In wandering LJ not too long ago, I saw resolute posted an excerpt from an essay on the idea of Ambient Intimacy:
Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn't usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible. ... There are a lot of us, though, who find great value in this ongoing noise. It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just acquaintances. It makes us feel closer to people we care for but in whose lives we're not able to participate as closely as we'd like.The essay is about Twitter, but the idea of "ambient intimacy" makes sense for a lot of online interactions. I don't really "use" facebook much, and a lot about it annoys me, but it does have the value of keeping me fairly passively and tangentially abreast of what's going on with various acquaintances. And of course, LiveJournal. I kind of laughed at the "It also saves a lot of time when you finally do get to catchup with these people in real life!" because I post so much of my life on my LJ that when I do have meatspace interactions with flisters I'm often like, "So, um, I don't really know what to say that you don't already know" (though not everyone has time to read their flists regularly, which I understand, but which still annoys me because I assume that if I've posted it to LJ then you've read it).
Knowing these details creates intimacy. (It also saves a lot of time when you finally do get to catchup with these people in real life!) It's not so much about meaning, it's just about being in touch.
Thinking about ambient intimacy, I though about how even skimming your flist you can keep abreast of what's going on with people, which made me feel less guilty about the fact that I post so much -- like, if the point isn't for people to read and respond to every single detail but rather to feel more generally connected, then it's okay to post stuff that not everyone's going to read.
Though it's still something of a weird balance, because I'm aware of an audience, but I'm also writing for my own record-keeping, but because of my knowledge of the audience (as well as the public nature of my LJ) there's stuff I don't say or stuff I say certain ways -- and yes, some of it is cryptic personal relationship stuff or whatever, but some of it is just balancing how many mundane anecdotes I want to inflict on the flist.
Another excerpt from the essay:
It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just acquaintances. It makes us feel closer to people we care for but in whose lives we’re not able to participate as closely as we’d like.It's interesting to think about how LiveJournal has shaped what the community of people I'm in regular contact with is. I often feel like, "If you're not on LiveJournal, I'm not likely to keep up with what's going on in your life." And the reverse is fairly true, because I'm bad at doing update e-mails/conversations but with the "noise" of LJ posting, people can maintain a sense of what's going on in my life.
I got my LJ near the beginning of the time I was in college, and I did it largely as an easy way to keep lots of people updated on my life without having to send multiple e-mails all saying basically the same thing. The audience for my LJ, however, ended up being: my parents, lots of people I went to college with, and a growing number of online-only friends. Two and a half years out of college, now, I've gotten really used to my LJ not intersecting (in terms of readership) with my other meatspace lives. While intellectually I know that anyone from work theoretically could come across my LJ, I basically assume that they won't. And I have yet to decide whether to share my LJ with any church folks (a new CWM friend has an LJ). There are parts of my life that I write about as if no one connected to it is reading, and it's weird to think of them reading it.
And I have no nice conclusion to this collection of thoughts.