What is Digital Intimacy and How It’s Changing Our Relationships?
Man is a social being. It means that we need other people around us to survive and sustain ourselves. Human engagement and social interactions affect our well-being. However, due to technological evolvement and social distancing practiced during the pandemic, much has changed in this gamut.
As a result, human interactions are shifting to the tech-based format today. Human intimacy has been an integral part of civilization since the Stone Age has now transformed forever. Several studies are ongoing in this context, especially on how the changing scenario is going to affect our well-being and relationships.
Let’s delve further into this topic today.
What does Digital Intimacy mean?
In the pre-digital world, when the internet and smartphones were not a way of life, intimacy was classified into four groups – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Only the first amongst all the three required the physical presence of others around. In fact, the word ‘intimacy’ literally means being close physically.
In the modern world, smart devices have brought the entire world into our living and bedrooms – all living and non-living entities just a tap away. Digital intimacy in such a world is an umbrella term engulfing all the four kinds of intimacies mentioned above.
Thanks to the hundreds of apps and websites, social media platforms, etc., we human beings are connected like never before. So much so, that we have stopped drawing a line between virtual and in-person interactions. Today, speaking to a friend, staying connected with parents, siblings, kids, etc., is no longer a cause of heartburn even when you are thousands of miles apart. All you need to do is engage in a video call; behold, the person is right there in front of you, in real-time.
This is what is called digital intimacy. But it does not just encompass the ambit of societal relationships. Even our romantic relationships are majorly happening online. Be it social media platforms like WhatsApp or Facebook, relationship-based apps like Tinder and Bumble, or dating apps like eHarmony, Zoosk, and more, we are hooking up more online than offline.
Is Digital Intimacy affecting our relationships?
With technology blended into our lives so intricately, it is not surprising that this closeness is, in fact, affecting our relationships. But, just like a coin, it has two sides to it – the good and the bad.
The Good side of Digital Intimacy
1. Staying Connected Under All Circumstances
Covid-19 effectively paused all critics of digital media. In the ensuing two years, most of the world was working from home, thanks to technological innovations.
As far as marriages and romantic relationships go, the online medium helped hundreds of partners, spouses, and lovers remain in touch with one another during these times. There were a hundred others who used the medium to walk out of loneliness, depression, and anxiety disorders.
The point is simple. Digitally you can stay in touch and have almost a real-life relationship irrespective of distance, time zones, applicable social distancing rules, and more. Unlike in-person relationships, virtual affairs are not limited by physical and geographical barriers. And that is a big plus point in favor of digital intimacy.
2. Safer, securer way of meeting new people and knowing them
In-person first or second meetings with a potential date always have an associated risk. That is why you are advised to meet them in public places or have a friend or family member accompanying you. Virtual meetings, thankfully have no such risks.
Of course, you still need to be careful about sharing your personal data and information with a stranger. If you are using a fortified and trustworthy dating website or app, there’s nothing much to worry about. Many of the paid dating sites, in fact, charge you a higher premium because they guarantee you a safety net wherein you are not disturbed by nuisance-causing spammers or fraud people.
If you take care, virtual and video meetings can be the best way to meet a new person and stay connected with him/her.
The Bad Side of Digital Intimacy
1. We are becoming less social
Needless to say, our dependence on technology may be getting a bit too much. Humans are now preferring the companionship of technology and technical devices rather than co-humans. This is called technology intimacy. And unfortunately, this is the other important angle to digital intimacy.
Our preferences are definitely changing. We are becoming more friendly with digital devices, preferring the company of our smartphones, laptops, and tablets compared to our friends and family. If this was not enough, things do not stop here though. We are more comfortable looking for online friends compared to real-life friends.
In fact, one research conducted by Pew Research Center in 2015 summarized that 57% of American teenagers between 13 and 17 years prefer making online friends rather than in-person friends. Considering that these teens are now all adults, their intent and comfort in the digital space have also gone ahead with them. Such people obviously prefer to date online since it is in their comfort zone. This is a huge impact of online dating on society.
The pandemic has only aggravated the situation further. We live in a digital-first society and things are only going to go from worse to worst. Human society is on the borderline of digital addiction. Does it affect our romantic relationships?
Of course, it does. At one point, the fine line between reality and virtuality fades away and there begins the risk of losing a loved one due to digital intimacy. Between lovers, boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, if the digital medium (smartphones, social media, etc.) starts blending in, things can get out of hand.
Over-dependence and over-indulgence with technology, especially our digital devices can impact our relationships in real life. The sooner we understand this aspect, the safer our relationships will be.
The need of the hour today is for human beings to differentiate between the real and the virtual world. Yes, digitalization is a boon if we know how to handle it responsibly, just like every other innovation to date. Digital intimacy to the point that it is used for exploring new relationships and for holistic happiness is good. But, treating digital devices as companions and replacing real-life people with virtual mediums might not be a wise step. Digital detox is one effective way out if there are chances that you are heading that way!