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bird poops on plum branch


Buster Benson

No advice column.

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17: personal space
bird poops on plum branch
It would be interesting to create a social network that used a constraint like personal space to determine what rank they were.  I wanted to create one a while ago that was all about who you've taken to the airport or helped move, as those are two activities that restrict your friend group to a pretty limited set.  Unlike myspace or LJ, you can't just add everyone as friends... unless you have taken everyone to the airport and helped everyone move.  But, this game sort of makes me a jerk because I don't have a car so most of my relationships seem to be one-sided.

But personal space is a little fairer.  There are 5 zones of space according to this book I'm reading on body language:
  1. Public Zone: This space doesn't belong to you at all, and it's where any old stranger can be without you feeling threatened.  On average, it's about 12 feet away from you.
  2. The Social Zone: Somewhere between 4 and 12 feet, this space is for people that we could potentially interact with.  Plumbers working on our sink, waiters, etc.
  3. The Personal Zone: Between 1.5 and 4 feet, this is for friends, coworkers, family, and people you trust.
  4. The Intimate Zone: Between 6 and 18 inches.  This is the one that feels the most wrong when violated.  This is your space, and is reserved only for people who are emotionally close to you.  There's a sub-zone called the Close Intimate Zone which is even more restrictive and is 0-6 inches... which is used as you might expect.
I think that the distances here are, strangely, for faces.  People can come closer to their allowed zone as long as their faces stay the right distance away.  Haha.  Do you think that's true?

People who enter the Intimate Zone without permission are interpreted as intruders and possible attackers.  You have physical reactions to that violation, like increased heart rate, adrenaline, etc.  Strange that we have all these rules about space... the more I think about them the more complicated it all is.  Just think about how you react to each gender differently, and to people who are higher or lower on the status totem pole to you.  And what different social situations do to change the personal space math (like elevators, movie theaters, buses, airplanes, concerts, etc). 

So, maybe on Facebook or myspace or LJ we should say how close we've been to each of the people on our list.  It would be funny.  And possibly scary.  Maybe it's too much information.  But at the very least it would allow you to create a tiered set of friends that was somewhat objective and accurate to some strange formula in our heads.

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whatever, i've made out with most of my friends list. it says nothing!

That's true! Interesting! But how would you define your personal zone and your intimate zone... I bet there are still ways to cross into them that would make you feel uncomfortable, right? Tell us, in the name of science!

see, maybe my thing isn't the face zone. maybe it's another zone on my body. that could make sense. i've never been one with space issues though, i used to be a theater kid and we were taught to break down physical zone barriers. i think i have a small zone of very personal space around the crotchal region, but otherwise it's not so much an issue.

i like the idea of having more accurate degrees of closeness represented in the UI on these kinds of sites. Orkut and Wallop tried, but not really hitting the mark.

So I would have no friends 'cause I don't drive and I'm a 104-pound weakling who gets left to guard the car. Thanks Buster!

Maybe the biggest reason why Times Square freaks me out so much is that at work, people mostly abide by those proximity rules. Right when I want to leave and decompress, I'm instead dropped out in the middle of tourist chaos. Today along with the normal touts and tourists taking pictures, there was a line of people three deep waiting for a concert right outside the Viacom building. It's much more chaotic than Grand Central, which is equally busy, but everyone there is purposefully walking or running to their train. As a coping mechanism, I've had to find the humor and remind myself that Times Square is just like that for two-and-a-half blocks and then I can get the hell home.

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