This Strange Intimacy

With hearts good and happy, making
Life’s old hurt leave off its aching-

Hearts that crave no other’s pleasure,
But the days by duties measure;

Antonio Nicos Blanco, Intimate Prayer

Pervasive social media can generate a strange intimacy. Without any effort, as simply as opening an app, we can be thrust into participants in the daily adventures of others. We know and follow the daily duties of strangers. We share their meals, the adventures and their emotions for better and for worse.

This intimacy makes us more vulnerable to the intrusions of trolls, the obsessive and the vexatious. The sharing we experience as a deepening of connections can be weaponised against us. Intimacy can be turned to make barbs cut deeper. This intimacy can also be used to spread mis-information and suck the unwary into frauds, manipulation, and conspiracy theories.

The profound intimacy of lyric poetry makes it perilous because it gets so far under the skin, into the skin.

Edward Hirsch, The Immense Intimacy, The Intimate Immensity

Social media’s intimacy is getting deep under our skin. Linkedin hacks our perceptions of careers and success. Instagram hacks perceptions of lifestyles, fashions, food, imagery and body image. Tiktok plays with music, dance and trends. Twitter and Facebook manipulate stories, images, information, relationships and politics.

We can use social media to find our unique tribe. To find people who speak so to our heart that we clasp near strangers to our chests as long lost companions. We can find people with whom we share an unbelievable intimacy because of unity of mindset, interests, networks, and passions. We can deepen ourselves into the intimacy of our own unique bubble.

Whether this intimacy is good or bad is not determined by the platform. The choices and outcomes depend on us. We can use social media to find collaborators who will help us change the world, people to work with or to find partners for the adventures of life.

Intimacy unhinged, unpaddocked me. I didn’t want it.

Diane Seuss,

Social media can be a tool of engagement and communication. It can also be a vicious hack of our attention for advertising revenue, a manipulation of endorphins for addiction, and a simulation of friendship with artificial connection. The owners of these platforms will continue to invest to make them more engaging, addictive and intimate (Metaverse anyone?). They are far less concerned with their impact on social fabric.

The challenge we face is to be discriminating users mitigating both the ego returns and the need with the perspective that life goes on best off these platforms. Use social media to find your community and then engage them on and off your platforms of choice.

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