How do third places impact our lives, why we need them now more than ever, and how we are in danger of losing them.
“Third place” was first defined by US social scientist Ray Oldenburg in his 1989 book “The Great Good Place”. It describes an area outside our home or work where we relax and socialize. Many times a great community is defined by its third places. They likely will be highly rated and reviewed, top of the “best of…” list, and a lively welcoming environment that communities choose to gather.
Think of places we spend our life: our FIRST place is our home, a non-public domestic space. Our SECOND place is typically our work, this is likely a structured social space and where we probably spend most of our waking time. Our THIRD place is somewhere we can connect with others, share our thoughts and dreams, and have fun. Think of our third space as a place we spend our disposable time.
Characteristics of Our Third Place
These third places are likely an anchor within our communities and typically a gathering space for the public that encourages the intermingling and connection to new thoughts or art. We’ll find these places are the locations that have high customer loyalty leading to frequent visits by repeat “patrons” where they can unwind and socialize.
These personal oases typically resemble coffee houses, pubs or bars, gyms, beauty salons, churches, libraries, or parks — anywhere that builds community and shares the following common attribute
Importance of The Third Place
Regardless of our personal enjoyment of our work, and our homelife, humans are born with a sense of tribalism. We end up seeking, whether it is online or in person, a place to get away from work and an environment more social than our home to hang out. Many times a third place is somewhere that allows us to switch off from the worries of daily life and gives us the mental distraction to relax and unwind.
As our homes become smarter and we become more connected online, we have less reason to venture out, and instead of going out to socialize, we order in, shop online, watch Netflix, and scroll through various social media outlets. Creating an internal and limited third space. These end up as substitutes for authentic connection. No matter how we are engaging, there’s still a disconnection from real human interaction. As we continue to build out digital worlds, we need to balance them with in-person relationships.
As I write this the world is tormented by a worldwide pandemic causing an epidemic of loneliness, and it’s unhealthy for our health. Chronic loneliness has been proven to cause a the same health impacts as smoking fifteen cigarettes every day or being obese. Lonely people also are prone to struggle with issues relating to drug abuse, depression, and sleeping.
A third place provides us with a powerful cure to isolation and exclusion. It restores connection, provides us an identity, supports us, and permits us to be our real self. A third place encourages us to develop robust relationships within our communities that help us grow as a civilization but also as individuals.
While our global pandemic continues to toment us, many of these third places have been struggling, just as we are. The importnace and the potential loss of these places have never been more imminent. Society has been discouraged to gather in these places, establishments are struggling with reduced revenues and employment issues, general social connectivity as a whole is teering on the brink of disaster.
Third Places in The Community
Third places play an important role in creating successful communities. In Fact they can even go as far to define a community. Think of them as the amenities that draw in new community members, or the defining feature of why people enjoy living in an area. They provide a sense of place for these people. The feeling of belonging, comfort, and connection within our region.
To have a prosperous community we need to have vibrant and safe third spaces where community members are encouraged to connect, learn, and live. How do we put more thought into preserving these spaces within our communities?