The pros and cons of social surrogate use: Implications for functioning in new and existing relationships
Troisi, Jordan D.
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Recent research shows that people can derive a sense of belonging from social surrogates, or non-human social targets with which one has a psychological connection. Many have speculated that the use of these social surrogates could hinder relationship formation and functioning. This research sought to test these ideas. Specifically, this dissertation delineated and examined how three presumed categories of social surrogates (reminders of others, social worlds, and parasocial relationships) might influence relationship processes. Reminders of others were expected to enhance functioning in existing relationships but hurt functioning in new relationships; social worlds were expected to enhance functioning in existing and new relationships; and parasocial relationships were expected to enhance functioning in new relationships but hurt functioning in existing relationships (among those low in self-esteem or attachment security). Although the results of three studies partially replicated previous findings that social surrogates can buffer feelings of loneliness, they largely failed to support the idea that the three types of social surrogates would have divergent and predicable effects on functioning in new and existing relationships.