在他们1956年的文章“大众传播和社会互动：远距离亲密观察”中，霍顿和沃尔首次描述了社会关系和社会交往。他们在某种程度上可以互换地使用这些术语，但主要集中在他们的探索中，在观看电视节目或收听广播节目的同时，通过媒体人物进行对话，给予媒体消费者体验。这导致了一些概念混乱。虽然已经对种子社会现象进行了大量研究，特别是自20世纪70年代和80年代以来，该研究中最广泛使用的量表，Parasocial Interaction Scale，结合了关于社会交往和社会关系的问题。然而，今天，学者普遍认为这两个概念是相关但不同的。当媒体消费者感觉他们正在与媒体人物 – 名人，虚构角色，电台主持人，甚至是木偶 – 在离散的观看或收听场景中进行互动时，他们正在经历一场社会互动。例如，如果观众感觉他们在观看电视喜剧办公室时在Dunder-Mifflin办公室闲逛，他们就会进行社交互动。另一方面，如果媒体用户想象与观看或收听情况之外的媒体形象的长期联系，则将其视为社会关系。债券可以是正面的也可以是负面的。例如，如果一个人崇拜他们当地早晨节目的主持人并经常思考和讨论主持人就好像他是他们的朋友之一那样，那个人与主人有一个亲社会关系。学者们观察到，社会相互作用可以导致社会关系，而社会关系可以加强社会交往。这个过程类似于在现实生活中与一个人共度时间可以带来友谊的方式，当个人在一起度过额外的时间时，这种友谊会变得更深入，更加坚定。虽然一开始社会关系的想法可能看起来很不寻常，但重要的是要记住，对于大多数媒体消费者来说，这对于与屏幕上个人的接触是完全正常且心理健康的反应。人类通过网络建立社交联系。媒体并不是通过大多数人类进化而存在的，因此当通过视频或音频媒体向消费者呈现一个人或个人的个体时，他们的大脑就像回应现实生活中的社交情况一样。这种反应并不意味着个人认为互动是真实的。尽管媒体消费者知道这种互动是一种错觉，但他们的感知会使他们对这种情况作出反应，就像它是真实的一样。事实上，研究表明，社会关系的发展，维持和消解在许多方面与现实生活中的人际关系相似。例如，一项研究发现，当电视观众认为最喜欢的电视表演者具有吸引人的个性并且能够胜任他们的能力时，会形成一种社会关系。令人惊讶的是，发现身体吸引力对于社会关系的发展并不那么重要，导致研究人员得出结论，电视观众更愿意与电视名人建立关系，他们认为这些人具有社交吸引力并且对他们的能力具有吸引力。
In their 1956 article, “Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction: Observations on Intimacy at a distance,” Horton and Wohl described both parasocial relationships and parasocial interaction for the first time. They used the terms somewhat interchangeably, but mostly focused their exploration on the illusion of conversational give-and-take a media consumer experiences with a media figure while watching a TV show or listening to a radio program. This led to some conceptual confusion. Although a great deal of research has been done on parasocial phenomena, especially since the 1970s and 1980s, the most widely utilized scale in that research, the Parasocial Interaction Scale, combines questions about parasocial interactions and parasocial relationships. However, today, scholars generally agree the two concepts are related but different. When a media consumer feels like they are interacting with a media figure—a celebrity, fictional character, radio host, or even a puppet—during a discrete viewing or listening scenario, they are experiencing a parasocial interaction. For example, if a viewer feels like they are hanging out at the Dunder-Mifflin office while watching the TV comedy The Office, they are engaging in a parasocial interaction. On the other hand, if the media user imagines a long-term bond with a media figure that extends outside the viewing or listening situation, it is considered a parasocial relationship. The bond can be either positive or negative. For instance, if an individual adores the host of their local morning program and often thinks about and discusses the host as if he is one of their friends, that individual has a parasocial relationship with the host. Scholars have observed that parasocial interactions can lead to parasocial relationships, and parasocial relationships can strengthen parasocial interactions. This process resembles the way that spending time with a person in real-life can result in a friendship that then gets deeper and more committed when the individuals spend additional time together. Although the idea of parasocial relationships may seem unusual at first, it’s important to remember that for most media consumers, this is a perfectly normal and psychologically healthy reaction to encounters with on-screen individuals. Humans are wired to make social connections. Media did not exist through a majority of human evolution, and so when consumers are presented with a person or person-like individual via video or audio media, their brains respond as if they were engaging in a real-life social situation. This response does not mean that the individuals believe the interaction is real. Despite media consumers’ knowledge that the interaction is an illusion, however, their perception will cause them to react to the situation as if it were real. In fact, research has shown that the development, maintenance, and dissolution of a parasocial relationship is similar in many ways to real-life interpersonal relationships. For example, one study found that when television viewers perceive a favorite television performer as having an attractive personality and as being competent in their abilities, a parasocial relationship will develop. Surprisingly, physical attraction was found to be less important to the development of parasocial relationships, leading the researchers to conclude that television viewers prefer to develop relationships with television personalities they find socially attractive and who are attractive for their capabilities. Another investigation assessed the way psychological commitments to a media figure led to the maintenance of parasocial relationships. Two different studies showed that for both fictional television characters, like Homer Simpson, and non-fictional television personas, like Oprah Winfrey, people were more committed to their parasocial relationship when (1) they felt satisfied watching the figure, (2) felt committed to continue watching the figure, and (3) felt that they didn’t have good alternatives to the media figure. The researchers used a scale originally developed to assess interpersonal relationships to measure commitment to parasocial relationships, demonstrating that theories and measures of interpersonal relationships can be successfully applied to parasocial relationships.