Intimacy Online from Jan 25, 2017
Both Elizabeth Losh’s essay “Beyond Biometrics” and Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson’s chapter “Virtually Me” discuss intimacy and its relation to selfies, online identity, and the public sphere. Intrigued by this common thread, I want to explore three different ways Losh, Smith, and Watson write about intimacy and connect these ideas with one example from Instagram.
Losh describes intimacy in terms of framing and “close distance” (7). The “conventions” and restrictions of the genre construct and abide by intimate “proximity” and “closeness” to the subject (8). This is due to being at arms length, which is both a constraint and a means to give “proximity … to make sense of the subject’s identity” (8). For Losh, intimacy depends on the framing of the subject and what “orientation” the frame provides for the audience to view, recognise, and/or ‘understand’ the subject (7).
For Smith and Watson, anonymity provides a “sense of intimacy”, which encourages online users to flirt with “potential risk”, “confession”, and shared secrets (80). The web opens (public) space where users can experience a (potentially false) safety in sharing their intimate details, thoughts, and opinions anonymously and openly. Importantly, Smith and Watson are interested in how “online venues assume, invite, and depend on audiences” in ways that rely on virtual “access to intimate details about the subject of the site or others” (74). When users share intimate details with their audiences, an online, performed subjectivity maintains itself as it shares secrets (anonymously or not), invites close connections, and/or invites interest in a spectacle or mundane ways of being – whether it be through lifestyle, personal struggles, etc.
Losh, Smith, and Watson’s discussions on intimacy are best exemplified in the hashtag #AfterSex. The hashtag is meant to describe a selfie that has captured the moment after sex, an intimate moment. It allows the subject(s) to publicly share intimate details, while simultaneously inviting an audience into intimate quarters that are framed in intimate ways typically at arm’s length. The #AfterSex selfie prompts questions about intimacy and audiences, subjects and performance, disclosure and voyeurism, public space, surveillance, and online bodies (which Dorothy Kim discusses in her article “Social Media and Academic Surveillance”). These many discourses on intimacy provide and problematise the norms, expectations, and assumptions of the uses, restrictions, and conventions of selfies and online culture.
- “Aftersex Selfies Make Intimate Moments Public.. Very Public” by Huffington Post Canada
Losh, Elizabeth. Beyond Biometrics: Feminist Media Theory Looks at Selfiecity. N.p.: Selfiecity.net, 2014. PDF.
Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson. “Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation.”Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online. Ed. Anna Poletti and Julie Rak. Madison, Wiss.: U of Wisconsin, 2014. 79-92. Ebrary. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.