Why does the ‘oversharing generation’ have an intimacy problem?

I come from a generation that would delete the phone dialing app if they could. My generation doesn’t make phone calls. When I call my friends, they ask me who died. When my father calls me I assume something disastrous has happened. We are the generation of Facebook likes, comments, Gplus photo stories, retweets, @replies and Instagrammable moments. We are the generation of memories in motion, constantly.

We live our lives plainly for society to witness, the internet is our home. The internet is the place we come to at the end of bad day, who we talk when we need guidance. It is there with us in every moment, good and bad. We are the generation that have our friends in our ears and heads all day via Skype or Hangouts. We will sit all day, say little to nothing, but enjoy each other’s company from afar. It’s an experiment in intimacy, connection and some conversation.

My generation is about the lived and documented experience, because if it is not on social it didn’t happen. People talk about my generation, how we live our lives through screens, we don’t understand how to hold a real conversation. They call us the generation that killed voice.

They say my generation knows nothing of intimacy. A TED Talk by Sherry Turkle addresses our need for a ‘Goldilocks’ brand of intimacy. She argues that the technologies we hang onto for dear life propose themselves “as the architect of our intimacies.” My generation it presupposes are satisfied and long for the connections inside our devices. Our likes, retweets, grams, and photos make up our daily experiences. Turkle explains that our daily social media experiences can be equated to a single moment of temptation. The place we are pulled into the illusion of “companionship without the demands of intimacy”. My generation, it seems, believe or at least cling to the hope that status updates and online sharing is genuine communication. Allowing us to sacrifice “conversation for mere connection”.

“The feeling that ‘no one is listening to me’ makes us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us,” says Turkle.

My generation is plenty intimate. Our phones are the most intimate nonphysical thing in our lives. We can be close and intimate with people through our mobiles without actually being physically close to them. If we define intimacy as the feeling in any relationship that provides closeness, bonding, and connects one person to another, then my generation have redefined the art of intimacy. Intimacy is an art, connections require work and finesse and my generation do all of that and many times take those connections offline. The assumption is that intimacy may be sustained through devices and could be fleeting because the connection is lost when the device is no longer there.

‘Will all your friends in your mobile phones be there for you when the time comes?’ For my generation, the answer is that we hope so. We hope the people we have taken out of our devices and welcomed into our hearts will be there for us. Just like your generation, with its phone calls and physical lunches hopes that their friends will be there for them. The conversations we have online are smart, silly, life changing and at times racy or as we say, not safe for work (NSFW). There is always a likelihood that there will always be someone to talk to online.

My generation is vulnerable to a fault. Our hopes, dreams, and insecurities are laid bare for the world to comment on, like, dislike, favourite, and retweet. We live it everyday and we still share. We live, love, hate, and have our hearts broken publicly everyday and peers endure with us and sometimes they mock us but we carry on. My generation is both fearless and afraid. My generation is behind a screen but we will not let it stop us from experiencing the world. Each experience shared, validates who we are and the path we are on. Some call it neo narcissism, a lack of the adventure gene, but we call it our way.

My generation believes in the crowd and power of the hive mind — you may call us slacktivists sitting behind our computers keystroking a stop to injustice. We make our difference and when it matters, we step out from the LED gaze of our screens and stand up for what we must. We may not all be in the streets protesting but we are all contributing. We work behind the scenes to build products that help the disenfranchised. We give everyday humans a voice and we let our voice be heard.

We tell sly anecdotes about online liaisons both on and offline, even with the involved party ‘listening’. We are acerbic and give brands and people little room to hide faults or service delivery. We know we have not been invited to the social media party to play mannequins so we contribute, at times too much. Many times our good intentions run amok and social gaffes have become our thing. Language for my generation is artisanal. We speak in shortcodes and emoticons, the rules of this kind of interaction was never explained yet everyone is clued up. We have eased into the world of emojis, our comfort zone of smileys and info desk lady.

We and our selfies, our IMs and status updates, we too think about the future of our world and our role in it. It’s hard to think of my generation as the one that broke down the boundaries of intimacy, when I feel that we are learning to find ourselves in the world that intimacy has many faces. We mitigate our vulnerability through external image curation. We live, we love, we fail and succeed online.

My generation doesn’t make phones calls because we think it is the harbinger of doom. In a world overrun with so much mishegoss, we retreat to the internet for solace and we seek shelter in our devices because there, people like us wait. My generation is not held back by the screens we live through. Life is generally less traumatic when all your ‘friends’ go through it with you. We are not online because we don’t know our to live outside it, (perhaps we don’t) we are online because it feels oddly safe.

We may overshare but as we mature and our use of social media usage matures we learn to curate our sharing and the generation of ‘tnx’ becomes the ‘thank you’ generation.

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