Yesterday was Sunday and I attended Church with a family member. Raised Catholic, this non-denominational Christian Church is not at all the religious pomp and circumstance I am used to experiencing. The service was less traditional than Catholic Mass. A band plays contemporary Christian rock followed by a pastor in plain clothes who walks on stage talks about life issues. The topic of yesterday’s sermon was “A Place for everyone.” The pastor spoke about level of contact that people have with one another. As an example he used the theory of Proxemics introduced by anthropologist Edward T. Hall in the late 1960s. Basically, the theory explores the different levels of human interactions: public, social, personal and intimate. He was using the study to encourage people to explore their relationship with God, but of course, I was thinking how it could relate to relationships and dating.
The chart below demonstrates the levels of relationships. The outer circle is public. This might describe your relationship with Oprah if you ever went to a taping of her show. As an audience member, she was communicating with you but on a generic topical level. The second layer is social. For example, you are at a bar and meet someone new. Social would be a relaxed or friendly situation with people you do not know personally but in a situation where you could strike up a conversation. This is probably the level at which most people are introduced or meet a potential dating prospect. In the social setting, people exchange generic questions like, “Where do you work?” or “What do you like to do for fun?”
The personal circle would represent you relationship with friends and family. These people are familiar with more then just the basics about your life. Someone in your personal circle has likely known you for an extended period of time and retains specific information about your life. Conversations are likely more detailed and honest in this circle whereas in the social circle they might be guarded or censored. The intimate circle is deeper than the personal circle. The intimate circle can refer to intimacy of a sexual nature, but more so the depth and detail of the information that you share with a person and the support that would come from that deep relationship. For example, parents, siblings and children can be represented in the center circle, as parents and siblings often have a unique bond with their family members. It is suggested that you can only really be intimate with about three people at one time because of the effort and feeling that goes into the level of relationship.
I found this theory very interesting and there are many ways that is applies to dating and meeting new people. Many couples meet in the social atmosphere: a bar, a sporting event or party. However, during that those initial meetings there is a certain urgency to get past the social and into the personal to find out if there is truly compatibility. For example, in the social circle you can determine someone’s job, living situation and other statics about him or her. On that superficial level, many people have criteria that you might be looking for in a mate. I could meet five men that fit my standards, but without getting personal, how do I know which has boyfriend potential? What you really need to know are the personal details: do they want children, what is their relationship like with their family, is marriage in their future. Not the type of conversation you have with a stranger at a bar.
Internet dating sites give us the option of bypassing the social and moving right to the personal. Without even meeting, you can view a person’s profile and determine if they believe in the institution of marriage, love pizza and hope to have three children in the next five years. Most sites prompt you to address personal questions so interested parties can weed out their compatibility standards before making initial contact. It is almost like boyfriend or girlfriend resumes at your fingertips. For around thirty dollars a month, you can do away with the public and social scenarios and move right to the personal details. Therefore, I ask you. Is technology is peeling away the once measurable distances between people?
To be continued…