Friday, June 13, 2014

Comfort Zones, Or "Take A Big Step Back. Now."

Remember when we used to actually get together with other people? When how we related to each other didn't involve sitting in front of a computer screen? I think it was back in the seventies. And we all used to walk around saying things like "I need my space, man" and "Get out of my space". And I suppose there are still people out there in Third World countries that still carry on talking in person to each other the old fashioned way. People without texting and emails, forums or blogs... Or rebels, back to nature hippies or hipsters with earrings in strange places who are into the whole retro thing.

In this day and age it is so weird to actually have to be in close physical proximity in order to communicate. The horror.

Now I don't want to get all scientific on you, but if you know someone like that you might snail mail them the above chart about something called Proxemics. The cultural anthropologist Edward T. Hall first coined the term in 1963, while studying the matter of our personal space requirements. It's like where our protected territory starts and stops and how that affects our comfort. And how different circumstances or different people determine how we use our personal space and react to distance changes. Measurements vary between different cultures. For instance, folks from Latin countries tend to feel more comfortable standing closer to one another as they interact, while we in North America want people out of our faces (for the most part). It's interesting in a purely academic way.

Then there are the things that short circuit our zones; things like lust and psychological deviations. And then there are those people who feel like they have to touch you in order to talk to you: who don't seem to know whether you're real unless they're confirming your existence by clinging onto your sleeve. You know the type... glazed eyes, manic laughter at inappropriate times and a little bit of drool coming out of the corner of their mouths.

Luckily, we have computers and tablets now. We can maintain our comfort zones and keep all that messy interpersonal stuff to a bare minimum. 


  1. I spent a long weekend driving all over the place just so I could get in people's personal space. It was nice to actually see them in 3-D. I even saw Canada and waved. Did you wave back?

    1. No, but the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. :) Glad to see the nuns letting you out on your own now... lol