Let’s just face it, our ideas of intimacy have completely changed from the ones of those around us. Just like opinions; everyone has a definition for intimacy. And in a generation that has worked so hard to defy any “boxes” of any kind, we won’t find any precedents to help us. So by nature, each person’s version of intimacy isn’t going to be like anyone else before us. But as a generation that lives in the digital world, we see more of each other through a screen than in person. In which case, it’s definitely likely that the big steps in our lives will also be somewhat digital. To be clear, I’m not promoting any kind of behaviour and I’m not saying what’s right or wrong, I’m simply stating it as it is.
When we talk about digitized intimacy a lot of people tend to shirk away and claim that “This isn’t intimacy” because there’s a physical barrier dividing us. Yet I disagree; I mean people who are now in their 20’s or younger grew up having phones and texting each other as the main means of communication. I (as a 17 year old) have had some of my most vulnerable moments over text. I feel that we as a whole have evolved to a point where we can convey meaning and tone and gravity through texting, calling and social media, and that need to be constantly physically close to one another in order to have a deep or intimate connection isn’t necessarily there anymore.
This also applies in essence not just to emotional intimacy, but to an extent to every other aspect of our lives as well. People have been doing the same activities since the dawn of time, but as technology develops and as we essentially develop alongside it, how we do these activities has also changed. Instead of trying to flirt with people on the street, we turn to instagram DM’s, Snapchat and apps like Bumble. Instead of trying to set ourselves up for hook-ups during social events, we just use a whole other set of apps like Tinder. There are apps for every kind of matchmaking we used to do in physical presence. Which is neither good nor bad. It’s a little bit of both.
On one side, because we have grown up on text and sharing our lives on social media, a lot of us feel more comfortable now being vulnerable through a screen. So in a sense we make better connections with other people that way. Plus it takes away that fear of over analyzing body language and psyching yourself out: Whether you’re in a social setting and you see what you think is someone rolling their eyes at you, or in a romantic setting and you see what you think is your date checking someone else out. And especially in a more sexual setting, you are more likely to overthink everything you see there. This can be so damaging to some, because your brain will always have the upper hand over you and once you go into that downwards spiral you put yourself on guard. In my opinion, that is where intimacy actually disappears, not through a lack of physical presence. Besides, people can get creative in ways online that they wouldn’t think of being in real life, which can spice up any relationship (just saying).
But as always, there’s a flip side to everything. There is a lot that can and does go wrong when we put so much of ourselves out on social media. We all know the stories of catfishing, blackmail, harassment and the notorious leaks. As good as social media can be for building relationships, it can be just as good at tearing them down. So I understand why people would be afraid of being vulnerable enough to be intimate with others through a screen. It’s a weird place, I won’t lie.
At the end of the day, there will always be the debate of whether intimacy can exist through digital means. I would say yes, others will say no. At the end of the day, relationships of all natures are hard to navigate. I find it easier to do so on text because I can think carefully about what I want to say to really get what I mean out there, other people want to watch me say it to see my body language. We’re all different and different percentages of online and in person connections will ultimately be figured out by participants of the relationship itself.