R   E   V   U   E

Is Real Intimacy Going Extinct?

by Scott Noelle

First of all, this inquiry is about real-life, face to face, heart to heart intimacy between people who are not members of the same family or in a “romantic” relationship. Here in America, non-familial social connections have been on the decline for decades, to the point where it is now common for people to live in “communities” where they don’t even know the names of their neighbors.

I think this is partly the result of the increasing acceptance of non-conformity since the 1960s. People feel more at liberty to march to their own drummers, and I think that’s a good thing. But the rate of increasing non-conformity has outpaced the development of people’s capacity to deal with differences in values and lifestyles.

My latest article, Strange Bedfellows, addresses this problem.

Another, more recent trend that is undermining real-life connections — even amongst “like-minded” people — is the advent of ubiquitous digital communication. The ease with which we can “connect” through our gadgets has also made it easier to tolerate the lack of real-life connections and thus avoid the challenges of cultivating real intimacy. This hit home when I saw a recent discussion on Mothering.com about the decline of participation in La Leche League meetings.

Obviously I’m a proponent of digital communication (“Hello, world!”) and I think we’re all better off with it than without it. But I also think we need to be mindful of technology’s tendency to encroach on our natural, evolved ways of connecting — to acknowledge the many subtle dimensions of connectedness that require direct contact and participation, without which our souls become malnourished. That’s why I make the effort to attend conferences like Rethinking Everything where online “friends” can become friends “IRL”.

Do try this at home...

Think of the most intimate relationship you have, or ever had, and use it as a frame of reference for this game. (If it’s a romantic relationship, focus on the non-romantic aspects.) The object of the game is (1) to be mindful of all your interactions with others and notice how much less intimate they feel compared to the reference intimacy, and (2) to find a way to make each interaction just a little bit more intimate — more authentic, more human, more compassionate, more playful, etc.

We live in times where this kind of deliberate effort is needed to keep intimacy alive — to make having an abundance of deep connections normal again.

PS: Last week I was busy attending to local connections and didn’t put out a Revue, so the following list covers the last two weeks...

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