Friday, November 29, 2013

Third Place

The term "third place" came up recently, at the Inner Arbor presentation at HCC. If you are not familiar with it, a bare-bones explanation: a place, after work and home, where people gravitate and spend time together. An inviting community space. Columbia doesn't really have a lot of those. Bill Santos has a great thing going at the Columbia Mall Starbucks, to be sure, but I am looking forward to the opportunities that the Inner Arbor holds out to us, as well.

Yesterday, on Thanksgiving, I enjoyed photos of cooking and celebrations, descriptions of menus, declarations of thanks, and memories of Thanksgivings past. There were some great discussions about varying holiday traditions and terminology: is it dressing, stuffing, or filling? People were popping in and out as their schedules allowed: as the day unfolded, it occurred to me how much Facebook has become a virtual third space to us.

I first noticed this when we were all house-bound during Snowmaegeddon 2010 (or was that Snowpocalypse?) Stuck at home, cars snowed in, many businesses closed, we found a shared space in a social media community. The ability to ask for help, share frustration, disseminate news, or offer assistance made our tiny individual worlds into a more open, shared community.

If you are a social media expert, none of this is news to you. But, as an ordinary human being, I find this fascinating. The ability to communicate with friends and family both nearby and far away has changed how we celebrate. I enjoy it, and yet I struggle to find a balance between real life and virtual life.

Perhaps others do a better job with that. I'm still working on it.



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