~DEBORAH CHAMBERS, author of Social Media and Personal Relationships
Social Media and Personal Relationships: Online Intimacies and Networked Friendship explores the diverse ways people engage with social media to build, maintain and display personal networks. Despite the remarkable technological possibilities for global networking, most people’s online connections are personal, localized or stem from previous local connections.
Yet this study also shows how social media are used to generate new modes of self presentation, interaction, and etiquette. Deborah Chambers develops a theory of mediated intimacies to understand how digital communication coincides with new intimacies and meanings of ‘friendship’ as features of a networked society
Did you know, for instance, that many of us now write to our friends more often than we talk to them?
Stefana Broadbent watches us while we talk (and IM, and text). She is one of a new class of ethnographers who study the way our social habits and relationships function and mutate in the digital age.
The democratization of intimacy
I mean that what people are doing is, in fact, they are sort of, with their communication channels, they are breaking an imposed isolation that these institutions are imposing on them.
How are they doing this? They’re doing it in a very simple way, by calling their mom from work, by IMing from their office to their friends, by texting under the desk.
How people use channels such as email, the mobile phone, texting, etc
What we’re actually going to see is that, fundamentally, people are communicating on a regular basis with five, six, seven of their most intimate sphere.
Now, lets take some data
And an average user,said Cameron Marlow, from Facebook, has about 120 friends. But he actually talks to,has two-way exchanges with, about four to six people on a regular base, depending on his gender.
Academic research on instant messaging also shows 100 people on buddy lists, but fundamentally people chat with two, three, four — anyway, less than five.
My own research on cellphones and voice calls shows that 80 percent of the calls are actually made to four people. 80 percent. And when you go to Skype, it’s down to two people.
And actually, over these 150 years, there has been a very clear class system that also has emerged
So the lower the status of the job and of the person carrying out, the more removed he would be from his personal sphere.
People have taken this amazing possibility of actually being in contact all through the day or in all types of situations.And they are doing it massively.
The Pew Institute, which produces good data on a regular basis on, for instance, in the States, says:
50 percent of anybody with email access at work is actually doing private email from his office. I really think that the number is conservative. In my own research, we saw that the peak for private email is actually 11 o’clock in the morning, whatever the country. 75 percent of people admit doing private conversations from work on their mobile phones. 100 percent are using text.
A greater possibility of intimacy
Behind issues of security and safety, which have always been the arguments for social control, in fact what is going on is that these institutions are trying to decide who, in fact, has a right to self determine their attention, to decide, whether they should, or not, be isolated. And they are actually trying to block, in a certain sense, this movement of a greater possibility of intimacy.