16 May 2005
Intimacy is being seen and known as the person you truly are.
— Amy Bloom
At a discussion led by David Weinberger a few months ago, I realized that I find social software appealing because, like many structures and conventions in offline discourse, it fosters development of a certain honest closeness between people. The word to describe this is intimacy, and one of my favorite things about online discussion is the diversity of ways that intimacy arises.
In meatspace, intimacy comes from family relations, friendship, working relationships, and romance. The patterns that establish intimacy are characterized by repeated interaction with increasing ability to reveal oneself without inhibition. In our most intimate relationships, we tend to be generous, forgiving, attentive, and considerate. We are rewarded for these efforts by partners who weild significant emotional and intellectual leverage over our selves, yet exercise this leverage with care that ensures help, not hurt.
By these definitions, a blog is obviously an intimacy engine. I openly share my opinions, values, joys, sorrows, etc.; and you respond with specific criticism, forgive my occassional idiocy or inconsideration, and share in my happiness and my pain. Some bloggers and blog readers have become friends and colleagues, but all take part in a process of intimacy development at a novel, wonderful pace and scale.