Intimacy

Have the internet and technological advances brought us all closer to each other? Has the advent of social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, meant that we can now enjoy a new kind of intimacy and closeness? What does it mean for future relationships, for future generations to have all this technology at our disposal?
Nivea have set out to discover if and electronic communication has changed the way we interact with each other and whether it is a positive thing or, as some have made it out to be, an alienating and negative force. Many people believe that our relationships are not as deep and meaningful as they used to be, that we neglect to spend quality time together. Working with Professor Geoff Beattie, Head of the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester, they put together a psychological report on the psychology of closeness. It examined the ways in which people in the UK express and validate intimacy, such as touch, communication and sharing. The findings are interesting and relevant to everybody, as they look at how communication has changed over the past 60 years. In particular, the findings found that far from having relationships that are shallow and meaningless, many of us have found online communication and technological advances to deepen and strengthen existing friendships and relationships, whilst helping us to forge new friendships with shared interests and causes.

Social networking sites such as Facebook mean that we show each other photos and share our interests more freely. Scientists have found that self disclosure – the sharing of photos and interests – mean that people reinforce and build intimacy. People are more aware of each other’s lives, discovering more things you have in common with each other and talking about holidays and photos you have all shared. The thing about Facebook is that although it can be used for bad, as many other social networking sites can be, it can also be a place where people all gather together and can talk about current events, share their opinions, air their views and generate important discussion with each other. Face to face interaction is very important, but it is not the only way we interact in the 21st century.

The findings examine how human beings show intimacy. I found it interesting how we recognise relationships with body language and the way people are touching. The report explores how people often don’t realise how accurate we all are at reading body language and the language of touch and intimacy. The report also explores how the things that people previously thought were true – such as we Brits are a frost lot, not demonstrative with physical affection, are simply not true. In the 1960s, a report found that there was zero physical interaction with Brits in public, whilst now, physical interaction and intimacy is everywhere, between couples, friends, parents and children. We are now more on a par with Paris and our European neighbours, who are much more laid back about showing physical affection in public.

This tallies with my own experience, because I’m much more demonstrative with my affection, but then my family has always shown affection via hugs, arm linking and so on. I find it interesting how people are all different with the way they show affection – some families are less physically demonstrative and use other tools to create closeness and intimacy, such as talking or humour. I have deepened and reinforced friendships and relationships using sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as making new friends and meeting new people. I feel that although the internet can often be a dark place, it also has an immense capacity for good.

Nivea are touring around the UK with a roadshow, encouraging people to have their photo taken and share their photographed moments of intimacy with friends, family, colleagues and partners via facebook for being in with a chance to win one of 100 prizes worth £100. They want to document the closeness between people in the UK, to prove that intimacy is not being eroded by communication advances. Please go to their Facebook site to find out more, or go to their website here.

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