Mobile intimacy

In today’s world, distance is no longer a limit to communicate and reach out to the rest of the world.

Globalization is spreading to even the most remote parts of the world due to the use of cell phones. The cell phone is a portable, mobile, inexpensive device that is changing the way people in Africa live, socialize and do business.

(Couillard, 2010).

With that being said, technologies have simplified interactions and have indirectly changes the quality placed in interaction all due to mobile intimacy. In defense of digital communication, it not an entirely new concept to begin with as it is only altered to comply with the existing form of communication patterns by introducing new ways or means of communication to maintain network (Arminen & Weilenmann, 2009). Couillard (2010) added that mobile media technology is an extension of the previous means practices of intimacy in such that Hjorth (2005 as cited in Couillard,2010) the nineteenth century letter writing tradition is now replaced with SMS (Short Message Service) and vacation postcards replaced with its digital analogy version through Facebook.

In the past, if you just receive news updates from your relatives staying abroad, it would have been much more exciting than today as communicating with someone abroad is just one click away instead of going through all the trouble with air mail and having to wait for quite some time for the replies. Arminen & Weilenmann (2009) coined this as ‘time-space compression’ which explains the potential of mobile devices that makes intimate connection possible most of the time. Apart from time saving, interaction is now cramped into a single seamless web (Licoppe, 2004 as cited in Arminen & Weilenmann, 2009).

With the new age of communication made easier, simplified and more mobile than ever, some might have taken it for granted. Is the level of intimacy with the people we connect with virtually is equal of the one in real world or are we more intimate with the mobile device itself? People keep checking their phones to connect to more people at the same time but are the context of intimacy here solid or is there any lines in between?

At one time we could connect and communicate with a lot of people from different places. Say during family gathering, apart from catching up with the people who are physically there, with mobile phone, one could also contact other people virtually which in a way is both good and bad; good as in that person could reach out to more people at the same time whereas it is bad in a way that his or her attention is now divided between reality and virtual communication. The discussion on intimacy here could be question.

Although it is all good, mobile media has somehow caused conflicts with the boundaries between individual relationships with work, private space and social life or what Couillard (2010) coined as overlapping boundaries between online and offline worlds.

The mobile phone ‘characterizes modern times and life in the fast lane’ and has become iconic of ‘work-life balance’—or lack thereof—in contemporary lifemanipulating ‘the boundary between work and life was one of the principal ways that many people controlled their time’

(Wajcman et al 2009, p. 9-10 as cited in Couillard, 2010).

Apart from the said boundaries between public, private, work and life, Gregg (2011) believe that it also affects economic and emotional spaces (As cited in Couillard, 2010). With the ability to work outside office, workers are now having extra load as they may be expected to be presence the whole time which may affect their social life and bonding time with their families and friends or even their own personal time. It is just a call away from having them to come for meetings or in some cases they have to attend skype (video call) meeting, and with internet on the go they have no excuse to not check their mail box to attend to urgent emails.

“The telephone has dramatically changed how people live their lives and see their world.”

(Kartz and Aakhus, 2002)

Here we could see how mobile communication has evidently change our lifestyle and indirectly become part of the necessity.Communication is no longer limited to certain times, but as with other new media it can take place on a 24/7 basis. It is notion of timeless time where time no longer divided into personal, work-related, leisure and so on; we get in touch whenever we want especially through mobile media. As explained by Arminen & Weilenmann (2009) the digital communication has been incorporated with daily routines and errands and in fact according to McNeill & McNeill (2003 as cited in Arminen & Weilenmann, 2009) has altered the ways of life and the organizing principles of society.


Arminen, I., & Weilenmann, A. (2009). Mobile presence and intimacy – reshaping social actions in mobile contextual configuration. Journal of Pragmatics, Special Issue on Communicating Place, Space & Mobility.

Couillard, C. (2010). Globalization: a study of cell phone use in africa. University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Hjorth, L., & Lim, S.S. (2012). Mobile intimacy in an age of affective mobile media. Feminist Media Studies, 12(4), 477-484.

Katz, J., & Aakhus, M. (2004). Introduction: framing the issues. In K. James & A. Mark (Eds.). Perpetual Contact Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance (pp. 1-14). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.


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