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Day 143: Into a Virtual World

“When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” -John M. Richardson, Jr.

Our local movie store is closing. Actually it is a whole chain of neighborhood stores that is closing with Hollywood’s demise. They had already shuttered 3000 stores and now with their bankruptcy, the most profitable stores that were left are being liquidated. As I was gathering up the classic films that I will probably never find again in our local market, justifying my hoarding behavior with my grief at the end of the era. The movie store has been a staple in our lifestyle throughout my adult life. It has long been the last stop after gas and groceries before returning home for a weekend retreat. First it was the small independent video stores that made neighborhoods distinct and inviting that went.

Then the large chain stores became the local hangout, where we would run into long lost team mates, old baby sitters, and new neighborhood friends. The movie store was a gathering place, more vital than the library where you would as likely meet new people and discuss the virtues of a film, or the decline of the film industry. Now the big chain stores are closing up too, leaving a Red box in a McDonald’s lobby as the only local alternative – no people, no meeting place, and few film choices. There are certainly no classics in that red box.

In industry after industry, we are opting for a a virtual world over the intimacy and connection of local community. For movies, the new stop in the virtual world may be the ultra-convenience of Netflix, but there is no community in it. Also by comparison, it is a definitive 2-dimensional experience. There is no handling the films, picking up the boxed covers and reading the back. No standing in line near your neighbors or even on a waiting list for a new release. At Netflix, there are just the boxes you check and reordering your queue. Flipping through screens, trying to remember the name of the film that you noticed while strolling through the video shelves at the local store. I prefer the 3D experience in life.

Yet, I know that I am part of how this virtual reality is replacing our 3D community one business model at a time. I purchase things online and I spend time creating the drive to purchase in my own online store. I contribute frequently to online communities, sharing my feelings and experiences as I would with my neighbors on line at the movie store. All of these choices are part of the reason that our virtual Internet world is growing while our 3D communities are vanishing.

I am reluctant about the world that I am creating. I like my 3D life and although I know that I cannot imagine the world that I am handing over to my children and their children, I have a glimpse of what will become of the idea of community after I am gone. I imagine this is the feeling that my parents had when cell phones took over. Abraham Lincoln said: “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.” I suppose, in the not too distant future, Red Box will be the destination and it will feel normal. Maybe we will even see an old team mate waiting for their turn at the box.