Intimacy and the Mobile Web

March 20, 2011

I’ve been thinking lately about the effects of being constantly connected through the mobile web on intimate relationships shared experiences. Before I get into the details of the possible consequences of this pairing I’d like to examine an example:

A couple takes a weekend trip to wine country where they enjoy wine tasting, dining and relaxing. Through the trip the couple is regularly posting pictures through their cell phones, getting tips on which restaurants to visit from friends, and sharing anecdotes of the experience as they happen.

When the weekend is over they will forever have that memory of the trip that was an intimate experience; however, in reality there were a number of other people who digitally shared and shaped that experience. We could assume this story highlights the erosion of privacy and personal relationships by being connected to the internet, but we'd fail to consider the whole picture. Below I've outlined a couple points that examine the blurriness of this:

First, not all of the trip is shared and interacted with the couples social networks. They will obviously experience parts of life that are (generally - it still is the internet after all) kept private and a lot of experiences that are so mundane they don't warrant sharing. The memories will for a large part be shaped by the "disconnected" time they spent with each other and amplified by the fact that they were the only ones who were physically present.

And second, due to the heavy interaction between the couple and their networks the awareness of this experience was heightened. While this may allow more to join vicariously, it simultaneously increases everyone's awareness that they aren't physically part of the trip, they don't actually get to taste the wine, hold hands with each other or smell the aroma of a vineyard. The question now is, was the trip more intimate because many knew about the trip and were following along, but could not participate or less because the experience was not just between the couple?

I'm not trying to offer any specific side or view point, as I don't necessarily see that as helpful, but rather just being cognizant of the changes around us is important, regardless of the control we have over them. The final thought I'll leave you with is that as the mobile web and the web in general starts to mature further we are going to see the capabilities of sharing experiences expand. In the future you may be able to share the aroma of the vineyard or taste the wine digitally. How then are we going to define spatial and personal relationships?

Your thoughts?