Relationships in a World of Individualism

  • rWorld

    The rWorld is about more than Dale Kuehne's book Sex and the iWorld.
    The rWorld is a New England based, non-profit (in formation), that is composed of a growing number of people and organizations from many faith and ideological backgrounds worldwide. We believe that much of the fulfillment for which women and men are looking can be found by enhancing the quality of our relationships. While the individual freedom we enjoy in the West is a gift, the love and intimacy for which humans yearn will not be found in self-serving materialism or hedonism, but in a variety of healthy relationships.

    Contact us if you'd like get involved:

  • Dale Kuehne

    Sex & the iWorld

    Professor of Politics and The Richard L. Bready Chair for Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College, Manchester, NH.

    In this blog I'm highlighting signposts of the world in which we presently reside as a means of helping promote a civil, and meaningful dialogue about what kind of world in which we wish to live. I am particularly interested in exploring how might we reconcile the individual good and the common good, and where reconciliation isn’t possible, which should take precedence and why.

    I also blog at

    [Content Caution]

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rLiving 29: Blogging, Tweeting and Paranoia (Directness, Commonality)

Posted by Simon on February 25, 2011

It had to happen, and frankly I was amazed it took until day 29 to get there. But one night during the original run through of this series I found myself totally uninspired on what to write about and desperately wishing the 30-day project was over. I was also unbelievably tired – I’d had some of the most intense weeks at work just when I was spending a couple of hours a night trying for the first to work out and write out things I’d pondered for years. Maybe it takes 30 days to break/form a habit, not 21? It seems to be when you’re near completion of a stretch goal that your metal is tested.

As I sat at my laptop that evening I started doubting why I was doing this. And I started getting a little paranoid. I knew people had been reading the blog, but who?! And why did the page views go from 80+ one day to 15 the next?!! Numbers are a pathetic and pointless thing to start worrying about when you’re blogging, or tweeting – unless you’re trying to make money out of ad clicks. Coincidentally that past couple of weeks I’d also started wondering why other twitter people I’m following tweeted and re-tweeted each other but not me!

This is an embarrassing paranoia. But it does make me think about ‘relationships’ with people in these two social media. I know personally all the people who have commented on this blog series, or commented on my facebook status blog update. And that’s 7 people in total. Two people who I don’t know personally had kindly referred to this blog series; one on twitter (@marciamarcia) and one on his own popular blog (@scotmcnight). But I’d only had one direct back-and-forth conversation, and that on an administrative matter, with only one of them. The link from Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog generated an all-time peak of page-views (near 180) the previous weekend. So I was delighted and encouraged by the interest from Scot and his readers, but I still only knew and had interacted with those seven people. So as far as I was concerned it only felt like I had a ‘relationship’ with those seven.

Relational Proximity Dimension #1 is “Directness”. My relationship with someone is better and healthier the less mediated it is. It can be mediated by technology or other people: these reduce our ability to communicate fully and know each other better.

An awareness of ‘Directness’ makes me think of mutuality in social media. So knowing there are other people reading my blog but that I’m not being able to communicate with them makes me feel … well, paranoid! Literally, it’s like knowing people are watching me, but I don’t know who they are or what they’re thinking. So who wouldn’t be paranoid!!? I’d rather not think about them too much.

Relational Proximity Dimension #5 is Purpose/Commonality: Our sense of connectedness and relationship is greater to the degree we have things in common or share a common purpose or identity. A good relationship has a direction to it, something that is common between the members that holds it together.

And yet, I had a specific shared ‘Commonality’ around the topic of relationships with the daily 50-90+ ‘readers’ (unless the page-views are all from bots) that I didn’t have with others. The blog ad been one of the only public means by which I’d shared my own attempts to work out how Relational Proximity might apply to life. So I had what almost feels like an intimacy with these people, like they might understand me, that I don’t with others. Of course I needed to make a number of assumptions about the page-views; for instance, that they are interested, and that if several different posts are clicked on then there’s even more interest. On one post I’d used the term ‘dear readers’ so clearly I felt like I had a relationship with them/you. I feel like I have an actual ‘community’ of sorts, bound by commonality even if not by directness.

So I ended with no idea what to think, but I got a blog out of it!

Interestingly, reposting this series on this blog has elicited rarely more than 18 hits, far fewer than the first time, but for some reason I feel less concerned about it.

[See the introduction for the background to this series and the five dimensions of Relational Proximity.]


2 Responses to “rLiving 29: Blogging, Tweeting and Paranoia (Directness, Commonality)”

  1. Visionary said

    This is actually one of the problems I have with social media. It’s distant and removed. It’s so easy to be a casual observer in someone else’s life and feel somehow fulfilled by it, like you’ve made some kind of meaningful connection, when in truth all you did was open a window and look in. It’s an easy substitute for reality, allowing the reader to feel fill up their social need meter (can you tell I used to play The Sims?) without actually having to socialize.

    I’ve noticed the same with all the blogs I’ve started and tried in the past. I’ve got tons of viewers, but very few people feel they’ve got anything to say in response. It just feels somehow empty…lonely…doesn’t it?

    • Simon said

      Hi Visionary, thanks for commenting!
      I totally agree, social media can an easy substitute for real encounter relationships. You make a great point about how being a distant observer provides a ‘sense’ of fulfillment or meaningful connection, when it actually, really does not. I don’t blame social media though, I think people have always sought to avoid direct encounter with one another, with the attendant vulnerability that comes with that. It seems the research shows that people with high interaction online also have high interaction with people off-line – in fact most of the people they interact with are friends whom they see in real life.
      So there’s some cause for optimism that social media can increase the ways we connect with each other, not just replace them.

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