Depersonalized intimacy: the cases of Sherry Turkle and Spike Jonze

WHAT I CALL “DEPERSONALIZED INTIMACY” posits modes of being with one another that are not predicated on a self that is in control of its own value, its own self-knowledge, or its own interpersonal interactions. The demand to be a knowable, self-aware, and authentic self thwarts many a friendship, love affair, and intimate conversation, and yet we continue to turn to the self-help aisle or Oprah to learn to be better at expressing and knowing ourselves. When that fails, we lament that we are misunderstood, unheard, and unmet by the other. This disappointment suggests that there is a transparent, authentic, and real self that needs recognition and mirroring. But this self is, I believe, a product of the neoliberal economization of the self, in which human capital becomes another site of investment and entrepreneurial ventures.1 As an antidote to this harmful and illusory expectation for the self, I suggest an ethics of depersonalized intimacy, in which we disinvest from an imagined relational self who is in charge of her actions and emotions and expected to perform herself to the other in an authentic and coherent manner.

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https://doi.org/10.1353/esc.2016.0004