Study shows social media users in SEA seek one-sided relationships to escape lockdown reality

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Do you find yourself getting more attached to your fave celebs or K-pop Oppas now more than ever? You’re not alone. Kaspersky’s recent study reveals that 61% of social media users in Southeast Asia (SEA) turn to their best-loved influencers to forget and escape their current realities.

This fixation is regarded as one-sided relationships or “parasocial relationships” and, according to the study, has been blossoming worldwide amid social distancing measures brought about by the pandemic.

Kaspersky’s study was conducted in partnership with insights agency Opinium Research, which ran a survey among 15,682 adults in 25 countries on how they use social media today and how it makes them feel close to those people they have only met online.

While the results show only 47% of global social media users believe the influencers they follow provide them with “an escape from reality,” the numbers are relatively higher in SEA.

For instance, more than three in five (61%) of the Southeast Asian respondents admitted that influencers help them to forget and to escape their realities. Globally, a tad over one in five (21%) believes they “could be friends” with influencers they follow, with SEA data two digits higher than the global average at 31%.

Despite the largely virtual nature of these relationships, more than a third (34%) of social media users have even met some of the influencers that they follow in real life, rising to 56% in SEA region. 

During successive global lockdowns, many have spent long periods at home and are turning to virtual companions to replace the lost social lives. This type of one-sided relationship has a strong pull over many.

More than seven in 10 (77%) here say that they learn from the influencers they follow in areas such as health, hobbies, style, and news. Over one in two (55%) also revealed that following famous entities online offers them a relationship they do not have with anyone else. 

Nearly half (44%) say they are “dependent” on influencer content and almost two in 10 (17%) even say they feel a sense of absence if they do not engage with influencers.

While one-sided relationships do exist, social media users in SEA also acted on getting in touch with the influencers they follow. Many have sought out direct contact most commonly via commenting on influencers’ posts (46%), reacting to their posts or stories (39%), or sending them a private message (22%) or fan-art (16%). There are also some who send them emails (15%) and even call their influencers or agents directly (12%)

Clearly, social media has been important for many people during the pandemic, with nearly six in 10 (59%) worldwide saying social media has provided a vital connection for them during the pandemic. This figure was highest among younger people aged 18-34 (71%), who rely on social media for connectivity. 

“It is understandable with the lockdowns we’ve all experienced over the past year that people will have gravitated towards online and parasocial relationships to stave off loneliness and boredom, but it’s crucial that people are aware of the consequences of oversharing online and are able to take a more balanced approach,” said David Emm, Principal security researcher at Kaspersky. 

“These one-sided relationships can often lead to oversharing on social media, as people look to develop these relationships,” he continued. “This can [also] lead to a huge range of negative and unforeseen consequences – hacking and phishing attempts, doxing and bullying, online shaming – the list goes on.” 

To learn more ways on how to enjoy social media safely, visit Kaspersky’s newly-launched SharAware Hub here.

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