It Might Be Time To Find A Third Place
What About Your Friends?

It Might Be Time To Find A Third Place

In this digital-focused, post-COVID era that we’re living in, isolation has become the normality.

According to recent studies, more than 50% of Americans are currently grappling with feelings of loneliness, calling our lack (and need) for social connection a “loneliness crisis.”

With so much of our lives revolving around our connection to our phones, work schedules, and the comfort of staying home, it’s resurfaced a need for spaces that act as neutral ground to form new human connections. A space best known as a “third place.”

What Is a Third Place? 

"Third places" refer to social environments that are separate from our homes (first place) and workplaces (second place). The concept of third places was popularized by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his 1989 book, The Great Good Place,and are defined as informal gathering spots where people can relax, socialize, and build community connections.

“These are often coffee shops, cafes, gyms, hair/nail salons, dog parks, co-working spaces, workout classes, or bookstores,” Melody Warnick, author of This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are, tells xoNecole. “The thing that defines third places is that they have regulars; people who show up every single day, or once a week, are in community together, and are engaging in conversations.”

Imagining a third place may take you back to episodes of Moesha where the characters met at The Den, hearing your mother and aunties recall stories from their beauty shop appointments and even college days where times in between classes were spent at the student center.

Third places have always been around us, but the key to finding these spaces today is to go where Warnick says, “Everyone is agreeing to have this social experience.”

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How To Find a Third Place

When looking for a third place, Warnick shares that there are a few factors to consider in order to find a space that best suits you.

Neighborhood-Friendly: “It needs to be someplace that is already in your neighborhood or on your daily route,” Warnick says.

A Gathering Spot: Warnick says to look for “someplace where people are already gathering, where you see people hanging out, and are spending a good chunk of their time.”

Loud and Small: Finding a place that has a little bit of casual chatter is a good sign because “that means people are talking together, it's not a silent workspace where you're gonna get dirty looks if you say something.”

Welcoming Regulars: “You want to go to a place that is accepting of newcomers. You want a place where you can go as the new person, and over time, you can start to break into the crowd as a regular.”

Benefits of Having a Third Place

Gathering, socializing, and forming new and lasting bonds not only benefit us on an individual level but also contributes to the forward motion of our collective experience. And with the structures of our days being centered around work and going straight home, it’s made our lives seem small and insular.

However, Warnicks shares that third places expand our world by becoming more community-focused and connecting with “familiar strangers.”

“Finding a third place can introduce you to people whose paths you might not normally cross. Like people who are older than you, from different backgrounds or jobs. It creates this sort of neutral space for being together with other people,” she shares.

“A huge part of how we feel like we're members of a community is by being a part of something that’s bigger than us. When you feel like a place is your own, all of a sudden, you feel engaged, like this place matters to you, and that makes you feel responsible for it and makes you want to make your place better.”

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Breaking the Ice

While it does take time, consistency, and intention to find a third place that feels welcoming, Warnick shares that finding community in real life starts with the individuals you’ve grown acquainted with online.

“Finding people in your city who have a social media presence can give you an entry point for meeting new people and your community,” Warnick says. She also recommends going on tech-free walks and outings to truly open yourself up to having conversations and meeting new people.

“It’s kind of a leap of faith because we're used to using our devices as a security blanket. You know, [you] don't know anyone, and we're in an unfamiliar situation. But you have to tell yourself, ‘Hey, it’s going to be awkward, but I’m opening myself up to noticing the people around me and starting a conversation with someone that I wouldn't have met otherwise.'"

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