Third Places: Bringing “Living Rooms” Back to Our Communities

Podcast Description

Sometimes it’s nice to just have a space to “exist” – to laugh and let go and feel light. I’ve mentioned third places in other episodes, and today, I dive deep into this concept – what they are, their decline, and ideas for bringing them back.

The “third place” was coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg and refers to the place people spend their time after their “first place” (home) and their “second place” (work). They’re meant to be community hubs – places where people can exchange ideas, build relationships, and have a good time.

Here, I talk about the history of the third place and their decline in the past half century. So if you’re out there feeling like a bad friend for not calling people back or because you don’t know your neighbors, give yourself some grace – it’s a little more difficult than it once was.

I’m a total nerd about this topic, and this will be the first in many episodes talking about third places, from the laws and policy decisions that affect them, to how they might look in the future.

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • What a third places is by Oldenburg’s definition and examples – libraries, parks, museums, social services, low-cost businesses
  • How third places cultivate a sense of belonging and trust – plus, the populations that especially benefit from them: teens, the elderly, and people with disabilities
  • The history of third places, from the 1800s through post World War II and the “American Dream” – plus, third place “replacements,” i.e., places where you pay to gain entry
  • How some modern day third places are more focused on self than the community (for example, getting in better shape, leaning into your hobby, etc.)
  • Ideas to bring third places back, from using a third place (going to the park, the library, or the neighborhood cafe) to following people who are talking about this

Reflection Question:

Have you ever been a regular in a third place? What did you enjoy about it? How did it affect your social wellness and overall well-being?

Notable Quotes from Alex:

“If you think about it, so many of our social spaces today are about some sort of progress or change, or social improvement or self improvement. We’re going out there to socialize, but we’re also expected to push and get better and put in effort and transform, which is great. But sometimes it’s nice to just have a space to exist – to laugh and let go and feel light. And third places are meant to be that.”

“Third, places seem incredibly important when a lot of people actually no longer even have a second place. With the rise and working from home, more and more people are just in their home every day. And when you’re there, and it’s comfortable, it can be hard to get yourself out the door. We also hear all the people who say, ‘Oh, every time I leave my house, it costs me money,’ or the energy it takes to set up those interactions and connections when you don’t have dependable places to go. So third places create a location for people to go that has a very low barrier of entry.”

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More From Nathan Allebach About Third Places

Until next time…

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Episode Transcript

Podcast Intro/Outro  00:02

Alrighty, gang. Here’s to nights that turn into mornings and friends that turn in family. Cheers!

Podcast Intro/Outro   00:18

Hello, Hello, and welcome to the Friendship IRL podcast. I’m your host, Alex Alexander. My friends… They would tell you; I like to ask the hard questions. You know who I am in the group? I’m the person that’s saying, “Okay, I’m going to ask this question, but don’t feel like you have to answer it.” And now, I can be that friend for you, too. 

Alex Alexander  00:50

Hi, everyone. I am excited for today’s episode. And I say that fully knowing that I’m such a nerd for all this stuff. Because today’s episode is about the concept of third places. And again, I repeat, I am such a nerd for all of this stuff. Now, you’ve probably heard me mention third places a few times in a number of episodes. And I feel like we really need to dive a little deeper into this concept, have a solid baseline understanding. Because third places are a concept or… what do I call that, like, third places… whatever. Third places have declined in the past half-century. And our lack of third places makes it so that we have to actually work harder to meet new people. What do I mean by that? Well, currently, if I tell you to go out there and meet some new people and make new connections, possibly make new friends, but we won’t even get ahead of ourselves there. What do you have to do? You are like, okay, I want to meet people. What kind of people do I want to meet, what kind of interest do they have? Where would I meet those people? Then you probably have to decide on a club or a group, or community organization. You have to research, you have to look at the times that those groups meet, then you have to see if those times work in your calendar. Then you wait, maybe get busy. So you have to wait for the next meeting. This is a lot of logistics and thinking. Instead, what if you could decide you just want to socialize. And you could walk out your door and down your street. Within 5 to 10 minutes, you could walk into a place where people just went to connect and linger. We saw some familiar faces, you had some interesting conversations. And when you’re done, you went home. And instead of all that time that you spent researching where you were going to go and how you were going to meet these people and whether it would work in your schedule, you had actually already socialized. Now, that place that you would have gone probably would have been a third place. And because we are now lacking third places, we are all working harder to go out there and socialize and make new connections. That is what I mean by structures being in the way that are making it more difficult to meet people, connect with the community, build friendships, and just lean into our connection. So the first place I want to go with this topic is I want to give a little bit of background on what is a third place. Third place is a term that was coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg. And it refers to places where people spend time between their first place which is home, and their second place, which is work. Third places are locations where you go to exchange ideas, have a good time, and build relationships. And Ray Oldenburg was so kind, he gave us a list of some traits for third places. So, I’m going to tell you what those traits are. Because I think it’s important that we have this list moving forward. I’m definitely gonna refer back to it, especially when I’m talking about some places that we might think are third places today. But as you’ll come to find out aren’t really third places. So the first trait: Third place… is that a third place is a neutral ground. Which means people come and go as they please, they can engage as they want. You can come in and sit down and just kind of people-watch or you can come in ready to engage, sit down, strike up a conversation with somebody. Everybody is welcome. And there’s really no set structure or time, meeting time, you know, you don’t have to show up at 4 pm. And if you arrive at 4:30, you’re too late, you can just kind of show up whenever you will. The second trait of a third place is that they are level playing fields. People from all walks of life are welcome. A third place isn’t pretentious, meaning that there are no prerequisites for participation, whether that be socio-economic status or any other prerequisite. When you walk in that door, it’s a level playing field. And it’s welcoming to not only people that are familiar with being there but also new people. Everybody’s welcome. The third trait is that conversation is the focus of a third place. On some level, you are going to your third place to engage. Now, that engagement could just be actively listening, and smiling every once in a while, saying a quick hello to someone, going back to your book, or it could be sitting down and having full conversations. If you’re like, well, I go a lot of places where conversation is the focus. This is different because when you go to work, you go to work to make a living. When you go home, you go home to relax. But when you want to see people without having to do all that logistical work that I talked about at the beginning of this episode, where do you go? Because if you have a third place, you can just walk out the door and go to that place. It’s dependable, that you’ll see familiar faces, and have some pleasant interactions. Now, these conversations that you’re having should also be kind of playful, and fun and lively. You know, they should be engaging, people should be openly sharing and connecting. And that not every conversation has to be serious or productive. Whereas when you go to work, conversations are meant to move the needle forward, hit that OKR, achieve the next objective, and launch the project. Your third place can just be somewhere that you go to chat. The next trait of the third place is that they’re accessible and accommodating. So that means that they’re conveniently located and ideally… ideally, they’re within walking distance from your home. Third places should have pretty long, open hours. So it’s not just like, oh, well, you can come and hang out here from four to 6pm. But rather, you can just kind of show up when you want and it’s pretty dependable throughout the day and into the evening. You don’t need reservations. And ideally, you’re free to just kind of exist there to linger, to loiter, to hang around. And a key part of that is that they’re accessible because it is free or extremely inexpensive to stay there. So you don’t have to pay a membership fee to gain entry. Because that would be a barrier to people of certain socio-economic standings. And they don’t require you to purchase an expensive meal. At most, maybe they require you to purchase, you know, like a $1 espresso or somebody in the group purchases a tea and that’s fine. But you don’t necessarily have to keep purchasing to stay there. The next trait is that third places have regulars. And this kind of ties into that accessibility proximity piece that I talked about earlier because being able to walk out your door means that a lot of people who can also walk out their door are going to walk on over to this third place. And when you are there, it’s very likely that you’ll start to develop familiarity not only with the place but with the people in it. It feels comfortable to see those familiar faces when you walk in and say, “Hey, how are you doing? Nice to see you again.” Even if that is the extent of your conversation, there is comfort to them. But again, it’s also welcoming to newcomers. A newcomer could show up at this third place and if they choose to continue to frequent that place over time, they might also become regular. The next trait of a third place is that these places are low profile. They are comfortable and approachable and modest. You kind of feel like you can just linger for a while. A lot of people will refer to third places as the living room for your community. Because again, when you want to go and connect and be social, you go to your third place just like you would go to your living room. And in your home, when you want time to yourself, you’d go to your bedroom, your first place, or in this case, your… Now, those traits were developed by Ray Oldenburg himself. And they show up in all the research I’ve done as being pretty standard, which is important because like I said, there are third places we think of today. But are they really third places? And we’ll talk a bit about that in a moment. First, I want to give you some examples of places that are third places. There are a few categories. The first are free and publicly available third places.

PODCAST EPISODE! Ready to take actions and help bring back third places?! Good News! We have an episode about that. Give it a listen!

Alex Alexander  10:41

So religious organizations, civic organizations, libraries, parks, museums, they may not exactly be free, but they probably have a free space in them somewhere, or they have free days, or it’s a low cost of entry. The next third places are social services, Child and Youth Services, services for the elderly, community food banks, and lunch halls, childcare centers, emergency and other relief centers, and vocational rehabilitation services. The next type of third places are low cost businesses. So again, coffee shops, bars, diners, fast food restaurants. Then we have creative and athletic, and entertainment third places. So the sports courts at your local park, the neighborhood playground. But there are also bowling alleys or performing arts centers. And the final one is personal services. So businesses that have made the choice, that their business isn’t all about getting the customer and getting them to pay and getting them to leave, but instead, they can be a gathering place, which could be salons or barber shops. I’ve even heard of some laundry mats that people have purchased recently and remodeled, reopened, specifically with the mission of being a third place, like a gathering space, whether or not you’re going to do your laundry. These are the kind of places that they are business but when you walk by and you see people inside, you would feel fine, just stopping in to say hi. Why are third places important? Well, there are a lot of reasons. So, let me list them out for you. At the beginning of this episode, I talked about the mental gymnastics required to engage in social interactions nowadays, with this lack of third places. There’s a lot of talk out there in the friendship space about putting yourself out there, getting yourself out the door. But we all know that there’s also all this kind of friendship admin that has to happen. Scheduling, the back and forth, the cancellations, the text messages, and that really wears people down. So third places help alleviate the mental gymnastics and the logistics, to even find that social interaction. It’s also important to have third places because although we talk a lot about friendship, you know, and having a friend to call when things get bad, or who would come and help you in the middle of the night, there’s also a lot of assistance that we need. That just has to do with proximity. Needing someone to watch our dog for five minutes or lend us an egg so we don’t have to drive to the store. And that type of assistance is dependent on proximity. When we don’t have that kind of assistance, and that kind of social network around us, that in and of itself requires more mental gymnastics, and logistics. There’s a much higher repercussion for forgetting to get eggs when you have to get back in your car, and drive back to the store. And it’s 20 minutes out of your evening that’s already limited than there is to just be able to walk next door and borrow an egg. It gives us more anxiety when we’re making our grocery shopping list because the repercussions of forgetting something are a lot of wasted time going back to the store. We just have a lot of additional work that we’re doing because we don’t have this hyper-local, proximity-based support network. And if we had third places, we would likely be out in our community more developing these relationships, and connecting with familiar faces. And it would be a lot easier when you’re leaving your third place to casually mention your neighbor, “Hey, tomorrow I’m gonna be late about five minute Any chance you would be willing to just go hang out on my front steps and watch my dog for a few minutes?” That is way less effort than what most of us currently have access to. The next reason that third places are important is because they are meant to be neutral, if not, actually more on the light and distressing end of the spectrum. If you think about it, so many of our social spaces today are about some sort of progress or change, or social improvement or self-improvement, that we’re going out there to socialize but we’re also expected to push and get better and put in effort and transform, which is great. But sometimes it’s nice to just have a space to exist, to laugh and let go and feel light. And third places are meant to be that. They’re just a place to go and be around everybody else, with no underlying expectation of what your output will be by the time you leave. Now, I’ve already touched on the mental gymnastics. But it’s so important, I think, that I just want to hammer on that back-and-forth text message, logistics piece again. A lot of people hold themselves back from social interaction because the work to set up that one-hour coffee could be equal to one hour sometimes. And if we compare that to the ability to just decide casually that you want to be social for a little bit, and walk out your door, go to your third place, chat for 20 minutes, and then walk home, that would be about 30 minutes out of your day. It’s that dependable in comparison to one hour of time to even set up the coffee with somebody. Which is why in a lot of episodes, you’ve heard me talk about how friendship is a habit or a skill, because it kind of has to be.We have to remember to reach out to our people to set up those moments of connection. Because we can’t depend on just walking out and seeing them. And not all of that has to do with third places. It’s not going to alleviate everything. But it would surely help people’s sense of belonging and connectedness to have that dependable place to go. The next reason that third places are really important is because they are vital places for people who don’t have somewhere that is their own. Now, I may be phrased that wrong. Kind of, maybe. Where I’m going with this is I want to talk about kids, and specifically teens. Because a lot of people will talk about how, you know, kids don’t go out these days. But my question is, where are they going to go? I grew up in the suburbs. And in researching this episode, I realized that I didn’t really have a lot of third places. You know, when you’re a teen, your bedroom is really your only place. And even that is kind of not your place. That’s what I was trying to get to when I started this section. Technically, it’s still your parents. You still have to ask their permission to invite your friends over. So when you’re out there trying to be social and figure out the world, where do you go to just go and exist and linger and socialize and hang out? And kids end up in all sorts of weird places. And looking back on my childhood, we went to Target. We would go and we would just wander target aimlessly for hours. Which is not really encouraged by Target to basically loiter there, just groups of high schoolers, aimlessly walking the aisles for hours. But that was really the only place we had to go. The other place is a local park. But I grew up in Washington State. So if the weather was bad, that wasn’t really a dependable third place. And then funny enough, the third place that I ended up thinking of was my car.

Alex Alexander  19:07

We would get in the car and we would just drive around for hours with no destination. But that’s not really a third place. Because if it’s my car, when I’m done socializing, that means everyone has to go home or at least find a different place to linger. So it doesn’t really count because it’s not open and accessible. So in all these conversations about getting kids off screens, turning off their video games, sending them out into the world, interact with their friends, where are they going to go? Another population that really benefits from third places are our elderly, chronically ill people with disabilities, people who require care and connection, who need that really strong social safety net for those little things like lending you an egg. Because if your mobility is impaired, if you’re an elder who’s moving a little slower, that 20 minutes I mentioned to go and get an egg might be an hour, or two hours. And the ability to connect with the people around them and have those familiar faces, who can chip in, in small ways, makes a really big impact on the ease of their day-to-day. Not to mention just their social wellness, especially if they’re people living alone, that connection, those simple connections with those familiar faces, a place to go and linger and not have to be at home by yourself all the time, can make a really big impact on somebody’s mental health. Now, the reason that third places are important is because they are opportunities. Going to a thrid place is an opportunity for individuals to encounter new people and new ideas. And overall, you know, just like cultivating that sense of belonging and connection. When you’re out there, in these third places, you have more random encounters and casual conversations. You hear from a variety of people who might share new ways of living with you, there are windows into other ways to live. And you don’t have to put in all that work to find those new people, to schedule a time to get together. The third place provides somewhere you can go where there’s a low barrier of entry, where you might have a one minute, two minute, 10 minute interaction with someone that really leaves an impact on you. And in doing so, people get to know people who live around them. Which then means that we have more familiarity with the problems of our neighbors, of the factors going into the ways they’re living, that we care more about their problems because we actually know who they are, which could lead to more community involvement. The spread of news or information, important things to pay attention to that we might otherwise miss. Doing all this develops what’s called weak tie relationships. Now, there are strong ties, like our friends and family and the people we actually know. They’re not just a face walking down the street if we saw them, like, oh, that’s Bob. And you know Bob. You know facts about Bob. We tie relationships are just kind of people that are walking around. But developing a sense of connection with our weak tie relationships means that we actually start to develop more trust with the people around us, the faces that just melt into the crowd. And why does that matter? Well, when we trust the people around them, we’re more likely to get involved with them in community actions, we’re more likely to give back, we’re more likely to lend them a hand. There’s more reciprocity and trust, as we move through our days. And I personally can’t find a bad part of that. If I failed to mention this next reason that is important in today’s day and age, what have I even done here? Third places seem incredibly important when a lot of people actually no longer even have a second place. With the rise in working from home, more and more people are just in their homes every day. And when you’re there, and it’s comfortable, it can be hard to get yourself out the door. We also hear all the people who say, “Oh, every time I leave my house, it costs me money.” Or the energy it takes to set up those interactions and connections when you don’t have dependable places to go. So third places create a location for people to go that has a very low barrier of entry. And the final reason that I believe third places are incredibly important is because third places, as I mentioned, are open to everyone. Which means that people of different occupations and backgrounds and socio-economic standings and viewpoints are all mixed together in one space. I’ve talked about the fact that, you know, we all exist in this world together before. And sometimes we can forget that because we go to our job and people have the same occupation. They have a similar socio-economic standing. Perhaps you work in a field where you’re rallied around a cause. So, everybody has similar viewpoints. And we’re not mixing together as much in these places. So third places give us an opportunity to go out into the world with a variety of people and build social capital, build that strong social network that allows you to have people to call, people to ask questions to, people to lean on. And there are places you can go and build social capital, right? There are networking groups or co-working spaces. But the thing is that those have a barrier of entry. You have to be a certain profession, you have to meet certain markers. You have to be able to pay the membership fee to go. And doing so limits the ability of people who do not meet the entry requirements to develop social capital. It limits upward mobility to the people who need it the most. So for listening to all that, maybe see why I’m really passionate about the concept of third places. The decline in third places meeting the criteria that I listed at the very beginning of this episode, has left us with some replacements. And I want to mention them because they might be what came to mind. But they don’t quite fit the mold. So the first one are privatized third places, social clubs, co-working spaces, and anywhere where you have to pay a membership fee to gain entry. And I’ve already mentioned why the monetary requirement is an issue. But there’s another part of these privatized spaces that is a problem when it comes to them being our stand in third places. And that is the expectation that when you go to these places, especially the co-working space, for example, the intent is that the conversation and the time spent there is to be centered around work. If you remember, one of the characteristics of a third place is that it’s supposed to be neutral and light and stress relieving. And a co-working space does not meet that requirement. Because when you leave at the end of the day, your output is part of the reason you are welcomed there. Another example of a replacement third place would be a dive bar or a coffee shop that really markets itself as this meeting place that you can linger in. But quite often nowadays, the expectation is that when you go to these places, you continue ordering drinks or food. And at the time when you’re going to stop doing that, you should pay your tab and leave. And those drinks are probably pretty expensive because it’s expensive to have the space that somebody has curated to feel comfortable. Somebody has designed it in that way and then the staffing to make you feel taken care of. These spaces don’t meet the characteristics of a third place because you basically have to pay to play. And at the moment where you’re done paying, you’re done there. The expectation is you pay your bill, you leave a nice tip and you head out. The final kind of replacement third place are malls. And I saw a stat today that malls come into play in a big way in the 1970s through the 2010s. In fact, the number of malls in the US doubled during that time. Now, the thing about malls is that malls are not meant to be a gathering place. They are marketed that way. They are not designed that way. Malls are about going there to purchase goods or services and then leaving. Malls are also the central point where people come from a huge radius around the mall to get said goods and services. You’re not really going to a mall, thinking you’re going to walk around and see familiar faces. Malls don’t encourage loitering. In fact, they might actively work against loitering.

PODCAST EPISODE! Do you know the definition of loneliness? What about the 3 types of loneliness? In order to solve a problem we need to know what we are battling. Listen Here.

Alex Alexander  29:04

Malls want you to go there, spend your money, get what you need, and then head out. So malls really cannot count as a true third place. So why has there been a decline in third places? This is a very layered and complicated question, which there’s no way I’m able to answer in one episode. I also am not an expert in third places. But I am really looking forward to bringing some experts in third places in a variety of specialties within third places onto the podcast to talk about them because I think it’s that important. But the very, very, very, very basic summary of the decline of third places is this. In the post world war II era, 1950s, 1960s, when people were coming back from the war, and the GI Bill greatly impacted the average American’s ability to buy a home. The cost of building was also incredibly inexpensive. And there was a massive push for suburbanization. The American dream lifestyle was really sold as this vision of success. Find a partner, have 2.5 kids, get two cars, and a big house on a suburban street with a white picket fence. In fact, community was really the marketing ploy of this whole movement. And studies show that in the beginning, the community was actually pretty rich. People were very active, they were involved in community life, voting, and civic engagement. But that dwindled very quickly. The other problem is that this push for this American dream lifestyle was really only for certain Americans. Because this push for suburbanization was also often called white flight. And people of color, or any other marginalized communities were often not welcomed or had a separate suburb that they were redlined into. So we have this movement from everybody in the cities now separated out into these various communities. They have a lot of initial engagement. But very quickly, that dwindles. As people have moved out, they’ve also really leaned into this, you know, nucular, family atomized, I-have-my-big-house-backyard lifestyle. And in doing so, the home has really become the center of people’s worlds instead of their community. People’s lives are built around their homes. And people’s cities are designed for their cars, not for them. There’s a car first approach. Because every time you want to go to interact with people, but also to shop, or to get services, you have to get in your car. And the more time people are spending in their cars is the less time they have to spend with their friends or their neighbors or in their community. People are also farther away from their second places, from their workplaces. And studies show in the book Bowling Alone, that for every 10 minutes of a commute people have, they are 10% less likely to go out and socialize. And when that happens, people that before could just walk out on their street and connect need to find a replacement for third places. So you see a lot of membership groups pop up. Rotary, Elks, social clubs. And for a while, those are thriving. But in the late 1900s, you see a decline even in the membership of those. And in doing so, the weak ties or connections to one another, are slowly eroding away. And even the groups that do continue to form where people do go to socialize, become more and more focused on the self versus the community. What I mean by that, the groups that people continue to form are groups where you go to get in better shape, gain a new skill, lean into your hobby or further your career. So now our motivation to go out and connect is really more about bettering ourselves than it is simply to connect or to better our community. And these groups are so individually focused, you don’t really have that pressure anymore of being a good group member. You can just show up and if you’re there, you’re there. If you feel like talking, you do. And if you’re not interested in the group anymore, you leave and feel very little consequence. So these groups might be seen as replacements for third places when in fact, they’re not because they really don’t meet the criteria of a third place. Now I already mentioned the suburbs and the sprawled-out life, but even cities everywhere, in the late 1800s are more and more car-dependent. The life is really centered in the house, you get in your garage, you get in your car and you drive to the place. Most people don’t really walk out in their neighborhoods necessarily. And very few people are spending time in their front yards. Everybody wants this big backyard with all these privacy and fences. They just want to be in a little bubble, not even necessarily knowing who their neighbors are. And I get it. Listen, I get it. Our houses aren’t even just like a status symbol. They’re also warm, cozy, and safe. Because again, we’ve eroded our trust in those weak ties around us. And as all of this is happening, TVs appear. Now, I talked about my nerdiness earlier. The appearance of television, actually, I find incredibly fascinating. And I’m sure that television was more commonly discussed as the villain back in the day. Now, most people are focused on social media. But I rarely hear people talk about TV, the way they talk about social media nowadays. The reason a lot of people used to leave their homes was entertainment. They were bored. So in order to amuse themselves, they would go out into the world and have a conversation, come up with a creative idea, make some art, play some music, put on a performance, and enjoy that performance or that art or that music. But with the introduction of TVs, people suddenly had a way to entertain themselves in their own homes without ever having to see another person. When you’re bored, you just turn that thing on, hit the button. And if you think about today, how many people out here are guilty of just even turning the TV on for background noise because you want to feel like somebody else is home? And in today’s conversation, TVs are often just seen as so commonplace that we aren’t even discussing how they’re impacting our social interactions. Whereas I could pull up probably 1000 articles on the impact of social media. That’s not to say that the internet has not impacted third places, it definitely has. I’m going to do entire episodes on this because the internet has really become our third place. When we want to connect most people who have the means and access, open up their phone. Or they turn on their gaming console. They join that online platform for their multiplayer game or they’re able to chat with people from all around the world. Maybe they open social media and they start commenting or watching stories. Because the internet does meet a lot of characteristics of third places. Personalization, easy access, and approachability. Not to mention it’s incredibly comfortable. So the internet has really become a lot of people’s third place. And I say that as a neutral statement. There are positives to the internet being a third place that we will cover in future podcast episodes. The other interesting third-place replacement that I did see in researching for this episode was people mentioning podcasts.


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Alex Alexander  38:19

And I thought that that was really funny. Because you’re sitting here listening to my voice, easy to access. It’s approachable. When you don’t like what I’m talking about, just turn it off. And this podcast is just me. Sometimes there are guests. But there are also all sorts of podcasts out there that just exist where two people, three people, or four people sit around, tell jokes, or talk about gossip and pop culture. And those are chart-topping podcasts, where people can just pop in their air pods, sit down and feel like they are in a third place with a low engagement day listening in on a conversation. So as you can see, there are a multitude of factors that have led us to the decline in third places. And in next week’s episode, you’ll hear a little bit more about some laws and policy decisions related to things like zoning in transportation, public access funding, and how those might impact us bringing back some third places. All of that is coming. So I’m not going to cover that in today’s episode. And I want to wrap this episode up. So if you’re sitting here saying what are we going to do about it, how do we get 30 places back? I’m sure you now see it is a very layered answer. I’ll probably do many more episodes, but I wanted to just leave you with a few ideas that I brainstormed myself. The first one is to go and be the person that exists in the third places in your neighborhood. Go to the park, the library, the neighborhood cafe, get out of your house or your backyard and go be the first person to exist in that space to linger and be open to chat with people. The next way we can start to make an impact, a pretty low-lift one is just awareness. Type third places into Google, share this episode with a friend, talk to your neighbors about this concept. There are organizations out there you can follow, books you can read, start to walk through your neighborhoods. And notice where your third places that still there are or maybe there aren’t any. The next idea I had was to follow people who are talking about this concept. Now I mentioned this. Next week, our guest is Nathan Albrecht*. But there are lots of organizations out there who are talking about their places and what we can do to bring them back. So this kind of goes hand in hand with that awareness piece, but just give them a follow, and start to hear the different perspectives. There are a lot of ways that people are suggesting to bring these back. I’m not saying one is right over another, I’m just trying to introduce the concept. And you can probably find somebody who feels in line with your views. We’ll talk more about my next idea in next week’s episode, but it is to start paying attention to your local government, to the initiatives that are up for vote for the causes, and the future vision of the towns and cities you live in. So look for things like mixed-use zoning in residential areas, transportation access, free Wi-Fi, sidewalks, and parking regulations. There are a lot of structures, and laws in place that make it hard for third places to exist, even if we want to build them. And if you want to take it a step further than just paying attention and voting, there are local organizations pretty much everywhere that you could get involved with. Or you could begin attending city council meetings and developing relationships with key stakeholders so that you can have these deeper conversations. And my final suggestion is to start talking with businesses where you live about the concept of a third place. If you’re a business owner, consider this in your own business, especially if you’re a brick-and-mortar. One way we can start to shift the culture as we hopefully chip away at some of the laws and structures in place is to operate businesses in ways where we prioritize them being third places. Now, I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, this is kind of our one on one episode on third places. I’m back next week with another episode that will cover one component of this. And I’m sure that in recording this episode, because again, I am not an expert on third places. I’ve missed many layers and many things. And I look forward to discovering what those are over time. But I want to thank you. Thank you for listening to this episode, for joining me on trying to gain more familiarity with this concept, why it’s important, and how it is affecting our lives in real life out in the world. I want you to know that the decline in third places, is forcing us to work a little harder for our social wellness. So if you’re out there feeling guilty that you’re a bad friend for not calling people back or because you don’t know your neighbors, give yourself a little grace. And remember that it’s a little more difficult than it once was. With that. We’ll be back next week talking about third places. 

Podcast Intro/Outro  43:55

Thank you for listening to this episode of Friendship IRL. I am so honored to have these conversations with you. But don’t let the chat die here. Send me a voice message. I created a special website just to chat with you. You can find it at alexalex.chat. You can also find me on Instagram. My handle, @itsalexalexander. Or go ahead and leave a review wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts. Now if you want to take this conversation a step further, send this episode to a friend. Tell them you found it interesting. And use what we just talked about as a conversation starter the next time you and your friend hang out. No need for a teary Goodbye. I’ll be back with a new episode next week.

Profile Photo for Alex Alexander a blonde haired white woman smiling at the camera. She is in her 30s with her hair down and curled and wearing a grey sweater.

Hi! I'm Alex.

I am just a person who has spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to understand some of the relationships that I hold most dear. I invite you to join in on the conversation below in the comments section below.

Ask questions, leave comments, share critiques or give advice. All are welcome.

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Hi. I'm Alex.

I'm just a gal who cares deeply about community + friendship. Why? Well, I didn't have a healthy support system growing up.

So I built one... out of friends. I believe a healthy support system is the ultimate self-care.

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