We’ve discussed parasocial relationships with our favorite actors and musicians before, but how about when the same emotional attachment is applied to politicians? It was hard not to scroll through Twitter in 2019 without bumping into the famous floating photograph of a young Bernie Sanders with swooning comments to boot and just as challenging to find a middle-aged woman on Facebook who doesn’t find the Canadian prime minister at least a little bit dreamy. Or what about the emotional attachment that so many have formed to previous U.S. presidents that they are willing to turn a blind eye to any shifty revelations that may surface?
Attraction is not just about appearances, while in many cases, it may be related to the romanticization of young Western leaders on social media. But, it can also be the overall emotional attachment to one’s ideology, so much so that it’s easy to get swept away in sensationalism and turn a blind eye to any criticism that could be raised against such unwavering support.
Politicians are not eye-candy, but instead, they are employed to serve the people’s best interest and tasked with straightforwardly influencing people’s lives, making important decisions that can affect the quality of life for millions. When romanticized and put on such a pedestal, whether due to looks or because of one’s extreme emotional attachment to a politician’s ideology, a cult-following ensues and a “can-do-no-wrong” attitude follows. Whenever someone is put on a pedestal, the praise-giver is blinded to wrongdoing or set up for disappointment when their all-star fails them. When reduced to their looks, the importance of observing leadership abilities is discounted where praise is given to a romanticized version of heroism instead of the elbow grease that goes into sustaining a political career. Injustices could be committed by favorited politicians and let slide.
So, I’ve got to ask: Can you separate their face from their actions and still support what they stand for? Have you been swept up in romanticizing their leadership and mistaking it for heroism? Are you attracted to their policy, or are you attracted to them?