Third spaces- a term coined to encapsulate the existence of a space separate from home, work or school. Quite literally- a third space. To hang out with friends, make new connections, or to simply exist in and enjoy independently. The use of third spaces has been represented in popular tv shows for decades, such as Central Perk in Friends. The friend group would be shown there all the time, yet also would use the space individually to have their coffee, read the paper, or spend time leisurely. In How I Met Your Mother it was MacLaren’s Pub. In iCarly it was the Groovy Smoothie. Teddy’s third space is Bob’s Burgers. It’s often represented as a food establishment of sorts- but it doesn’t have to be. It could be the library, the gym, the mall, community center – anything. Growing up, for me it was my local Tim Hortons. Later on, it became the Student Center and Library on campus, or a cafe close to my home. All were places I regularly spent time with friends, spent independently getting some work done, and were accessible social environments fostering community and familiarity.
Third Spaces are important to society because they establish a social environment without expectations or planning. They can hold as a reminder to take the time and care to slow down and appreciate one’s time more. Be in a place you choose to be and enjoy. It is making community a priority and being enriched by one’s surroundings- to live in a more grounded and present manner. So much of social life in adulthood can become meticulously planned. A brief window in between all the other tasks on the to-do list. Phoebe and Chandler and Joey weren’t texting each other their availability and going back and forth for days about when and where they can hangout, and what they were going to do. They were just there! They casually inhabited this third space that filled social, comfort and leisurely expectations.
In my own life, I have found that in periods of time where I am frequenting a third space, I am more fulfilled. I feel like an engaged member of the community. I do believe that this ties in closely to walkable communities. As in almost every example of my favorite third spaces throughout my life, I used them frequently because they were easily accessible and more convenient to me. Walkable from either my home, workplace or school. Like the student center when I was living on campus or a café close to my old house. If there is nothing easily accessible from your home, maybe something is near your place of work or school. It also does not only have to be one space. There could be different spaces pertaining to your different needs- whether socially, practically, or literally.
I think the reason why myself and others place such value on these spaces is because they present the sense of community that can be lost in the modern age in many ways. Where little tasks can be enjoyed (reading, writing, schoolwork, work tasks) with the rustling sound of the background environment fueling you. Or where community forms in a slowed down and present environment, free from any tasks on your to-do list. A space where new connections can be made, old ones renewed, or present ones nourished.
In recent years, I have continuously read and maintained the idea that the internet has become somewhat of a virtual third space. And while it is a debatable topic of whether or not it appropriately fills our need for this space (I think it falls short)- lets go over why and how. The internet is highly and easily accessible. Sometimes it is not realistic to go anywhere but home, work and/or school. That may be all you have the energy for after a busy week or all that’s possible in your busy schedule. It is also an accessible environment for those who may have conditions or personal reasons why being in a public space or particular spaces may be difficult. In these cases, it is absolutely positive that we have this easily accessible third space that harbors literally all of the information, content, entertainment, communities, and media possible. As well as the ability to contact our friends and families at any time, in any format.
Instead of a book club, you can discuss the book with strangers online, or just read other opinions or reviews. Instead of finding friends in real life that share the same niche interests, you can form that sense of community online. Instead of spending the afternoon laughing with friends, you can laugh at funny videos on your phone. Instead of spending time in a third-space environment, you can spend it online. This can be amazing in its own rite, and there is obviously so many positive uses of the internet. We can obtain so much knowledge and different perspectives from the internet that we would otherwise not have access to in our day to day lives.
Obviously, one cannot or rather should not use the internet for every aspect of life. It can be rather isolating. We require the small moments of humanity that inspire hope, compassion, broaden one’s horizons, spark connection. There is a priceless aspect of being enriched positively by your community that is lost when fulfilling most of these needs with your phone. There is room for both, and advantages to both. But I think the point is that we do need both, and the internet should not replace the need for a third space.
In hindsight, I guess the message that I’m trying to convey is that third spaces are good, and we should try to have them. It’s not groundbreaking stuff but it is a message that I hope to start making a higher priority in my life. As someone who does not live closely to many third-spaces at the moment, I plan to consider what may be close to my school or workplace. And some general criteria I would have would be inexpensive (as I don’t want to be somewhere frequently that is draining my wallet), cozy and warm. That will about do it for me but of course everyone’s criteria will be unique to you and your preferences! So, I encourage anyone who is interested in also finding a signature third space or exploring many- to embark on this journey as well!
Hello! I’m Chloe and i’m a third year Philosophy and English major. This is my first year writing for WEW. I love painting, writing, and watching my favourite shows. I’m very excited to be part of such an inspiring group!