The Imagined Space of Long Distance Relationships

Long Distance Relationships aren’t that uncommon in 2016. Most of us, at some point of time, have been forced to leave someone that we are really close to temporarily, and some of us are in relationships with someone in another city, state or even country.

We try our best to stay connected through internet, phonecalls, Skype, Whatsapp, email and any other means we can find that let us feel connected.

But the reality of LDR is that sometimes it lets you feel so close and intimate, and sometimes it can be hurtful and lonely.

i am a visual thinker. The way i think and learn is through abstract imagination, and so i often picture Long Distance Relationships / Online Relationships as weather.

During the good weather, it’s possible to feel strangely good about each other, sometimes perhaps even more intimate than physically being together. Without physical body language, it’s possible to get some purity in the focus on that single type of symbols being used to communicate ideas and spaces. i think it’s similar to how reading a book is sometimes better than watching a film or going to a party. In that space, we aren’t distracted in our interpretation of meanings. We are focused in the imaginative space.

If i was writing an academic paper i’d say that such online intimacy in Long Distance Relationships is a kind of post-modern concept where relationships are no longer subjected to the traditional concept of what they should be. Rather, individuals have begun to experiment and puzzle together different elements from different types of intimacy and make it work for them.

To better understand “the imagined space” of LDR, I’d like to quote Benedict Anderson’s theory on “Imagined Community” where he suggests the concept of Nationalism is not a real encounter, but an imagined fictional one.

I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community — and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion…. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined…. Finally, [the nation] is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately, it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as be willing to die for such limited imaginings.
― Benedict Anderson

What makes me a Malaysian, not an American, has very little to do with my factual background of being born in Malaysia. It is rather a imagination that sits at the back of subconsciousness, that lets me think that i am part of a geographical area, and part of this country. i may not have been to every part of Malaysia in order to find out what being a Malaysian is like, but yet, the idea of being a Malaysian is a very strong imaginative identity marker.

Drawing the concept of “Imagined Community” to Long Distance Relationships, we are constructing an imagined space and relationship, that may or may not be transferred to physical reality.

This “Imagined Space” is what makes LDR feel strangely good or strangely bad. It might have very little to do with real physical encounters, but it’s significant and very real nonetheless.

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