With the advent of personal computer technology in general and social media specifically, everyone is a potential “media mogul.” The question becomes, what level of intimacy do you want with your audience? The graphic below, from http://loichay.tumblr.com/post/178728159/10-levels-of-intimacy-in-todays-communication, shows us 10 levels of intimacy using various forms of media available to us. Let’s look at each level starting with 1 and working up to level 10.
Levels 1 and 2 – These levels enable us to communicate with large amounts of people. In a nutshell, social media has made mass communication the purview of the individual. What was once the domain of traditional broadcast media, the common person can now take part and “social-media cast” to thousands. While this level allows one to scale to more people, obviously it is not intimate. The value here is casual contact with the masses. In this venue, clubs and civic organizations can make meeting announcements at virtually no cost.
Another value of levels 1 and 2 is the amount of either positive or negative“buzz” that tools such as Facebook and Twitter provide. For example, you purchased a product and it is not working correctly. You contact customer service but they are apathetic to your plight and give you the normal spiel that, “You can only return the product on the third Tuesday of each month between 1:35 and 1:40 PM with the receipt and a notarized statement promising both your right arm and first born child.” However, because of Twitter and Facebook you now have additional channels and leverage. You tweet (on Twitter) and post a status (on Facebook) about your less than satisfactory experience with the vendor. Others read of your situation and enter the fray. If the vendor is smart, they monitor the “twitterverse” and “facebookdom” looking to remedy what could be a potential run-away PR problem.
Levels 3 and 4 – I put these levels together given that both a Facebook message and traditional email are “push” technologies that do not require real-time interaction. The idea here is that you to not require an immediate response and can send or push the message to the intended recipient(s) and wait for the response at the convenience of the responder(s).
Levels 5 and 6 – Real-time communication is of a higher level of intimacy in that it requires your attention “then and there” and is therefore more intimate. The only difference in these levels is the media. Level 5 is with a mobile hand-held device and level 6 with a device (desktop or laptop computer) that provides a larger form-factor of view and keyboard input. While some would argue that the form-factor size is of no barrier, the larger form-factor, in my view, allows for a more intimate experience.
Level 7 – Here—the handwritten letter—appears to be a dying media. The fact that effort must be made to handwrite the message, the time it takes in forethought to prepare (given that editing a handwritten letter is not easy, especially with a pen), and the tangible properties of the letter (texture and smell of the paper) make this a more personal media.
Level 8 – While this level is difficult to scale, unless you are conferenced into a group or on a speaker phone with a group, this one-on-one media is real-time and auditory. You hear the person which provides a level of intimacy not achieved in the previous levels.
Level 9 – This level is considered more intimate than the lower levels given that the person or persons that you are speaking with are able to be viewed. With technologies such as Skype and an inexpensive webcam, we can achieve a high level of intimacy in spite of geographic location.
Level 10 – The most initiate level is face-to-face, physical presence. Here you have visual and an auditory exchange of signals as well as tactile contact. This results in a more direct attention to the person(s) with which you are communicating.
In summary, humanity has always operated on different levels of intimacy in various environments and settings. With the internet and social media, we have more avenues to operate within these levels of intimacy. More opportunities means learning which media is appropriate for which situation, is it good for personal or professional use, or what are the emerging social norms for the media. Again, what level are you?