Kent State University School of Communication Studies Professor Examines Impact of Celebrity Self-Disclosure on Twitter | Kent State University

Kent State University School of Communication Studies Professor Examines Impact of Celebrity Self-Disclosure on Twitter

Kent State University School of Communication Studies assistant professor Jihyun Kim, Ph.D. recently collaborated with Gachon University associate professor Hayeon Song, Ph.D. on a study titled “Celebrity’s self-disclosure on Twitter and parasocial relationships: A mediating role of social presence.”  

According to Kim, currently, most research focuses on the motivation behind fans following celebrities and the content of celebrities’ social media accounts; but little has been studied on the impact celebrities have on fans when they disclose information about their personal or professional lives on social media.

“Before social media, celebrities would share news indirectly through TV, newspapers or reporters,” Kim said. “But now social media platforms provide a personalized and unfiltered method of communication.”

With social media giving celebrities direct communication access to fans, the researchers wanted to examine if self-disclosure on social media – in particular Twitter – influenced fans’ parasocial relationship with celebrities. Parasocial relationships are one-sided relationships, where one person expends emotional energy and time while the other person is unaware of the other’s existence; these relationships are most common with celebrities.

The researchers conducted a survey of more than 400 college aged students who followed celebrities on Twitter to examine the impact of self-disclosure from the celebrities, the social presence or connection felt between the fan and celebrity through Twitter, interactions such as retweeting and the parasocial relationship.   

From the survey results, the research team observed that when both celebrities self-disclose information on Twitter and fans interact with the information through retweeting, fans will experience an increased feeling of social presence which, in turn, affects the parasocial relationship.

“When celebrities disclose personal or professional information, fans feel like they live in their world,” Kim said.

In addition to filling in research gaps within the field of communication studies, Kim said the study provides several takeaways for both celebrities and fans.

“Celebrities should use social media as a way to connect and should share their life to help fans feel more connected to them. If they’re not on social media, then they should find a way to increase their social presence,” Kim said.

“For a fan who really wants to feel a connection to a celebrity, they could share or retweet the celebrity’s tweets to feel a little more connected.”

Future research from Kim will examine how celebrities’ variation in the tone of messages on social media might impact the connection felt by fans as well as the mental health from fans who might experience celebrity worship syndrome.