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Guest Post: “Ambient intimacy” a term you need to know

While scanning tweets tonight I read one that caught my eye enough to retweet it: @ramseym: Warren Buffett, “I would pay $5 a month for YouTube.” http://bit.ly/7xVbq

Clicking through to @ramseym’s profile, I found myself revisiting his blog and reading a post that caught my eye so much so that I asked @ramseym if I could repost it on SPN. What follows is his post from June 30th, titled “‘Ambient Intimacy’ a term you need to know.” He’s also agreed to contribute as a guest in the future, so be on the lookout for this up-and-coming blogger and video blogger in the Midwest.

0709_ramseymohsenprofilepicThis is a guest post written by Ramsey Mohsen, a web consultant and video blogger for the e-consultancy Digital Evolution Group in Overland Park, KS. He posts his tech news opinion regularly on his blog ramseymohsen.com.

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The term ambient intimacy is more than just a definition- it’s a construct that helps make sense of why the usage of social media appeals to the masses. Many often struggle in rationalizing SM’s value in corporate board rooms and company meetings everyday- or even when you’re talking to your friends. And it’s common for people to throw questions at you like; I don’t get why people use Twitter? Do people even read your blog? Isn’t social media just a bunch of narcissistic noise? Why do people use that website?

First, let me share a quick story about a friend, Sam Meers. Until recently- Sam and I had never met. However, we shared a mutual friend. She recommended I Google him and consider getting to know him better. Sam and myself share common interests in that we both blog and work in the agency world. Beyond that, we’re really quite different people. I started reading his blog and instantly was hooked at his ability to be such a graceful story teller with his words. I posted comments and my thoughts on blogs and we became acquaintances that was limited to just interactions online. Now- fast forward- the company I work for, engaged Sam to provide us consulting in regards to our marketing and brand. It was only then that I met him face-to-face for the first time. Yet, the first thing we both agreed was that the first question he asked, “What have you been up to?” was really irrelevant because of the interactions we share online. We already knew the answer to that question yet were only meeting for the first time! :) Our conversation was greatly augmented because we are able to jump right into relevant conversation we’re interested in.

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. In the case of Sam and myself, it is a perfect illustration about how social media facilitates this term, ambient intimacy.

  • Facebook helps me see what my friends are thinking, doing, projects they’re working on and what they did this weekend.
  • Twitter tells me what websites to check out and the opinions people have about news and current events.
  • Flickr lets me see the latest family photos or pics from a recent trip. And it also shows me their latest haircut.
  • Friendfeed tells me their activity stream of my friends online, what they’re looking at, what they’re reading and videos they’ve favorited on YouTube.

So who cares? @leisa summarizes it well; 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. 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.

When people have asked the ways social media has helped me- I always make it a point to mention that social media has the power to greatly augment (not destroy or lessen) existing relationships you have with friends, family and businesses (corporate use) you have in your life. Like anything, you must understand how to integrate it appropriately- but once you do, it’s powerful stuff.

Take my mom for instance, she’s likely my biggest fan of my flickr feed and video blogs (note: she lives in a different state). It is almost down to a routine for me to get a phone call from her once I upload something. Furthermore, I myself regularly reference in conversation with her, “Did you see that photo from my trip? [insert story here]“. She enjoys the ways my usage of social media provides intimacy even though the physical distance exists between us.

So if you think that “my mom” isn’t good enough justification- social media works wonders for businesses too. Take a look at the recent revenue Dell is making by using Twitter or the successful brand ambassadors Cirque Du Soleil has.

In my opinion, the term “Ambient Intimacy”, is an important psychological and communication construct that provides the WHY in how the technologies can enhance peoples behavior for the better.