Finding Your Third Place

Before the Office or Parks and Rec, before Friends or Seinfeld, NBC had a sitcom that made everyone familiar with the idea of going to a place where everyone knows your name and they're always glad you came. The show took place almost entirely in a bar where the lower class and upper class mingled every day. It had an amazing 11-season run. From season 3 through 10, the show ranked in the top five, and its series finale was watched live by 40% of the U.S. population.

One of the many reasons Cheers was successful is that it reminded us of our need to have a place outside of our homes and work where we can have genuine community. We need a "third place." What is the third place? Why do you need a third place? What makes for a good third place? Where can you find one in Wilkes? In this post, we are answering these questions.

What is a Third Place?

American urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg introduced the term "third place" in 1989, even while America's greatest third place was still on-air (sorry Friends fans, Central Perk does not hold up against Cheers). In his book, The Great Good Place (1989), Oldenburg defines first, second, and third-social places like this:

  • First Place: This is the home and includes the people who live with you.
  • Second Place: This is your work and includes your managers and coworkers.
  • Third Place: This is the place outside of your typical social environments where you can relax and have open and honest conversations.

Third places can be anything from churches, civic groups, and clubs to bookstores, bars, and coffee shops. These spaces are not just nice to have in your life. They are crucial to our mental health and wellness.

Why Do You Need a Third Place?

"Having a third place to socialize outside of home and work is crucial to wellbeing as it brings about a sense of connection and belonging. Many have organically built their third places or multiple third places; some need to still discover theirs."-Colleen Reily, Forbes Magazine

A Cigna* study revealed that 47% of adults report feeling alone sometimes or always. It gets worse when you break the numbers down generationally:

  • 50% of Boomers report feeling loneliness.
  • 71% of Millennials are lonely.
  • 79% of Generation Z adults (18-22) feel lonely.

Nearly 4/5ths of all 18 to 22-year-olds feel isolated and alone. Millennials and Boomers are not doing much better when it comes to finding community. There is a myriad of factors contributing to loneliness, including:

  • Long commutes to work
  • Feelings of inferiority brought by scrolling social media
  • FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out
  • Stress from work and financial struggles
  • Mental health struggles

Finding your third place is crucial to overcoming loneliness and improving your mental health. Here is how you can identify a good third place.

What Are the Characteristics of a Good Third Place?

A good third place, according to Ray Oldenburg, is going to be somewhere people can have fun, relaxing, but sometimes deep discussions. It must be somewhere you can relax and be comfortable engaging in conversations. There are eight characteristics of a good third place according to Oldenburg:

  1. Neutral Ground: You are not obligated to be in a good third place. People come and go as they please.
  2. It's a Leveling Place: Like the Cheers bar, everyone is equal at a third place. There is no preference for any type of person or socio-economic background. All people are equal contributors at a good third place.
  3. Great Conversation: Conversation may be anchored by something like great beer or specialty coffee, but being part of the discussion is why you are there. A good third place will be characterized by frequent laughter.
  4. Accessibility: A third place should be able to accommodate needs and be accessible to all.
  5. Regulars: At the Cheers bar, characters knew they would run into one or more regulars. At a good third place, there will be at least some regulars present at virtually all times. They should be fun regulars that make you want to become one.
  6. Unpretentious: A third place should have laid-back vibes. It should not feel pretentious. Even if a place has the absolute best of something like food, coffee, or beer, their culture must be unpretentious to be considered a good third place.
  7. Playful Mood: One of the most important characteristics of a good third place is a playful mood. In other words, no one is taking themselves too seriously.
  8. Warmth: This should be a home-away-from-home. It should be warm, welcoming, and help the stress of a long day melt away.

Where Can You Find a Third Place in Wilkes?

Wilkes is not without options to find somewhere with people who know your name and are excited to see you. Many have found Anchor Coffee to have third place vibes. At any given time, you can find a host of friendly regulars from all sorts of backgrounds, hanging at the bar or center table, laughing over great conversation. All of our baristas can wax eloquently about great coffee, but you are just as likely to get them going on about comic books, tattoos, movies, television, science, novels, theoretical physics, absurd music genres, and wild stories. You will always find inviting regulars ready to welcome you into conversations. It won't be long before we become the favorite part of your day. Come on by the shop and see for yourself how we can become your third place in Wilkes.