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Intimacy on the Internet: the wrong question for the right concern

With any given single function tool that can produce dichotomized end results, it is improper to ask if this tool promotes one result over another. One example of such tools is a light switch. If we ask the question, “does the light switch keep the room dark or lit?” we may be tempted at first to say naturally the light switch keeps the room lit, because it activates the lighting device in the room. However, we realize that the light switch is merely a tool to control the brightness of the room, and it can keep the room dark as proficiently as it keeps the room lit. In a similar way, the internet first served its function as an information/data disseminating tool. As entertainment, socialization, and other “off-the-clock” uses became entangled with the web, the effect of the internet invaded the personal lives of its users and operators. Enter the consideration of intimacy and the internet, two elements that the early internet architects most likely never imagined to be an issue. For the sake of discussion, we simplify the effect of the internet on intimacy into binomial outcomes of either uniting people together or driving people apart. Again, we encounter the familiar incompatibility of a tool promoting one result over another. What, then, determines the brightness of the room, or the enhancement or detriment of intimacy? Simply put, it is the choice of the user/operator of the tool that determines the end result, and the tool promotes neither of the outcomes.

I recognize that we may address the sociobehavioral trend of internet users, but that requires a very large and complex study to determine quantitatively how many internet users globally are utilizing the internet to hinder intimacy vs. enhancing it—which is not at our disposal. The question at hand stands to either condemn the internet for destroying intimacy or praise the internet for expanding the reaches of intimacy. These two conclusions, however, are invalid judgments to pass on the internet for the reason that the internet is a neutral tool, and cannot influence the preservation or loss of intimacy of human interaction. For instance, many users of online social website Facebook claim that the “ambient intimacy” created by the internet portal allows the users to “ʻfeel less alone’” thus effectively enhancing the intimacy of social interaction (New York Times). This perceived enhanced intimacy is measured by the increase in frequency of interaction via internet when a person is away from another. Having the ability to monitor the activities of your social kin online satisfies our need of connections to others as social creatures. Furthermore, the continuing rise in the population of singles using online dating services seems to suggest that the internet is facilitating one of the most intimate (as measured by physical interaction) processes of human nature: the seeking of a potentially life-long mate (Sautter et al., 20). This speaks volumes for the internet used as a tool to establish and propagate intimacy of the utmost, romantic degree.

As the previous examples have provided evidence of the internet being used to bring people together (either in spirit or in reality), there exists uses of the internet that drive people further apart. When the internet is used as a means to carry out routine friendly communications, it serves as a crutch to satisfy our need for social interaction in place of more intimate contact that may take place in person. The restoration of more intimate social behavior was observed by some when online interactions were forbidden (Experiment #9). Evidently, some individuals have slipped into using the internet as a convenient means of sustaining social relationships, which does indeed decrease the intimacy of those relations during that form of interaction. This suggests some internet users may be utilizing online interactions purposefully to reduce the intimacy of a social interaction (by choice). Moreover, in another form of online social encounter such as meeting a new individual, the intimacy of an open exchange between two unfamiliar persons when disclosing interests or attributes is stripped away and replaced by browsing self-biographies written in the “about me” sections of Facebook (Experiment #7). One of the closest interactions that can be experienced by two individuals through discovery of shared interests or attributes cannot be perceived through this form of online, one-way author-reader communication.

As evident by these cases of the internet both disrupting and preserving intimacy, we cannot conclude that the internet influences a net effect of uniting or disbanding people. Ultimately, the choice of the individuals is what drives people together or away from one another. The internet is merely a tool to exercise such a choice, as are other technological forms of communication. If it is one person’s wish to minimize intimacy with an acquaintance, he or she may communicate her wishes via internet to effectively disrupt that intimacy. However, if the person’s wish is to seek more intimate encounters with others, he or she may establish those desires through online interactions that lead to physical interactions. While the internet does potentially serve as a crutch to more intimate forms of social activities, the drive for social interaction is surely to overcome any perceived barrier to desired intimacy.

Works cited

Sautter, Jessica M., Rebecca M. Tippett, S. Philip Morgan. “The Social Demography of Internet Dating in the United States.” Social Science Quarterly 6 4 2010: 554-575.
Thompson, Clive. Brave New World of Digital Intimacy. 5 9 2008. 4 6 2010 .
Week 7 experiment: Facebook stalking.
Week 9 experiment: the differences in seeking happiness online and seeking happiness offline.

I’m afraid I was quite occupied with a lengthy research report that was due for completion during this week, so basically I must compile past experiences to generate the data for this week’s experiment. Typically, I browse online comics for a quick chuckle, and interesting news articles from news sources and portal type websites for more contemporary news. And offline, I find happiness when I organize/plan out the Honduras trip. I find great joy in thinking up all the possible ways to run the trip and coming up with ideas to streamline the entire brigade operation. I guess these two joys are discontinuous derivatives of my personality, so I cannot make a comparison between the two. One source of happiness appeals to entertainment while the other is a satisfaction of mental stimulation.

From the reading, I’m sorry but that was a poorly written piece of composition–the shoddy mechanics really took away whatever decent message it was struggling to carry. But what I extracted from it was that essentially society has found a new medium for interaction, just as we have already done so with the telephone, radio, and television. The stigma of departing from direct interaction has prompted some to fear the physical disconnect, feeling as if the social fabric of intimacy is being torn asunder. Rather, it is mere natural progression of the interplay between technology and human nature. Our drive to be social creatures will inherently prevent us from moving in the direction that most opponents to technological interaction fear. Before you know it, we won’t be fearing the internet from stealing intimacy but rather bash on the advent of massively synaptic integration of neural networks where communication occurs telepathically with the assistance of biointegrative electronics. All these discussions are moot exchanges; we’ve already had them–time and time again.

For this week’s experiment, I spent 15 minutes roughly looking through profiles of women on match.com filtered by parameters that were compatible to the qualities I look for in a significant other. The main determinant of whether I clicked on a profile or not was a simple visual judge of whether the person looked too good to be true, not my type in physique, or just fitting. Some profiles were extremely well written and outlined specific tastes the women had in their “date.” A large portion of the individuals were middle or late twenties, with rarely anyone in their early 20’s.

From the reading, it is interesting the author mentions the stigma behind online dating portals. I speak for myself when I think people who use online dating sites somehow are less socially capable of meeting people through traditional means. However, the paper suggests that the stigma is gradually diminishing with each successful love story while more individuals becoming willing to give it a try, hoping for their own success story. This has led me to the realization that dating sites are not for the socially inept, but rather it’s becoming a new avenue towards romance. If the grounds for romance has evolved from public forums in the olden days, to social events and venues in the pre-modern days, the modern days has simply utilized the online experience as an added ground for romantic pursuit for normal people (who can span the digital divide and are in the risk category for online dating service usage).

My assigned person of study is Komal Kapoor, a terrifically interesting individual. From her photos, she appears to be quite the sociable person, often posing in pictures with other people. Komal’s interests include traveling (again evident from the photos) and pizza, which can be synthesized into a great journey for the palate. Her TV shows and films of choice are mainly sitcoms involving drama and romance. Due to a recent Facebook reformatting of the profile information, these facts were obtained from the Facebook mobile program. Komal has protected her privacy well in the sense of not exposing her exact place of residence or more private forms of contact information (such as phone). In her most recent wall correspondences, there is a particular individual that exchanges the most posts with Komal in all of her wall postings.

From the reading, privacy indeed has become an elusive idea, not even a practice. The urge for individuals to sense belongingness by sharing common social/cultural artifacts is pursued at the sacrifice of privacy, though this is not absolute. While we could broadcast PSAs educating the young and the old about considerate practices on the internet to preserve privacy, the time proven method of not revealing anything at all remains the best protector of privacy. Our minds may be the last haven for privacy.

So I performed this week’s experiment of asking a question on a facebook update post asking for help on an issue. I asked a legitimate issue I’ve been having, which is a way to increase the volume of my laptop speakers for all sounds coming from the system, not just the music and videos but also the flash media. I got an answer back suggesting that I d/l VLC but this will not solve the problem with flash media. I guess I didn’t specify exactly what sounds I needed to be amplified. So this question wasn’t successfully answer quite right, but I’m sure with some corrections to my problem I can probably find some good answers out there. I didn’t see a link to the reading this week.

I attempted the no internet for a waking day activity on last Saturday I believe. It was quite simple since in the morning, I was occupied with my lab tasks–which kept me busy offline. For the rest of the evening of that day, I may have succumbed to the entertainment attraction of the internet, or I may have watched an episode of Top Gear offline. I could not reattempt the activity since for the rest of the week, internet access, especially to email, was extremely crucial (group collaborations and GMB meds business). I have gone without internet for weeks at a time, during my trips to Honduras, and withdrawal symptoms aren’t exactly debilitating when other sources of entertainment/tasks to keep busy with are in hand. All-in-all, the internet is a great place to find amusing entertainment–and definitely difficult to withhold from unless forced.

Week 3:

I wasn’t comfortable carrying out this assignment as I felt it was unethical to pose a false identity while interacting with another person who has little reason to believe he or she is being treated under false pretenses. Nevertheless, I attempted the assignment under the faux identity of a known acquaintance, nothing spectacular. The conversation was unremarkable and ordinary, and yet I felt guilty for being untruthful. I’m aware of the many people online hiding behind the veil of text to falsely identify themselves–but I have not been one of them until this assignment. In addition, the encounter accounts from the rest of the students confirmed my fears of mistreating unsuspecting strangers with false identities. I believe a better way to have handled this experiment would have been to partner up individuals from class and have each person play out a persona of choice, but containing the exercise to only us–who are aware of the false personae being acting out.

Week 4:

In the past I’ve already carried out this type of activity on a forum dedicated to the car model Mazda 6. Typically, the topic/question is replied by other thread posters to the note of “use the search, newb.” I felt it unnecessary to repeat this experiment, as I already have findings from previous identical studies.

TL;DR. Jk. I’m actually posting while watching the new South Park episode about Facebook. From the article, I seem to remember the redesign unveiling of the new Facebook layout, and I recalled being annoyed at the inability to inactivate this “gossip” stream of privacy invasion. Like the many interviewed people from the article, I didn’t want to know about all the strangers my friends were becoming friends with. What became more shocking was that the status updates became a posting to one’s own wall, and the button to submit the message changed from “post” to “share.” Privacy on Facebook became nonexistent.

In return for this new found level of exposure and transparency, FB became a new ground for impromptu exchanges of thoughts. Status updates allowed individuals to strike up mini-forum-like threads, should an update be provoking enough and seen by the right people. The desire to converse on topics of shared interest drives the constant checking of news feeds–at least that was true for my visits to FB before I checked myself. In simple words, FB has become a new avenue of entertainment, perhaps at the cost of aquaintaces’ privacy–a sort of next generation reality show.

Update 1: failed the post per 2 hours experiment, I found access to internet difficult at times throughout my day in lab, and when I did try to post, I had nothing to say–but kept feeling bad about spamming my friends’ news feeds. Overall it was a bit of an annoyance…I would like to hear about the logic and basis for this social experiment.