How video calling is changing our relationships, Corona or not.
In times like these, “intimacy” is a mutable term. Phrases like “quarantine” and “social distancing” — the keywords defining the shapes of our lives right now — can feel something like intimacy’s direct opposite. We’re spacing ourselves out, washing our hands compulsively, and taking care to avoid breathing on or near one another whenever possible. It’s not an inherently sexy period of time.
In any case, our need for intimacy is not stifled, even whilst socially distancing — and whether or not it’s our preferred method of communication, FaceTime has become an essential part of our feeding that desire.
Right now, we’re watching office-wide happy hours occur by way of Zoom. We’re making plans for drinks with friends over video calls in much the same way we might if cocktail bars were still permitted guests. We’re carrying on the close-knit iterations of friendship we’ve cultivated over the years by way of our screens. And while this might feel novel, in smaller doses, it’s already been a part of most of our lives for quite some time. Whether FaceTime is our premiere way of catching up with friends stationed on different coasts, a tool we use to consult with our therapists or a way to show a bizarre, new rash to a doctor, it’s an open line of communication eternally available. And whether or not it’s replacing physical, IRL intimacy, it’s certainly become a part of the thing.
Mind you, that’s before we’ve even mentioned sex. In an increasingly global world, it’s more likely than ever—quarantine aside—that you’d find yourself in a long-distance relationship. But what with FaceTime and all, it doesn’t have to feel so long distance. Sure, that means you can have a nice dinner together and actually see each other while you, you know, eat. But it also means that sex, from a distance, can be a bit livelier than a suggestive text message back-and-forth. In fact, it can be livelier than phone intercourse. That’s right, you can actually see each other in the most intimate moments of your geographically distant sex — which means all the things that aren’t present on the phone (facial expression, body language, and the like) remain a part of your experience. At the very least, you won’t feel quite so far away.
So no, we’re not saying that the future looks like Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansen’s relationship in Her. In the post-Corona world, there will be a return to some semblance of normal. Likely, you will see your friends and your partners in the flesh someday. But that’s not to say that Facetime hasn’t emerged as a medium for intimacy entirely of its own.