Monday, September 27, 2010

Has Facebook overtaken Starbucks as the "third space"?

OUT --------> IN

Chief revenue officer for US-based casual games developer and distributor GameHouse, Matt Huttlett, made the point in passing at the Casual Gaming Association's annual conference Casual Connect in July that Facebook has overtaken Starbucks as the "third space".

He was joking, but I think his assertion can be taken seriously on a number of levels.

There is much discussion about how social or anti-social we're becoming because of social media and how our methods of communication have transformed from literal to virtual catch-ups.

Also, we have seen strong trends over the last few years track the rapid rise of social utilities like Facebook that correlate directly to how people spend their free time to relax and unwind.

This graph displays the exponential-like growth of users on Facebook since its launch in 2004:

For so many people to direct significant amounts of time towards this internet site, something (or rather many things) have to give.

In a fast-paced society where time is money it may seem more 'economical' to send a friend a quick shout out on Facebook or chat with them online for 5-10 minutes while on a lunch break, rather than physically catching-up over coffee.

Chances are, you're drinking coffee while you're on Facebook anyway. Starbucks coffee even? So both boxes are ticked, right?

Without getting into details about the psychological and cultural effects of a reliance on Facebook as a substitute for social activity, I think the point can be made that the "third space" is changing.

That place away from home and work where you can relax and while away your free time no longer involves getting in your car or walking down the street to a rendezvous. It can be as easy as getting out your iPhone or Blackberry, or jumping into an internet cafe.

What do you think? Has Facebook overtaken Starbucks (or Gloria Jeans for a more fitting Australian equivalent) as the "third space"? If not Facebook, what?

1 comment:

skippingstones1 said...

I think Facebook has taken over the third space, but for some (of the younger generation) they never really experienced the catch up over coffee. Even so, I really do believe that face-to-face time is much more valuable than a facebook chat. We communicate with so much more than our minds/writing, and if we lose need for a physical meeting I think it would be pretty sad.