A Third Place refers to the social surroundings that are separate from the two usual social environments of home and work. Some examples of third places are parks, rec centers, libraries, gyms, churches, coffee shops, salons and restaurants. Third places can also exist online: chat rooms, online support groups, and social media – allowing us to connect with people from all over the world.
These spaces are not only for people to “get away”, but they are also locations where we can share ideas, make memories, build relationships and have a good time.
Post-pandemic, it was reported that 36% of Americans regularly experience serious loneliness. Human beings are social creatures by nature; we evolved to work and live together, to support one another and share ideas to survive and thrive.
While the need for meaningful connections with other members of our community is greater now than ever before, there are existing issues surrounding access to third places.
In some areas, such as the suburbs, Americans are required to be increasingly dependent on cars for everyday tasks. While malls and box stores have become more prevalent, small businesses and public gathering spots have been crowded out (while it’s worth noting sometimes malls, restaurants --including fast food spots-- and other commercial spaces are cherished third places).
For those who find themselves with little extra money after their living expenses, being able to use third places in the community that cost money can be a very real barrier.
In essence, it’s important that all communities have accessible, low cost or free safe and welcoming spaces where community members can make memories and develop bonds. Third places are more important than ever for connection, enjoyment and fun.
What is your third place and what do you love about it? Is it free or do you have to pay to use it? Please share in the comments, they deserve acknowledgement!