The two year anniversary of moving to The Duarte is almost upon me.

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Here is a description of The Duarte from the Duarte Chamber of Commerce:

The City of Duarte is a small progressive community located at the base of the picturesque San Gabriel Mountains, approximately 21 miles northeast of Los Angeles. At 6.8 square miles and a population of 21,486, Duarte isn’t the biggest city in the valley. But it just may be the best.

Duarte is a richly diverse community of stable neighborhoods and friendly neighbors. Lush green foothills, parks, hiking and bike trails and beautiful new social and recreational gathering places enhance the livability of the community.

The City of Duarte is also host to a world-renowned cancer research center and a nationally recognized hospital dedicated to improving the physical and mental well being of its residents.

Here’s how I describe The Duarte:

A political and cultural wasteland just east of Monrovia… which is east of Arcadia… which is east of Pasadena. It lies at the foot of the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains and Sam Shepard graduated from The Duarte High School.

I left three roommates in a beautiful house in Koreatown to move out here with my girlfriend.

This was to be my first great suburban adventure.

At some point it stopped feeling like an adventure.

The exact moment is unclear. I’m guessing around the one year mark though.

It feels like my life has changed in subtle, but noticeable ways, in the last year.

I am no longer going to Ireland twice a year. From 2010-2016 I visited Ireland 12 or 13 times for work.

I am spending less time than ever in my hometown of Memphis, TN.

I left there 10 years ago, and I knew I was leaving behind a real community.

(My reasons for leaving were valid, and it felt like that community was already splintering, but that’s for another time.)

With every move – Memphis to Chicago, Chicago to Boston, Boston to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to The Duarte – my physical community got smaller and my virtual community got larger.

That’s kind of neat, and very 21st century, but the lack of a physical community has taken it’s toll.

That’s one reason I deactivated my Facebook account two weeks ago.

To focus less on virtual community and more on physical community.

The only person to bring up my absence so far is my uncle.

He called a week ago. He sounded concerned.

Uncle: Where are you?!

Me: Driving down 57 South. Why? What’s wrong?

Uncle: Did you get kicked off Facebook??

Me: No. I’m taking a break.

Uncle: Oh. I tried to tag you in a photo and it didn’t recognize you.

Me: Good. It’s working.

Uncle: Okay. I thought maybe you were kicked off.

Me: Nope.

He thought I had disappeared.

It was as if for a brief moment he had mixed up my physical reality with my online presence.

It reminded me of another time, around Thanksgiving, where the same uncle said he may have to “leave reality for a while”.

By “reality” he meant his Facebook feed.

This conflation of physical reality with perceived reality is at an all time high.

My uncle is not the only one.

The scales seemed to have tipped.

Social networks have become the single most influential means of defining “reality”.

And for some perhaps even more influential, and appealing, than “reality” itself.


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