Social media (blogging, FaceBook, Twitter, etc.) have spawned a strange phenomenon identified as anonymous intimacy. Intimacy is the trust developed over time with another person that allows us to bare our souls and share our deepest, most personal thoughts.
Shane Hipps says, “Intimacy happens the moment we are invited into the exclusive VIP room of another person’s life. Intimacy always follows the statement, ‘I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anyone before.’ These are risky words of deep trust and vulnerability.” (Flickering Pixels, p.113).
Intimacy is confessing sin to a friend or accountability partner. Intimacy is patting a buddy’s shoulder when he has confessed a major flaw to you, and you offer understanding and acceptance in return. Intimacy is what you share at the deepest emotional, spiritual and physical levels with your husband wife.
Intimacy occurs in contexts of exclusivity. That means, the person to whom bare your heart and soul is someone you trust, allowing you to reveal a side of yourself that is singularly reserved for that person. To be intimately connected with another, as a friend and confidant, or as a spouse (especially as a spouse), is one of the highest compliments we can offer the other and receive from them in return.
Intimacy is preserved so long as the trust, information and love is shared exclusively between the parties uniquely involved. Once the information is made available to others, it is no longer exclusive, and the intimacy begins to diminish. Hipps adds that it is “the exclusivity of personal information (that) creates conditions of intimacy.” Hence, take away the private, personal nature of the information, or the emotional connection, and intimacy in undermined.
So what is anonymous intimacy? Real intimacy is what we share with another living, breathing human being. Anonymous intimacy is what we share with masses of people in social media contexts. Hipps defines anonymous intimacy as “the feeling of a relationship, but one that hasn’t been, and likely never will be, face to face.” He cites internet pornography as an example, where personal and private images are shared with complete strangers. Pornography, whether in print or digital form, offers the illusion (delusion, really) of being in intimate connection with another person. In reality, it is a sinful and tragic substitute for genuine intimacy with a real being. This is the ultimate in anonymous intimacy.
Anonymous intimacy is having 2,000 friends on Facebook, but not knowing half of them personally. It is the tendency to blog, tweet, or fb personal details of our lives that previously we would have held in check. It is the feeling that we are “connected,” yet we don’t really know the people we are connected to. We confuse pixels and people.
The real danger of anonymous intimacy, according to Hipps, is that “it provides just enough connection to keep us from pursuing real intimacy” (P.114). Real intimacy, as opposed to pixel intimacy, is created in contexts of actual people dwelling together in the messy business of life. Real intimacy is risky. It means our closest friend, even our covenant partner, can shatter our world with disappointment or betrayal. It is offending and being offended; hurting and being hurt; rejecting and being rejected; forgiving and being forgiven. Real intimacy is a welcoming handshake when a friend accepts your apology, and you. It is the hug that follows your spouse saying, “You hurt me deeply, but I still love you.” Real intimacy is personal, trusting, risky and exclusive.
Photo compliments of Project Alicia Photography
Real intimacy is life. It is your wife, your husband, your children, your parents, and the incredibly wonderful experiences and emotions you have shared through many years. Real intimacy is laying your life down for those people that you love. For a picture of real intimacy you need look no further than the cross. If you want real intimacy, take that cross upon yourself as you help bear the burdens of another.