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Intimacy entails development of feelings of closeness and belonging between two individuals involved in an intimate relationship. The closeness, which develops over some time, involves the two people having knowledge and experience of each other thereby giving room for the development of awareness and affective behaviors (Morris 2002, par. 3).
On the other hand, the intimate interactions are the interpersonal associations, which develop out of repeated interactions between two individuals and fulfillment of the emotional needs of each other. Social psychologists indicate that the late adolescence and premature adulthood stages of life-span development are the most important stages for development of interpersonal associations in an individual. This also involves the period when most individuals are occupied with the urge of experiencing romantic and intimate relationships.
Research studies indicate that development of intimate relationships follows the development of self-experience and self-formation. In this case, self-formation entails the way in which an individual presents oneself to others and to him/herself in the society. The social environment plays a major role in shaping the development of oneself in that an individual’s characteristics are attributable to the way that individual presents oneself to the society (Goffman 1973, par. 2).
In the theory, Front and Back regions, it is indicated that, in the day-to-day interpersonal interactions, a social meaning is attached to how one individual’s roles or appearances are perceived by others and the society at large. This then implies that for two individuals to develop a connection, they must be engaged in a physical interaction, which will then lead to development of an emotional connection and thus intimate relationships.
However, with the emergence of technological changes, the perception of intimacy and thus development of intimate relationships has changed to a great extent. Besides the society playing a major role in the development of self-experience and self-formation, the mediated interactions such as mobile phone communications has added to the options an individual explores when undergoing self-differentiation.
This essay is aimed at evaluating the impact of using the mobile phone as a medium for development of intimate relationships on the current perceived meaning of intimacy. The essay further compares the perception of intimacy in an ordinary society and in a mediated environment in order to acknowledge the major changes that have occurred in the contemporary society as a result of technological changes.
Intimacy in the Contemporary Society
The above discussions indicate that development of intimacy follows the development of self-experience and self-formation. In the ancient society, the two processes were mainly dependent on social factors, which determine their formation and appropriation.
In the contemporary society, which is characterized by new methods of telecommunication and visual technology, the process of self actualization has changed largely affecting most intimate relationships. In this case, self-formation is more spontaneous and undefined in that a person will always rely on various resources within his/her reach, which are perceived to be important in the process of self-identity (Thompson 1995, p. 207).
This individual enjoys the freedom of exploring a variety of media resources such as the television, the internet, films, and movies, which provide figurative materials that guide a person through self actualization. Thompson (1995, p. 208), states that when the process of self-formation is guided by the media, its connection to the society or the social factors that govern the process is slackened but not obliterated.
The connection between the social factors or milieu and self-formation can remain loose for as long as the mediated interaction between two individuals is sustained. The situation further offers an individual non-local familiarity of the other person (Miller et al. 2007, par. 14).
On the other hand, social psychological studies indicate that development of intimacy is pegged on the development of familiarity and closeness between two individuals in a social setting. Through expressions better known as the front, an individual is able to display the expected impression to others.
The front will therefore influence self-formation in the sense that when an individual interacts with others in the society, chances are that this individual will tend to act in such a way to impress others. In addition, a person who realizes self-formation through his/her physical interaction with others in the society will be better placed in terms of understanding what other individuals and the society at large expects of someone.
The Front and Back theory posits that the front can be anticipated through a variety of expressions and signs. Through these expressions, an individual displays certain characteristics such as appearances and manners, which can tell others about his/her status in society. On the other hand, the back or the secondary presentations displayed by an individual are observed in mediated interactions such as through a mobile phone conversation (Thompson 1995, p. 209).
In such a situation, it is hard to feel or create an impression of what the other person displays. Research studies indicate that relationships built on the foundation of mediated interactions are characterized by contradicted truths behind expressions and they are bound to face many conflicts and differences. This is because the two individuals involved in such a relationships feel less bound by the social norms or responsibilities defining them.
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It is worth noting that mediated communication and interaction between two individuals in a relationship brings with it a new form of intimacy, which differs in certain aspects with what has been regarded as intimacy for decades. In the ancient society, intimacy was characterized by reciprocity whereby one positive action is met with an equivalent positive response.
Therefore, utterances and actions are exchanged between the two individuals in such a way that conflicts are resolved easily and thus intimacy rules. Meanwhile, a relationship founded on the basis of mobile phone conversations can also experience reciprocity of some kind but fail to display the fundamental characteristics of the intimate relationships existing between individuals sharing the same milieu (Fehr & Gachter 2000, par. 1).
Looking at the characteristics of intimacy in the context of mediated environments, it is thus evident that media has brought with it a new form of non-reciprocal intimacy free of any formal commitments associated with reciprocity. This is a form of intimacy that can exist between a wide range of individuals sharing divergent views, social backgrounds, and localities over a long period of time.
This essay explores the various ways in which the perception of intimacy in the modern society varies from that held over the decades in the ancient society. This is achieved through critically analyzing the principles of two theories, the front and back theory and the theory of self-formation and experience. From the discussions above, it can be noted that intimacy is a poignant or bodily connection that exists between two individuals sharing the same locale or different locales.
In the ancient society, intimacy was known to develop when two individuals sharing the same locale came together to share actions and utterances in a reciprocal manner. However, with the emergence of modern technology, new forms of intimacy arose in the contemporary society. These forms are characterized by non-reciprocity and wide geographical distances between the two partners.
Fehr, E, & Gachter, S 2000, ‘Fairness and retaliation: the economics of reciprocity,’ Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol.14, no. 3, pp. 159-181.
Goffman, E 1973, The presentation of self in everyday life, The Overlook Press, New York.
Miller, RS, Perlin, D & Brehm, SS 2007, Intimate relationships, 4th edn, McGraw-Hill, Toronto.
Morris, D 2002, People watching: the Desmond Morris Guide to body language, Vintage, New York.
Thompson, MB 1995, The media and modernity: a social theory of the media, Polity Press, Cambridge.