I was speaking to a friend recently who was complaining about the public nature of his relationship. We are not talking about anything kinky, but the way in which affection and endearments from his girlfriend were expressed, not as an intimate moment between two people in love, but posted on Facebook for the world to see. To further destroy any feeling of romance, your ‘friends’ could then show their approval by ‘liking’ it. I made the comment that this surely was a reinforcement of love, to which he replied that it was more common for him to get his endearments via Facebook than in person. Oh internet, what have you done?
This reminded me of the movie Logan’s Run, in which coupling took place in a type of love-making facilitator that avoided contact of the flesh and did everything for you! It is very difficult to imagine that this would ever happen but as technology is constantly impacting on us culturally, it may be difficult to predict how intimacy will be expressed in the future. As Shapiro (1998) says when discussing Atom Egoyan’s film, The Sweet Hereafter, ‘Technologies, which re-inflect the distribution of spaces, operate with other contingencies, to disturb attempts at naturalizing and moralizing modes of social organization’. In other words technology is just plain disruptive and can lead us to adopt unusual or extreme patterns of bahaviour.
Ok, so we can blame technology for making us go public to a certain degree but according to IEEE Security&Privacy Magazine, “the new, surprising factor is that we’re volunteering to live publicly like never before”. Professor Jeffrey Mackie-Mason says, “a 2010 study found that 10 percent of people under age 25 say they text while having sex (a steady stream of tweets are tagged #havingsex) and 24 percent while using the toilet”. Mackie-Mason calls it our “public-sharing footprint” with a staggering 30 billion new posts on Facebook every month, 130 million tweets every day and 30% of couples meeting online. He points out that we may be sharing our intimate moments with our close Facebook Friends (500 or so) but it doesn’t stop there as friends share with friends and the number grows exponentially, until half the state knows the nasty details of our breakups or arguments.
Unfortunately for my friend Internet romance appears to have taken hold on a global scale. Due to the propensity we have as human beings to communicate and share even our most private moments with our friends, it is important that new media technologies put systems in place which will better protect their users from the public eye. For example, default settings should be set to private, rather than public. Our technologically soaked spaces are changing and we need to ensure that there are systems in place which will protect us without stifling our creative advancements.
MacKie-Mason, J 2011, ’All Space Will Be Public Space’, Security & Privacy, IEEE , vol.9, no.5, viewed 18 August 2013, pp.77,80
Shapiro, MJ 1998, ‘Genres of the public interest: Technologies
and spaces of being in common’, International Review of Sociology: Revue Internationale de
Sociologie, vol . 8, no. 3, viewed 17 August 2013, 397-412, (online Taylor&Francis Online).