Third Places: Finding Community in an Isolated World

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A “third place” is a social environment that is separate from the house and workplace. Coined in 1989 by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, the concept has been described as an anchor of community life. A third place is regarded as a home away from home — somewhere people gather informally to foster a sense of belonging, connection and creative conversation. 30 years ago, it was six friends crowded around a coffee table at “Central Perk.” In today’s isolated society, the forgotten third place could play a crucial role in providing a routine source of social contact — helping build identity, both individually and collectively.

As public spaces like libraries are slowly stripped of funding, it may feel increasingly difficult to cultivate a similar community. A bookstore, a café, a beer garden — third places may look different or vary from person to person, depending on accessibility and personal interest. Knowing one’s own hobbies and passions is the first step in searching for a pathway to connect with others. Joining one of the many clubs offered at BC is a great way to find common interests amongst peers and will provide a place to congregate outside the home. A third place, at its best, is an environment that actively encourages socializing and engagement with others. When searching for this space, consider the ideal situation and atmosphere. Is it based around a new hobby? Is it calming or relaxing? Is it a way to decompress with a group of friends, or a way to meet new people? Determine whether the ideal place is walking distance or a train ride away. It will be easier to narrow down options and find somewhere to start when the intention behind the third place is clear. Connection, although rare to come across, can always be found with the right eyes.