The advantage of Twitter, Facebook, and their ilk is that you can see your readers, all two of them, and they might become interlocutors. While I like talking to myself here on the Web, I would prefer to know who reads the ink I spill. And then if those alien creatures talk back, then we might become friendly. Often enough, because of who makes their virtual presence on those platforms, they’re already people you know. But I’m old enough to remember the dreams of trackbacks and magically interconnected blog conversations, and well before that USENET without spam. Our gregarious species forms communities with whatever tools are available.
Social media substitute, somewhat, for the missing pieces of our real lives, in a fragmented, fragmenting way. As adjuncts, they can add some additional benefit, though we’re probably all aware by this point how horrible our neighbors can be on Nextdoor. If we look at them as replacements, virtual spaces are pale substitutes. Alone they’re not good enough, when what we need is the actual presence of others, nearby, in the informal salon of a great, good place. Somewhere close enough to touch.
Playful and happy conversation is the main focus of activity in third places, although it is not required to be the only activity. The tone of conversation is usually light-hearted and humorous; wit and good-natured playfulness are highly valued.
And yet, I miss Facebook, because I miss my friends, who are there, and I miss the hubbub of Twitter. And I miss those shadows because out here in the physical world, in the suburbs, those great, good places are few, far-between, or gone.