After Home and School, Where Do You Find the Strongest Feeling of Community?

After Home and School, Where Do You Find the Strongest Feeling of Community?

Have you heard of the idea of the “third place”? Think of it as the location you can be found most, after where you live and go to school, a place where you seek, and ideally find, community.

What’s your third place? Is it possible to have a third place that is an online environment, like a gaming or social media platform?

In “Prince Harry Wants to Ban Fortnite? Here’s What He’s Missing,” Jennifer Senior writes about the popularity of Fortnite. After observing her son, she argues that it, too, qualifies as a third place for those who play it regularly:

But part of me, I’ll confess, was at sixes and sevens about the sudden appearance of this game. Why — and how — had it so quickly become the rabid preoccupation of so many?

A great deal of the answer is that Fortnite is social. More than social, actually: It is, as the tech writer and developer Owen Williams has written, a destination, an actual place. “It’s like going to church, or the mall,” Williams explained on his blog, Charged, late last year, “except there’s an entire universe to mess around in together.”

Which explains a certain wisecrack my son likes to make when he peels off to play. “I’m going to see my friends now,” he says, though he’s in fact joining them on his headset. Jumping into a game of Fortnite is paying a social call, the equivalent of dropping in on a cocktail party.

That Fortnite is its own place — specifically “a third place,” or lively harbor for communities outside of home and work — matters quite a lot. Middle-class children today don’t have much freedom to find such places. They’re rigidly scheduled and aggressively sheltered — parents of my generation are more inclined to roll their children in bubble wrap and tuck them on a high shelf for storage than allow them to wander off to parks or shopping malls on their own. Gaming is their form of self-determination, a means to take control of their constricted, highly regimented lives.

Students, read the entire column, then tell us:

— What are your thoughts on Ms. Senior’s idea that young people today have “constricted, highly regimented lives”? To what degree does that describe your life and those of your peers?

— Do you play video games? If so, what are your thoughts on gaming offering a means to experience feeling in control? Explain.

— Ms. Senior says she sees a connection between her 11-year-old son’s gaming and his wanting to have “embodied interaction,” seeing the friends he plays Fortnite with in real life. Do you think this is unique to the game they choose to play? Is there something about Fortnite that makes people feel more socially inclined? If so, what is it?

— Above, we asked you to name your third place. Identify the third place of several people you know. Why do you think they gravitate to those places? How have they found a sense of community there? How is their third place similar or different from yours?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.