Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Muireann O'Donohoe 

BSc [Hons] Applied Psychology

My name is Muireann O'Donohoe and I am a 22 year old final-year Applied Psychology student in IADT. During my course I developed a huge interested in abnormal psychology and neuropsychology. My main area of interest is in treatment of severe mental disorders. My goals after graduating from Applied Psychology are to hopefully complete a Master's degree in Psychotherapy using the skills learned during the course, with the aim to help those suffering with mental disorders.

Project Description

This research project aimed to explore parasocial relationships (PSRs) and toxic fandom. Parasocial relationships are one-sided and illusionary relationships between a media personae and a media user that develop from repeated exposure. The K-Pop fandom was chosen to represent a toxic fandom due to extensive and repeated reports of the problematic behaviour displayed by fans. Reddit threads were analysed to explore the dynamic between toxic fandom behaviour and parasocial relationships.

Project Objectives

The objectives of this project were to explore the complex and layered dynamic between toxic fandom behaviour and parasocial relationships, with the K-Pop fandom being the chosen one to study.

Project Outcomes

Braun and Clarke's (2006) six-step thematic analysis process was applied to analyse the content. Five key themes emerged from the data collected: (1) Unhealthy Fandom Environment; (2) Encouragement of PSR from K-POP Idol Management; (3) PSRs Role in Toxic Behaviour; and (4) Fans Displaying Jealous and Controlling Behaviour. The themes and provided a description of the toxic behaviour exhibited within the K-POP fandom and the role of parasocial relationships in influencing said behaviour.
The primary findings arising from the study were that there is an unhealthy environment within the K-POP fandom, and that K-POP management actively encourage parasocial relationships as management monetarily benefit from fans engaging in PSRs. The method of PSR encouragement can result in a toxic fan culture. Additionally, fans can become jealous and controlling over the K-POP idols, as fans believe themselves entitled to unfiltered access to the idols’ lives.

Thesis Title

‘Love Made Me Do It’ – A Thematic Analysis of K-POP fan’s Parasocial Relationships and Toxic Behaviour on Reddit.