“There are things that are so personal that they can only be said to someone who is not close. Someone you don’t know. A person who is not an intimate friend or relation. There are things too personal to be shared with intimates.” – Hunger of Memory
Richard Rodriguez’s quote rings incredibly true for the millions of people logging into sites like Tumblr, where all is required of users is a username and a desire to blog (whether it be one’s original thoughts or the ‘reblogging’ of others’ thoughts to express one’s own or show solidarity) to become a part of a community that either does care or very convincingly gives the illusion of caring about each other. Juana Maria Rodriguez, in Queer Latinidad writes that “Sex, love, quarrels, and reunions [are] mediated through technology” (115). Not only are internet relationships able to become intensely emotional and intense with the aid of technology, but more communication, in so many different forms has also been increased, possibly enhanced for people in real life relationships. However, Rodriguez’s definition, just as most of the dictionary definitions of intimacy, talk about closeness, warmth, and understanding, but all in the context of a relationship that has been created and maintained in person.
Is being able to bare your soul to a group of complete strangers, be it on some form of social network or in person with folks that you’ve never met or may never see again a form of intimacy? Is this type of act (full disclosure to complete strangers) possibly even more intimate than trusting these details with the people that we’ve known and have known us for a long time? Can intimacy be achieved in anonymity? The definition of intimacy itself is “Close familiarity or friendship; closeness,” but does one have to be familiar with the person they are interacting with in order for closeness and intimacy to be achieved? In creating an authentic connection with someone, even if it is temporary, are we achieving intimacy, or are incredibly raw, impersonal personal moments in our one night stands and blog posts less intimate and valuable than the intimate relationships that are developed over time?
Intimacy, like the World Wide Web as mentioned in Queer Latinidad, is rhizomatic, no particular beginning, end, or center, as well as it can grow and flourish (albeit in many drastically different ways) wherever it is planted and utilized. People emerge and exit; “linkages assembled and dismantled.” (Queer Latinidad, 121) With the growth of use of social networking sites, people are allowed to express as much of themselves as they want or create whatever persona they desire to be read as by their readers and viewers, which adds a new dimension to intimacy that allows for transparency and anonymity, which often cannot exist in spheres outside of cyberspace. Users are able to represent only the parts of themselves that they wish to make public. In a realm where people are simultaneously present and absent, intimacy can be achieved in being able to bare one’s life of truths to a complete stranger while missing the traditional ‘intimacy’ of being physically close and in near proximity to one another.
Sites like Tumblr, specifically, allow for users to communicate aspects of their identities that may have been difficult to talk about in person or with people who they interact with in person that have already developed ideas of who they are and how they feel. Talking about one’s feelings to a group of users who have made the conscious decision to follow you, often because they are picking up what you’re putting down or at least trying to. People that aren’t familiar or someone regularly interacted with cannot say “this isn’t like you” or “I didn’t know you felt like this,” nor can their opinion of you drastically change because of what you posted, because they don’t know you (yet;) they can only listen or read what you have to say.
In Maria Irene Fornes’ play “Fefu and Her Friends,” one of her characters, Paula, articulates that relationships (and breakups) include different parts of the self: the brain, the heart, the mind, physical belongings, physical space, and the memories of it all (38). These are all things that she argues are a part of long-term, intimate relationships, then do interactions that are missing only the physical aspects but include the brain, heart, mind, and memories (the parts of relationships that are arguably the most important and meaningful) less intimate than those that exist within a physical space? When two people interact on the internet, “language is disjointed, fragments of thoughts brought together to create a mood and meaning understood by only the two participants, the white spaces of personal history and emotion haunting the lines of the text,” (Queer Latinidad, 116). Both what we choose to include and what we choose to leave out in our interactions with strangers on the internet aids in the redefinition of intimacy and allows us to define what intimacy can mean with each person we choose to become intimate with.