You’ve probably heard the term “parasocial relationship” before. It’s become a social media buzzword, joining the ranks of “problematic” and “gaslighting” (and no, this one doesn’t just mean “lying”). The term refers to a one-sided relationship on the part of the viewer, where someone will become attached to a famous or influential person without the person of interest ever even knowing that they exist.
In the modern age, parasocial relationships are more common — and far easier to form — than ever before. Influencers share their daily lives on platforms like YouTube and TikTok, with eager audiences encouraged to keep up. It’s here that The Try Guys, and by extension Ned Fulmer come in because parasocial relationships are perhaps most strongly felt in the realm of YouTube.
Formed in 2014 as a comedy group by entertainment and media company BuzzFeed, The Try Guys are some of YouTube’s most popular personalities. Composed of members Keith Habersberger, Ned Fulmer, Zach Kornfeld and Eugene Lee Yang, the group has achieved massive success. They made headlines when they departed from BuzzFeed and established their own entertainment company, 2nd Try LLC. Now, the group boasts over 2 billion views on their YouTube channel and a dedicated audience of over 8 million subscribers.
The Try Guys got popular in part due to a craving for authenticity. Audiences enjoyed watching them try things, of course – there’s a reason why their more ambitious “tries” have scored the highest views – but audiences felt drawn to the members as people, too. The Try Guys cried on camera. They spoke openly about their health issues and relationships. To many of us, the Try Guys were real, but somehow untouchable.
Enter Ned Fulmer, a former Try Guy member. Audiences knew Fulmer as a “wife guy”, an Internet term used to describe a man whose love and admiration for his wife becomes part of his online persona. In addition, they knew him as the “dad” of the group, being the only one of the four members to have children. His image was that of a clean-cut, devoted family man.
Overnight, that image crumbled.
It started with a series of rumours floating around online. A blurry video showed Fulmer and a female employee, Alexandria Herring, kissing at a club.
A fan posted a picture showing Fulmer and Herring alone together at a concert. Official The Try Guys merchandise dropped with Fulmer suspiciously absent from the promotional material. Speculation was rife. With it came a series of arguments.
Some fans argued that this was out of character for Fulmer. After all, audiences had known him for years as the “wife guy”. Compilations of him gushing over his wife had garnered thousands of views on YouTube, and fans were convinced that Fulmer couldn’t be guilty of what he’d been accused of.
Fulmer and The Try Guys both released statements announcing his separation from the group on September 27. Fulmer claimed that he “lost focus” on his family, whilst The Try Guys stated that following an “internal review”, they could not see “a path forward together”. The confirmation of these rumours sparked a wave of discussion online. Many claimed that they weren’t surprised and that they’d never liked Fulmer in the first place. To many fans, Fulmer was the “boring” Try Guy, the “forgettable” member of the cast. This was a long time coming, people claimed – they’d known something was strange about him.
Had any of these people met Fulmer? By and large, the answer was no. Yet they thought they knew him based on his YouTube presence.
Maybe we’ll take this as a warning for the future. Maybe as we go forward, we’ll be more critical of blindly trusting Internet personalities and celebrities. Maybe the next time there’s a celebrity scandal, people won’t come forward claiming that they’re sure of the person’s innocence, or smugly claiming that they always knew.
Maybe. Or maybe there will be another Ned Fulmer this time next week. Only time will tell.
Featured Image Credit: Instagram / tryguys
3rd-year Psychology student and writer. I like ranting about books on Goodreads and watching Sebastian Stan movies.
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