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Third Places: The Vital Role of Connection In a Remote World

How MUD\WTR’s :gather offers community beyond home and office

Rae Repanshek

As a fully remote employee, I don’t get out much. Actually, as a writer, I don’t get much. Actually, as someone living in the Pacific Northwest where it rains six months of the year, I don’t get out much. 

But when I do leave the house, I crave connection and community. I want to feel welcomed and engaged with other people. That’s where third places come in.

What Is a Third Place? 

The term “third places” was coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, in his 1989 book The Great Good Place. It refers to places where people spend time between home (your first place) and work (your second place). According to Oldenburg, “third places such as coffee shops and restaurants improve one's quality of life by providing spaces where one can rest, escape from the mundane, socialize and emotionally discharge.”

At the time, people were working more and moving out of the city into siloed neighborhoods (aka suburbs). But the concept still applies today, because when you have everything you could possibly want or need at home or can get it easily online, why leave? 

Third places offer social interactions with folks outside of home and work. Think Central Perk in Friends or Cheers in … Cheers. Those sitcoms were onto something, and though your third place may not be the scene of some hilarious scripted scenario, the idea is the same. They're laid-back places where you bump into a few regulars or meet someone new. 

They also give you a break from all the doing and productivity. These spots are important for our well-being because they help us build community and figure out who we are when we’re not at work or home.

The Loss of Third Places

The 2020 pandemic turned our favorite hangout spots into public health and safety hazards overnight. Suddenly, familiar faces like your friend “NORM!” at the local pub were missing from our routine. And now, many of us are still without a second place, or in-person workspace, let alone a third place.

But having a space beyond our living rooms and home offices is key to our well-being. What typical suburban life may be missing is a simple way to come together—to hang out without spending money, or quickly pop in and enjoy someone’s company without having to drive somewhere.

And research shows that “People with strong social relationships tend to live longer and to stay in better health. Individuals with stronger social relationships had a 50 percent greater chance of survival than those with weaker ones. And social connection has as much bearing on the risk of death as factors like smoking and drinking and has an even greater influence on mortality than obesity or lack of exercise.”

Despite Zoom and smartphones, making meaningful connections online just isn’t the same. Sure, virtual connections can do some good for our mental health, but they don’t quite hit the mark like real-life interactions do.

Other research has indicated that “loneliness and social disconnection can bring at least as much risk of early death as high cholesterol or alcoholism.”

So finding a third place is even more crucial for those of us working remotely. When your home doubles as your office, finding that third space, somewhere you can physically go to mix with others, becomes all the more vital to maintaining mental health.

What Are Some Third Places Examples? 

Start by figuring out activities you enjoy. Connecting your third place to something you’re passionate about makes it way easier to get out there and start building a new social circle. Or not. You don’t have to directly interact with other people at your third place—but there should be other people there. Whether it’s shooting the breeze or diving deep into activities, it’s where you can get your fill of face-to-face time.

Book clubs, yoga studios, walking or running clubs, and local parks or community centers are all great options for third places. Whatever it is, find a spot that’s a breeze to get to every day, whether you’re on foot or hopping on public transit.

And if you live in LA, you may find your third place at :gather, MUD\WTR's recently opened flagship cafe and event space in Santa Monica, California. It’s an extension of our brand’s purpose to create healthy minds through habits—a place to build community and create connection around healthy habits like adaptogenic mushroom drinks, meditation and breathwork classes, cold plunging, and more. 

Find Your Third Place Community

I’m lucky that I have two third places: a community park that I walk to every day and a book club that meets once a month. They’re easily accessible and full of familiar faces. Some days I stroll through the park and chat up everyone I see and other days I just enjoy being somewhere that’s not my house. 

The trick is finding a spot where you feel welcome. A good third place is one where you can escape the chaos of day-to-day life, while still engaging with the community. And on days when peace and quiet are in short supply, perhaps it can provide a bit of friendly banter, a warm drink, or just a calm space to sit and think.

Rae Repanshek is MUD\WTR's talented copywriter.

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