanting to just get the tour over with, but I stood my ground. Another time a friend of my mom called (this was back in the early 90's), and I asked why she was calling when her house was on fire. Turns out her Dryer in the basement had caught fire, and she didn't know yet. Now maybe I had read some where on the Dinosaur, but the only way I could explain knowing about the house on fire was "Binky", my 'imaginary friend'.

    "Binky" was… get this craziness… a Cave Man that lived with the Dinosaurs. Now, I knew all about Dinosaurs… likely how I knew they had the wrong nameplate at the Museum… and I knew Man and Dino didn't co-exist. But somehow, here I was, with a Cave Man from Dino Times giving me information I otherwise shouldn't have known. Now sure, reading an obscure name in the Encyclopedia explains the Dino Name, and being perceptive explains catching faux Fortune Tellers when I was very young… but I still can't explain how I figured out the house was on fire, other than 'Binky told me'.

    A lot of what I did, though I didn't realize it, was a bit of Deduction as Sherlock would put it, or Mentalism as Patrick James would call it. Picking up on cues, following logical conclusions. But sometimes I would pull random, but highly accurate, things out of thin air… things 'Binky' would tell me. Now maybe I was seeing something more and not realizing it, and Binky was just my way of explaining how I knew something I didn't know to myself… I actually did know it, I just wasn't aware how I had figured it out. Sure, could explain it.

    But that was MY "Imaginary Friend". It wasn't playing fake catch, or playing both sides of a board game. Not sure how normal/abnormal it is, but I found out you go telling Adults that a Cave Man that lived with Dinos is feeding you information, you get to meet a lot of Specialists in certain fields for awhile after.

  34. Um, but there actually is an a social program that it's primary purpose is literally to gangstalk people. It's called neighborhood watch. Their entire is centered around pursueding neighbors to spy on one another and to marginalize and oust undesirables from neighborhoods. And none of this is even close to being a secret. The secondary purpose of neighborhood watch is to instill the belief that you're being watched. They even place signs in residential areas to remind everyone that someone is watching. No. It's not in our heads. But this whole thing has spawned plenty of paranoid delusions. The truth of the matter is that there is an organization behind neighborhood watch that has nefarious intentions. It's called Evangelicalism. These people litterally want everyone who isn't them eliminated from society. And they most definitely take an active approach in eliminating undesirables. Oh, and couple that with our private for profit prisons, yes, people have an interest in stalking your life. They need evidence to build a case against you. The human trafficking in America also plays a huge role in all this.

  35. I like to think that to most beautiful thing will never be captured. The first sound has never been recorded. There’s someone somewhere in the world thinking/feeling the same stuff as me. My best friend is out there and I may or may not ever meet them but they do exist.
    I can’t tell if these thoughts are happy or sad but I enjoy them either way💚

  36. Its true….
    When others comment on your comment its not so big.
    When the channelowner comment you feel… Wow…. He/She liked what I said…. Cool!
    One time a Youtuber used my comment in a video as a topic and "food for thoughts"….
    I was like…..
    "Damn Im on Youtube!!!"

  37. My name being Alexander, I thought it was funny when I watched this whole video about this phenomenon, and then at the end, he says his latest patron is Alexander. Hehe, talk about irony. I'm not being watched, right? Right? Right?!

  38. Filming all your videos from your bed makes you come off as a lonely rant. Get a soap box to stand on at least

  39. Had to dislike. “You did this though that and wanted this” actually almost all those were false for me. This is why I hate psychology. It takes the majority as the rule and slightly changes over time to appear right. (It’s current state, not it in total.)

  40. I think people who have left the Scientology movement might disagree with you on the whole "gang stalking" thing.

  41. I make up my own personal fables as a high schooler but I've never thought about it in the way you described. I just think of my world in a comic book fantasy I yearn or wish was real.

  42. Facebook is most fucking certainly stalking what I say. There is literally no other explanation for why I was getting ads for things that I commonly buy/look up: plants, yo-yo shit, and ukulele shit. Then I rant at work and I suddenly get ads for finding a new job.

  43. Excellent videos. Give it about 50 years, and the adolescent learns the NO ONE is watching, NO ONE cares. All external reinforcement is effectively meaningless. Actually, you, and only you, are responsible for the meaning of your life.

  44. I just wanted to say the fact you have come so far and that you’re a vet is amazing. I’m so glad I found your channel. Bravo and you definitely belong here. ❤️👏

  45. I'm a teenager and the first half or so of this was just wow. A video has never made more sense. My personal fable is that i'm going to become a the best rock climber the world has ever seen and everyone is going to being amazed by my abilities. I know that isn't going to happen but a lot of people in my area make a decent living off of being a mountaineering/climbing guide, teacher or coach. So I believe that following this could lead to a decent income, or at least that's what I tell myself. Btw is it weird that a do and say things that no one's gonna see just in case someone is actually watching me? I mean jeez, I'm probably typing this for my imaginary audience. Why am I typing this, I'm gonna stop now.

  46. Honestly sometimes I feel like people I don't like can somehow hear me when I talk shit about them but then I remember they're too lazy and stupid to actually bug my apartment or whatever.. * Still covers all my camera's with tape and avoids doing embarrassing things in front of electronics that could be bugged *
    * Dismissive laugh * I'm not paranoid!

  47. 11:55 I used to live in Lima, and I really was convinced that it was one only social bean in my life. Now the internet is one too?

  48. I have this same issue that I built my own invisible audience, even though I know flat out that it isn't real. I'm not burying it, and I wholly accept it, but that feeling just doesn't go away.

  49. No… paper towns sucked. Like super super sucked. It’s a plain fact that paper towns was a bad book. As someone who has read thousands of books. I can spot a bad one a mile away.
    Paper town is shit. Fact.

  50. These developmental stages play out differently for people with autism, at least they did for me. I've always had to imagine people complexly, else I could never properly navigate any social interactions. I also never felt unique, omnipotent, or invulnerable. I did, however, feel acutely the "phantom audience" phenomenon and extreme personalization. I find that many many adults still deal with personalization issues and they should seek therapy.

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