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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Relational Space Online

© lunamarina -
There are four traditional spaces for relationship. Each space has its own rules that our culture applies to govern the relationships in that space.

  1. Public - Anonymous to surface-level relationships. Large personal bubble. Crowd sized group.
  2. Social - Surface-level to friendship relationships. Smaller personal bubble. Some sharing conversation. 15-50 group
  3. Personal - Friends to good-friends. Smallest personal bubble. Deep conversation. 3-12 group.
  4. Intimate - Closest friends and spouse. No personal bubble. Deep sharing. 1 or 2 people besides you in the group.
Those categories are useful for real life reaction. We know precisely when something is public or personal. For example, Sunday gatherings are usually public space, bible classes and potlucks are social space, small groups are personal space and intimate space is with your spouse or best friend. 

What about interaction online? Posting a status on Facebook can feel very personal since you are typically sitting by yourself at your computer when you type it in. But then every one of your friends gets to see it, and comment on it, not just the ones in your personal sphere, but your social and even public spheres. Conversations can get intimate online (which isn't a bad thing), but when that happens in a public space that can be damaging. 

Here's a bit of practical advice for relational space online. Only post things publicly that you would also announce at a friend's party. Use the groups functions on Facebook to post more personal stuff to just your friends. Have private conversations through the chat or personal message features, not in public on someone's wall. Think of the different areas on Facebook or other social websites as actual physical spaces. The Facebook wall is the outside of the house where everyone can see. What would you put up on the wall of your house? A friend's house? If you're going to have a personal or private conversation, you go inside. 

How do you think relational spaces work online? 

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