Friday, December 13, 2013

Rising to the Challenge of the new Intimacy

The very nature of the modern world is to be anonymous to most, known to a few, and understood by fewer.  Or at least is what it used to be.  Now, I think intimacy is changing to reflect the technology and the way we communicate.  We can be intimate and outrageously public at the same time.  We can reveal in an un revealing way.  Conversely, some levels of intimacy and its opposite, anonymity are quite the same. 

Recently, I hired a Ted Talks speaker for an event and the speaker requested a car transport from the airport.  I assigned my assistant to be the chauffeur of the day and concluded that we were all set.  Wrong wrong.  The speaker said no, that would not do, as work needed to be done privately, so she would need a hired driver and car.  

(This is an ad with credit to the creator so hope it is fine).

At first I was offended, after all it was my assistant, and she is loyal and dedicated.  And then I started to ponder why this is so critical. On the surface, the speaker knows neither the hired chauffeur or the assistant.  But the assistant has a relationship with me, the one paying the speaker.  So there is an implied intimacy, that might require conversation between them, or more stressful, the assistant hearing conversation that the speaker did not want shared with the payer.  So if true anonymity is the desired affect, the having the implied intimacy of my assistant is not acceptable.

This made me think of the intimate moments on elevators.  You cannot get much closer than a packed elevator, and yet our intimacy is usually shared with silence, heads down, eyes trying to avert.  Touching and trying ever so hard not to touch.  Breathing and hoping not to smell anything or anyone.  We want to be anonymous. Not intimate.  So what makes a moment intimate or anonymous?  How do we look at the communications and tell?  Starting with the traditional definitions, Intimacy conjures up images of mothers and babies, lovers, secrets, secret lovers, pillows, diaries and so much more...   is defined as: 1. The condition of being intimate. 2. An instance of being intimate. and then there is intimate, which is a verb and an adjective...  as you will see in the link to the definition.  But for our purposes (this is not a grammar lesson), we shall address intimate as the adjective....

intrinsicessential belonging to or characterizing one's deepest nature
  • marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity
  • marked by a warm friendship developing through long association
  • suggesting informal warmth or privacy 
  • of a very personal or private nature

So the two descriptions work together as one describes time and one describes action or substance.  Intimacy can be a one time car ride (as can anonymity) or intimacy can be a long term sharing or revealing.  I tend to think of intimacy as a revealing of an private or personal matter, one that I hold dear, but that is an old fashioned view of intimacy.  For the moments on the internet and the theatre screens that I have cried over someone's joy or tragedy were just as intimate, but the other party does not know that.  Just I do.  Which brings me to the internet as an intimate forum.

There is much ado about postings on social media and how the "youth" are revealing their inner most secrets on the internet.  And I am sure that there are many moments that one would wish that they had not memorialized on their Facebook pages.  But truthfully, those moments of sharing are not intimate at all.  In fact, I would think they are more intended to be personal, but lose the intimacy in the blatant exaggerated boast.  If the internet didn't exist, these are the kids who would climb the water tower and paint their name, or race loud cars down the road, or wear ultra tight or revealing clothing to announce their presence.

But the internet does offer the true opportunity to be revealing and intimate at the same time.  I have family and friends with real issues such as medical problems or difficult spouses or loneliness who are  truly sharing intimate thoughts and feelings with those they intend to read them, but also 500 of those peoples' closest friends.  The fact that the others see the post does not negate the intimacy of the moment. or the photo. or the feeling of the intended reader.

So does it diminish the experience for the person sharing as long as the intended has read it and responded?  No.  I don't think it does.  And here is why.  Within two seconds of seeing a post, you have figured out if it matters, if it is interesting and if you care enough to look at the whole thing.  the information being intimate and personal for another is gleaned by the reader and they are moving on if it doesn't apply to their life.  Example, my friends could be posting about a funeral of a former co worker, but if my French class buddies see it, they are moving on down the scroll.  They will not dwell where they do not receive the feed back that this pertains to them.

So, announce away your blood test results or your GRE score.  Most people won't care.  Most people, especially if you have "friend-ed" hundreds will not see it.  Algorithms changed all that. Google makes a living knowing and selling that.  Take care and post away.