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Digital Third Places; Our Favorite Online Hangouts

Typically described as physical spaces, but recently include web locations, Third Places are spaces between the privacy of home and the structure of work or school where informal interaction occurs. With geographic third places shifting, and in many cases, disappearing, it's an opportunity to take a look at where people interact while online. The Pew Research Center has reported on the ways Americans use social media to find information and engage with others. An increasing number of online Americans get their news via social media, take their work and school breaks with social media, and seek employment via social media. Most analysts agree this year's presidential election result was impacted by communication through social media.




Pew's recent publication reveals other interesting trends. The number of American adults using social media has increased steadily since 2005 with the percentage of older users driving recent gains. Facebook users double the number of other popular social media users such as; Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. College educated users with higher incomes interact through social media at a higher rate than other socio-economic groups. Women engage through social media more readily than men with the greatest disparity occurring with their use of Pinterest.

Roughly fifty percent of social media users interact with more than one site. Even though this figure is holding steady, Pew's research indicates the frequency of social media use continues to increase modestly from year to year. Three-quarters of Facebook users login at least once per day and more than half visit several times each day. More Americans use Pinterest and LinkedIn, but at a lower frequency than Twitter and Facebook. Facebook continues to be the traditional starting point for social media users. Of single-site users, eighty-eight percent are visiting Facebook.

According to Pew researchers, seventy-two percent of adult Americans possess a smartphone. Messaging apps, like WhatsApp and Kik, are very popular with younger adults. Social interaction via mobile apps is an upward trend that's likely to persist. Are social media users also interacting with messaging apps? Additional research is needed to answer this question. (Demographics of Social Media Platforms - Pew Research Center)

I use all of the social media sites identified in Pew's recent research. My Facebook usage would be characterized as that of a "visitor" while my Twitter usage represents "resident" behavior. (Visitors and Residents - White and LeCornu, 2011) Pew data has me reconsidering my internet map. Would my primary digital "third place" be better located where others congregate more readily? Conversely, I have found my tribe and my PLN stalwarts through interactions on Twitter. Reflection, deeper thinking, and documented knowledge get posted on this blog. 

Where are your digital third places, or where do you hangout online? More importantly, and the unanswered question here, why have you chosen these digital spaces for social interaction?





photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center Cloudscape Over the Philippine Sea via photopin (license)

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