I briefly introduced a device – “The Relationship Bubble” – in the introduction to this series of essays. I did this immediately after discussing what it MIGHT have been like as a baby inside your mother’s womb. At that point, that was your life. You had few if any needs that weren’t automatically satisfied. You could interact with the world, but only in very limited ways. At certain points along your journey as a fetus, you began to sense things. You began to touch, taste, hear, and probably smell. You interacted with your mother in various ways, including how you moved, what you touched/pushed/prodded/kicked, etc. You were developing your first relationship, and for the more sensitive families your mother was probably helping you develop other relationships as she described your actions – either real, imagined, or created by her.
In this context, you could say your mother’s womb was your first relationship bubble – fairly literally in fact. That said, even as early as this, your family and perhaps others were likely creating a more figurative but no less important relationship bubble for you. This relationship bubble is made up of things like your family relationships with the rest of the world, your family background, aspirations, limitations, etc., etc. These castles in the sky that others create about you (intentially or otherwise) become what I’m planning to term your relationship bubble. Over time and as you begin to be more adept at communications through your own actions, you adopt more and more of your own bubble and then over time you begin to control more significant portions of it. You are never in complete control of your relationship bubble, and it lives on even after you die.
Your relationship bubble is bounded by the things that any other individual is exposed to about you that influences their beliefs about you. It starts out with a life of its own – since it is initially created in the context of our situations – and then we have opportunities to influence it until we die and then it lives on in people’s heads and evolves as others want it to evolve until what is left is largely what you and others recorded about it and what others choose to record about it posthumously. I choose not to for purposes of these essays, but you might call this bubble your identity. It is really how others perceive you, and how they choose to influence how others perceive you – which becomes a part of your bubble just as much as, and sometimes more than your own actions.
Comprehending the concept of a relationship bubble and attempting to exercise some level of control over it is highly significant and challenging. Please take a moment to read the story about “Blind Men and an Elephant.” Now consider that, while not something the observer can touch (unless you are in physical contact with the observer – totally unnecessary to the development of perceptions about you), the part of your relationship bubble that is exposed to any given observer is dependent upon their frame of reference, the information that is made available about you from any source, etc. This will be different – sometimes dramatically different – from one observer to the next. It might even be useful for you to consider your relationship bubble to be separate for different people and/or constituencies in your life.
Some people manage their relationship bubble carefully and extensively. Others pretend that it doesn’t exist. The rest of us are on a continuum between these extremes. The essence of this series of essays is to discuss how internet use influences the management of our relationship bubbles.