Nonverbal Cues as Clues: Gogglebox Secrets
If you’re a Gogglebox Australia fan, you might enjoy my observations of the Goggleboxers, based on screenshots sent to me by Foxtel Networks’ online magazine, Lifestyle.
I’m wary of reading too much into images, because a snapshot of a moment in time, is not always a good indicator of the bigger picture, in this case, the ‘family’ dynamics of the Goggleboxers. And, I haven’t seen the show to know whether the behaviours I observed in the images are often present, and therefore representative of the Goggleboxers personalities, relationships and dynamics.
Touching a Nerve
That said, I enjoyed scrutinising the images for clues, and pondering whether secrets revealed were the truth, or not. Interestingly, shortly after publication, my husband realised the article had disappeared from Lifestyle’s website. My response, “Oh no, it must have been true. I’ve hit a nerve with one of the Goggleboxers”. Yikes!
A few days later, it was back. With one ‘family’ removed. Was I right? It was indeed the family of the Goggleboxer I had suspected–I think I really did hit a nerve.
My indecision as to whether to include the observations in question in this post is one reason I’m posting this article so long after the event. (The other reason being, I’ve been busy behind the scenes of My Alcomy, creating some online courses–coming soon!) I even asked my Facebook network whether I should include it or not. Some said yes, some said no–none knew who was involved or what was written.
On reflection, I’ve decided to go ahead and post all the original observations and notes sent to the publisher. Most of which was published first time around. I figured it’s really no big deal. I think you’ll agree. What’s more, I was diplomatic in my writing from the start.
Here are my original notes sent to the publisher. Apologies for not including the screenshots–I don’t want to breach copyright law. You can see them in Lifestyle’s article. Enjoy…
Gogglebox Family Dynamics
A lot of information about the current state of a relationship can be gathered from observing body language and other nonverbal communication behaviours. What we observe in the moment, tells us the emotion of that moment. It doesn’t necessarily reflect beyond that, unless the behaviours displayed are typical for the people involved. For example, a strong and loving relationship may be temporarily marred by a tiff. The behaviours associated with the tiff would be observed during that time, but would not be an accurate indicator of the general state of the relationship. Therefore, when analysing the body language of relationships, we must do so with caution, with this in mind.
The analysis of the Gogglebox Families are therefore reflective of the feelings of those involved at that time. If these are typical behaviours, they could offer clues into their relationships.
Adam and Symon
Adam and Symon seem to have a strong connection within their relationship–they are close. Adam sits at the end of the sofa, at the closest point to Symon. Both their bodies lean-in towards each other–they are in this together, a friendship of solidarity. This is most obvious in Adam’s body language, his head and torso lean towards Symon. His body is relaxed. Whatever he’s avidly watching, he’s more open to it than Symon. Symon mirrors the lean to a lesser degree, his head and torso tilted slightly towards Adam. He’s less relaxed. Either the situation they are in (being filmed) or what they are watching is of some concern to Symon, he feels a small level of discomfort. We can see this in his tight lips, and his arms crossed over his torso. This self-comforting blocking behaviour offers him a small degree of comfort. The biggest give-away to their strength of friendship is seen in their leg and foot direction. Both Adam and Symon mirror each other's pose, with one leg tucked under their body and their other leg pointed directly towards each other–their feet are almost touching.
This is a family with a loving and close bond. We can see this with their close proximity and touch–each one of them is linked to the next, connecting them together like links of a chain–a solid family unit. Mother and daughter, Kate and Millie match each other’s pose, their knees pointing towards their right–towards Matt, their husband and father. They are both positively engaged in what they are observing, more so that Matt and daughter Holly. This matching of body language and engagement could indicate similar personalities or a solid bond between them. Or, perhaps it is merely Kate’s sitting style, inherited by Millie.
Matt sits in the middle of the family; he’s less engaged and less relaxed. His upright body posture could be an indicator that he is conscious of how the public may perceive him. Could Kate and Millie’s pose, knees pointing towards him indicate their perception of him as the family leader?
Out on the end is Holly. Her expression, posture and distance seem at odds with the other members of the family. Her head tilts slightly outwards away from them. She’s less engaged and doesn’t seem happy with something. We don’t know what, but we can read that within this moment, she is emotionally detached from the situation and family unit. There is a very subtle nonverbal behaviour from Matt, towards daughter Millie. His right arm points slightly outwards towards her. This could be a deliberate attempt to reach out to her, comforting her and maintaining the connection between them all.
Mick and Di
Mick and Di also show a close and solid partnership. Mick leans-in towards Di with his legs, head and torso, almost making touch contact with his elbow. Di’s legs mirror Mick’s, their outer legs crossed over pointing towards each other. Notice their hands. Mick’s hands extend beyond his torso, towards Di, while her hands sit on the right side of her lap–also towards Mick. I suspect that if the cameras weren’t present, these two would be holding hands. And, since both have interlocked fingers, I wonder if this is their attempt to self-comfort and pacify their innate need to touch each other.
Leanne and Tim
Leanne and Tim are distant in proximity. It’s possible this indicates emotional distance within their relationship, however, it could also be an attempt to conceal their true emotions of togetherness publicly. Some people are less comfortable with showing their feelings in public.
Both are using a cushion as a device in which to block a source of discomfort, probably stemming from what they are watching. This is a blocking behaviour. In fact, both are also using their arms and hands in a similar way, a physical barrier crossing over their torso, offering some protection them from the discomfort they feel. We do this when we feel the slightest bit of emotional discomfort, even if that is the presence of a stranger in the room or something negative we see or hear. It’s our attempt to comfort ourselves from a perceived potential threat; typically, we protect the area of our body which contains our most vital organs–the torso.
Leanne’s head leans slightly away from Tim. While this could indicate emotional distancing–perhaps from something he has just said or done, it’s also possible that it is a display of emotional empathy and engagement towards whatever it is she’s watching.
Lee and Keith
Like with Leanne and Tim, there’s a physical distance between Lee and Keith, which again, could indicate emotional distance. Keith does seem to be more emotionally connected to Lee than she does to him. His body leans slightly inwards towards her, while her head, legs and feet lean away from him. Both Keith’s hands are positioned to his left, towards Lee, yet Lee’s hands are firmly clasped over the cushion on her lap which she’s using to bring comfort to herself. She’s making no attempt to connect with Keith.
Although we can’t automatically assume from this that their relationship isn’t close–some people are less touchy-feely than others, or more conscious of showing their emotion in public–I can’t help but think that there is a lack of togetherness between Lee and Keith. Keith seems to be the one who is attempting to bridge the gap.
Emily, Kerry and Isabelle sit together, but apart. Like birds perched, equidistantly, on an overhead wire, these women value their independence and personal space, each living their own separate lives. I suspect the mothers of this family have nurtured their daughters to be strong and independent. Each one of them is comfortable within their own skin, without the need to feel emotional connectedness or support from others.
Isabelle, sitting in the middle, is perhaps the one of the three who is the least comfortable and influential within the family. This makes sense since she is the youngest. Mother and Grandmother, sitting on either side of her as if to protect her–she is still being nurtured. Isabelle shows a couple of signs of discomfort, the first, playing with her hair, is a self-soothing comforting behaviour; the second is the way she holds her leg as if to wrap herself up to gain emotional strength or protection.
Like the Silberys, the Jacksons sit equally distanced apart, each independent to the others. This distance could indicate emotional independence felt by all members of the large family. The autonomy is possibly a consequence of the size of the family. Parents Stacey and Grant have had to spread their love and nurturing between six children, that may have resulted in the children having less one-to-one nurturing, allowing them to develop a healthy self-reliance.
The Jacksons could also be a family who isn’t touchy-feely. Parents Stacey and Grant sit apart. Perhaps, if Stacey and Grant do not show their love for each other through proximity and touch, their children have learned to behave in the same way too.
Each male member of the family in the picture, show similar body language to each other as do the two females in the picture. In fact, mother and daughter have the same pose and positioning. These similarities suggest good rapport and a positive family dynamic.
Jad, Sarah Marie and Matty
These three don’t like what they see, each one showing blocking behaviours, with Sarah Marie and Matty showing expressions of surprise and fear.
Jad sits independently, leaning outwards and within his own space, while Sarah Marie and Matty, sitting together, match each other in their position and pose. They aren’t physically touching one another, but their matching behaviour indicates some rapport between them. It’s more likely that Sarah Marie is the one matching Matty’s behaviour because Matty is leaning away from Sarah Marie, whereas she is leaning into him. Although Sarah Marie doesn’t seem to be reaching out to make touch contact with Matty, I can’t help but wonder whether she’d prefer a closer connection within their positioning–and relationship.
Papa Del Family
Like the Silberys and the Jacksons, the Papa Del family sit equidistance apart. What’s interesting here is how they are all responding to whatever it is they are looking at. In both photos, they are reacting similarly to each other. In one picture their gaze, and the orientation of their faces, is towards something on their left. Notice how each one of them is physically containing their own body–legs and arms together. Then, look at the second picture where we see them more relaxed and casual, with legs apart. In both pictures, they are all responding to the situation in the same way to the rest of the family. This resemblance shows an emotional bond between them, even though we don’t see physical touch and close proximity.
Anastasia and Faye
Like Adam and Symon, Anastasia and Faye seem to have a strong connection within their relationship. They sit separately, maintaining their independence, but at the same time, each leans-in to the other with their upper body and head. Additionally, they are engaging with what they are viewing with a similar expression. This could indicate a similarity in their preferences, which goes hand in hand with a positive relationship.