Life in 2020 – the 3rd Place

I think we can all agree that so far 2020 has wrecked many, many things. Vacations, graduations, what college will look like in the fall, hell what preschool will look like in the fall – everything is uncertain.

One of those things thats changing is the community. Whether it’s defined as PTA meetings, or band parents meetings, or even the country club – or coffee shops, bars and hair salons. It’s the idea of the third place, where you go when you’re not at work or at home.

For the Ancient Greeks, this was the agora – a place of gathering, the economic heartland, but also the intellectual and political center, according to the website Greeklandscapes. That idea of a community gathering place was recycled in history- the French cafe shops during the French Revolution, the coffee houses during British Enlightenment period, the bars Alexander Hamilton and his friends took shots at, while planning the American Revolution – at least in the musical version…

I was thinking about this in the tv/media context – in How I Met Your Motherit’s the bar downstairs. Robin, one of the friends comes from Brooklyn – I’m not a New Yorker, I can’t confirm how realistic that is, but here in Los Angeles we wouldn’t cross the 405. In Friends, a group of 20-somethings who don’t have jobs that require their attention on Wednesday afternoons, they somehow manage to get the SAME sofa every time they visit, on a daily basis. And in Gilmore Girls, the third place was Lukes – aka where they went for sustenance and coffee, since left on her own, Lorelai could eat like a 15 year old teenage boy and not put on a pound. But then this is television not reality.

Curbed clearly describes the third place:

Third places can be churches, coffee shops, gyms, hair salons, post offices, main streets, bars, beer gardens, bookstores, parks, community centers, and gift shops—inexpensive places where people come together and life happens. In other words, they’re a community’s living room.

Which brings us to 2020  – where chances are your home has become your office; your gym; for those of you with younger kids – possibly a home school; if the offspring are home from college – both a library and a lecture hall; a movie theatre; your local restaurant and bar; and for some people also a hair salon.

Ironically, being a good member of society in July 2020, means staying indoors. It means limiting that very idea of in-person social interaction. It means you can’t be at the bar at your favorite bar for the both your bartenders’ safety and yours. It means that people are discouraged (rightly) from larger gatherings like campaign rallies and religious institutions.

Which brings me to my point – Who would Barney Stinson be if he couldn’t hit on women at the bar? What does the 3rd place look like, how does community get formed and maintained when you’re not seeing people on a regular basis? It’s a brave new, less connected, world.

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