Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Anonymous Intimacy

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Anonymous Intimacy

Article excerpt

MASS MEDIA offer us a strange experience where we see and hear various intimate details about the lives of people we do not know. For example, as I write this, the trial of Michael Jackson is going on. I am not following the trial closely, but I cannot help hearing stories and seeing headlines telling me about different sexual escapades which are alleged to have happened. I do not know Michael Jackson, nor does he know me. But I am finding out more than I wish to know about his personal, private life.

I call this phenomenon "anonymous intimacy." This phrase is an oxymoron used as a metaphor for a widespread media phenomenon. Usually we keep intimate information to ourselves, or share only with our family or close friends. Intimacy usually implies a personal relationship. But putting intimate information over the mass media results in anonymous people knowing it.

Anonymous intimacy goes way back. Some of the first print novels were written to imitate personal letters written by various young women. Readers got an intimate look into the lives and thoughts of these fictional women. Clearly the desire for intimate knowledge of strangers played a role in the creation and consumption of this new art form.

Print media has moved on from these early efforts, and given us tell-all memoirs and biographies, stream-of-consciousness narratives of all sorts, both fictional and non-fictional efforts to reveal the thoughts of others. The daily newspaper has evolved a special species, the "tabloid," to provide us with juicy details of people's lives. Anonymous intimacy is daily fare in the world of print.

Art can also provide us with intimate glimpses of people, often without their clothes on. …

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