Visual Archive: Mediated Intimacies

Since the dawn of social media, things which were once considered incredibly private and intimate are now on show for the whole world to see on multiple different platforms. Every time I visit the hospital, Facebook recognises where I am and asks me to ‘Check-in” to inform my friends. As I scroll through my news feed I’m updated on what people had for dinner, what medication they’re on and sometimes even what colour underwear they’re wearing. This instant access to information practically anywhere in the world is all made capable by a small device in our pockets. Are we ever really alone anymore? I’ve noticed recently that I’ve altered my behaviour for fear that someone might record me and put me on the internet – no more skinny dipping in the sea! Being able to access such intimate moments online, sometime filmed without the subjects permission can be really confusing when it comes to what is public and what is private. Schwarz wrote that ‘Intimacy is usually an emotional effect of discrimination in access to ‘information […]and often strengthened by spatial seclusion’ (2011:75) But if intimate moments are now shared with a wider audience does that devalue how intimate the moment is? Schwarz goes on to summarise Simmel:

‘Secrecy is an act of producing value: since certain information is denied to the many, it turns into a valuable possession which may be given to others. The private/secret not only creates barriers between people, but also helps to bring such barriers down through the technique of confession‘

Technology is completely changing the way we understand social behaviours and the introduction of instant messaging has another layer to how we interact – ‘IM turns the conversation with the romantic partner into a frontstage performance and introduces a backstage event – the conversation with the best friend. Curiously enough, both take place simultaneously, thus redefining intimacy.’(2011:75). Conversations using instant messaging is far from private and as someone who suffers from social anxiety and paranoia, I always feel like I’m ‘on guard’ when engaging in such a practice. Typically groups of friends engage in the exchange of ‘screen-captures’ of instant messaging either with a potential partner or possibly with a friend. Shwarz goes on to elaborate on this:

‘They share the chat-protocols with each other in real time. Obviously, ‘kiss and tell’ is nothing new. But here the peers are given objective evidence, direct access to […] the intimate conversation as an objectified experience, often in real time. Since evidence is distributed in real time, the ‘kissing event’ […] and the ‘telling event’ […] can no longer be distinguished: they collapse into a single event, in which a boy sends protocol extracts to his friend while simultaneously chatting with the girl. The girls, being unaware of the real-time sharing, may have experienced the conversations as intimate ones, whereas for the boys intimacy was qualified, turning into a quasiperformance: while they indeed kept parts of the conversations private, they still shared highlights with each other in real time (thus informationally privileging the bond between them over bonds with girls).’ (2011:77)

I for one am guilty of this practice, in the early stages of my relationship with my partner, I would share things that he would say to me with my girlfriends. As our relationship has progressed his thoughts and opinions are much more valuable to me and I couldn’t even comprehend sharing our conversations with someone else. I cannot measure whether or not this is typical of flourishing relationships but it would certainly be interesting to find out if these intimacy’s become more respected as a relationship progresses.

It seems apparent that mass sharing of these intimacies online only tends to reinforce the idea’s on ‘the good life’. Celebrities sharing pictures of themselves drinking champagne in the bath, magical and wondrous wedding proposals, live streams of wedding receptions. We’re surrounded by media that in reality we’re never going to be able to match up with or achieve -‘Keeping up with the Joneses’. If we are constantly measuring ourselves against these standards that society sets then how can we ever be ‘happy’. I would define myself as the epitome of a kill-joy, Ahmed(2010):

‘So, yes, let’s take the figure of the feminist killjoy seriously. Does the feminist kill other people’s joy by pointing out moments of sexism? Or does she expose the bad feelings that get hidden, displaced, or negated under public signs of joy? Does bad feeling enter the room when somebody expresses anger about things, or could anger be the moment when the bad feelings that circulate through objects get brought to the surface in a certain way?’

Yes, I probably would fit into the bracket of the ‘feminist killjoy’, but there are so many more concepts that the joy needs kicked right out of and stomped all over the floor. Capitalism, Neolibralism, Racism, any form of ‘-ism’. But is it anymore ‘killing-the-joy’ than challenging the status quo? Does that make me a heretic? A rebel? Insubordinate? All these words sound so negative yet I can’t help but think that the world would be much more progressive if more people thought the same. It could be possibly my extended route through education of media but critical thinking is now so second nature to me that I do not think I will be ever blinded into accepting and living ‘the good life’ narrative. Yet, despite my opinions and thoughts, I’m sure that out there, someone who views my ‘mediated intimacies’ online, could believe that I am already in fact living ‘a good life’. Subjectivity in this debate is always going to be so important because although by western standards I may not be living ‘a good life’ or rejecting the constraints of ‘a good life’, to others I’m sure I must seem very fortunate to have my life… (There goes the kill joy again).

Ahmed, S. (2010). Feminist Killjoys (And Other Willful Subjects). The Barnard Center for Research on Women.

Schwarz, O. (2011) ‘Who moved my conversation? Instant messaging, intertextuality and new regimes of intimacy and truth’ Media, Culture & Society. 33 (1), 71-87


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