Social Media As Our Third Place.

I have started to read Onward by Howard Shultz and I am loving it. I think I am two chapters in and I have about four posts already to go. So, here is the first.

It all started with a question.

How much is too much when it comes to social media?

When teenagers can access Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr wherever they go, does it at some point overtake some key relational moments in their life?

If home is the primary or “first place” where a person connects with others, and if work is a person’s “second place,” then a public space such as a coffeehouse – such as Starbucks – is what I have always referred to as the “third place.” A social yet personal environment between one’s house and job, where people can connect with others and reconnect with themselves. From the beginning, Starbucks set out to provide just such an invaluable opportunity. … the Starbucks Experience – personal connection – is an affordable necessity. We are all hungry for community. – Onward pg. 13

Before I go on to the connection between this passage from Onward and social media, I would like to point out that the church can fill that “third place” when community building becomes an intentional focus point between the church, the families and the individuals that meet there each week. However, coffeehouses have become the stronger “third place” because people meet there more than once a week.

Okay, so back to social media.

We have the “first place” which is our homes. Here, is where families eat together, laugh together and grow together.

Next, our work place, or “second place.” Community is built between yourself and co-workers. This is where we typically spend the majority of the work week, our 9-5 if you will. For students, their school becomes their “second place.”

Our “third place” is any place that is not your home, or work. Where do you go to unwind? It could be the library, church, coffeehouse, etc. Their needs to be some kind of community happening here, but this is where renewal needs to happen.

This is the balance between home, work, or school and our reconnecting point. Each one provides us with an unique community opportunity and each “place” provides us with a renewal of self.

However, we are now finding community outside of these three “places.” Our relationships are now being formed and acted out without the aid of any of these “places.” Social Networks like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are now pushing the boundaries on how we build and act within our communities.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, how much is too much?

Can true community be built through social media?

We have to figure out how to use social media within community, so that it does not take over or take the place of one of these places. If social media becomes the focal point, then it encompasses all three areas. Social media defines our relationships and dictates how we interact with everyone.

Too much social media in our life replaces connection and replaces it with words. Actions are replaced with tweets and meetings are replaced with status updates. Social media can also take over as our third place.

Where does your renewal happen if you remove your “third place?”

Think of all the times that Jesus just needed a couple of minutes alone so that He could reconnect with God and spend a few moments in silence and solitude. Our “third place” is what gives us the opportunity for time just like that. It is a renewal of mind, body and soul. Jesus would remove Himself from His disciples, remove Himself from the synagogue and public squares where He addressed the people, so that He could enter into another relationship and speak with God.

While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. (Mark 1:35 MSG)

When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully—someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. (Matthew 14:13 MSG)

With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night. (Matthew 14:23 MSG)

36Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” 37Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. 38Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

39Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?” (Matthew 26:36-39 MSG)

At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him. (Mark 1:12-13 MSG)

This is only a small sampling of the times Jesus would go off for a little alone time to refresh Himself.

I have begun to ask some bigger questions about social media and how it may change how we define and understand true community.

If Facebook becomes our “third” community, what are the consequences?

If Facebook is how we build community, do we really hear and feel the hurt of the hurting?

If social media becomes our “third place,” do we ever get below the surface level of our lives?

Social media has its role in all three “places” in our lives, but it should not overtake any of them. It can help grow the family place as we share pictures, connect with kids away at university, and share what we are up to. However, it does not take the place of family movie nights, family dinners and family vacations. Those are the community moments that will be forever remembered.

Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are all set up to share info in a community-like setting because we all want to connect with someone. We long for relationships because that is what we were created to do. Adam needed Eve and from that point on, humanity lived in relationship with one another. How much social media is too much? Too much is when community and relationships are neglected and replaced with social media. Social media sites are not a community in and of themselves, but they help you maintain and stay connected with the communities to which you belong.

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