Ambient intimacy, ambient engagement

A couple years ago we used to refer to the twitter stream in terms of “ambient intimacy.” The phrase stuck. It captured the experience of in-stream serendipity and discovery, of finding and building connections in a real time medium that was faster than Facebook, mobile, and hyper-conversational.

How time flies. Ambient intimacy is now baked into the very air we breathe. It’s a fresh air, a turbulent air, dead air, sometimes a choking air. Used to be that one had to write to communicate. Checkins and a universe of shareable media have taken care of that. The stream flows full now of flotsam and jetsam of all kinds.

In this fast and ambient world of ubiquitous and connected sharing, intimacy has been crowded out. The impulse to “reach out and touch” is now more rare. A pass along will pass for enough. Gestures and signals are faster than talking. Liking gratifies in a Roman instant.

We live in a time of “ambient engagement.” There if you want it, gone in a second, if you don’t. Ambient engagement is the etiquette for social in a geo-local age. In an age when talk is an ever-present possibility, but only rarely an obligation.

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  • http://twitter.com/pamelarutledge Dr. Pamela Rutledge

    I view ‘talk as an ever-present possibility’ a good thing. (Lovely turn of phrase, by the way.)  Not sure there are benefits in ‘obligated talk.’  Given that time is our most precious resource, I prefer the ambient engagement of banking online to the quality time standing in a line waiting to actually speak to the bank teller.  If the ‘reach out and touch’ is more rare, it may mean that people are past the “shiny penny” stage of social media and using it where it does the most good: providing a glue and continuity to important relationships where it would not otherwise be possible.  But you know me, I’m always a glass half full kind of person when it comes to technology.