Extimacy is the ambient mood of the website Vie de Merde ("Shitty Life"), which has become the ninth-most-popular search on Google's French search engine. Vie de Merde started as a personal journal a couple of years ago by Maxime Valette, now 20; last year the most popular posts were published in book form.
A March 21 article about VDM in the online Wall Street Journal quotes Swiss psychologist and author Yves-Alexandre Thalmann, who says the site's popularity stems from people's desire for recognition:
Thalmann didn't invent the term; it was coined the French psychiatrist Jacques Lacan (1901-1981), who called it extimité. For Lacan and his followers, extimacy expressed "the opposition between inside and outside, between container and contained." Lacan died before the birth of the World Wide Web, but seemed to anticipate it, at least according to one observer:
We could look at the interface of the Web and, moreover, Web 2.0 as a mode of exercising extimacy with other people. A social networking profile is created and within that profile is a blending of various symbols from film, TV, art, others’ photography and so on. Contacting others and “friending” others based on similar web-surfing habits expands one’s online self and entwines within one, the interests and symbolization of another person. Moreover, when looking at the interface of the computer screen, one experiences the decentering of one’s self-image, a fragmented mirroring back of oneself occurs. Desires that are posted by other people, become one’s own desires, desires that one did not even know existed. By expanding one’s network, one comes to see oneself as projected by these other people. Again, there is an intertwining, a conjoining of self and other and in this conjoining, an extimate self is realized.
The meaning of "extimacy" is, contradictorily, contained within the root of "intimate": the Latin intimare, which means "to make known, announce, impress."
The founders of Vie de Merde have also launched an American version of the site, F My Life ("Everyday Life Stories"). A similar concept underlies the longer-running Post Secret and the newer Twitter counterpart, Secret Tweet.
See also: Overshare.
Image: Möbius strip, from Instructables. A Möbius strip is a geometric paradox: a surface with only one side. It's a physical representation of the psychological concept of extimacy.