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The Death of the Third Place

Deane Barker, writing for the popular BoingBoing site, laments the death of America's "third places." These are the gathering spots, neither home nor work, like diners or pubs, that are quickly disappearing from the Western cultural landscape. These third places are the community gathering places, and exist according to a set of common rules:

1. It's neutral ground, meaning it doesn't belong to any of the people who congregate there.
2. It's a "leveler," meaning it's inclusive and doesn't differentiate based on social status.
3. It exists for conversation.
4. It's accessible and accommodating.
5. It has a group of "regulars" that meet there.
6. It keeps a relatively low profile.
7. It has a playful mood.
8. It serves as a home away from home.

Coffee shops like Starbucks aren't a replacement for them (their "library like" setting is usually for working or quiet meetings. Rather the closest modern analogy are social sites like Facebook—but their virtual nature means that to "gather" now like we once did, we disconnect from the physical world. Says Barker, "I fear the third place will continue to die off, as a new generation needs them even less than this one. Kids these days sit around tables with their heads down into their phones, absorbed in a third place that exists everywhere, yet nowhere at all."

Possible Preaching Angle:

As we think about community, are we willing to reclaim the kinds of places that allow for deep bonds beyond mere pragmatism or digital "sharing"?

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