Connecting with others is what makes us human. Sharing love, laughter, and even coffee with our neighbors is what binds us together. Whether you’re in the park, the library, or a cafe, these common areas are essential for connecting with others.
In European countries, a cafe or coffee shop is always part of the community to promote these interactions. Otherwise known as a third place, these spaces provide valuable room for us to interact.
Millennials are increasingly depressed because they fail to find community.
For Americans seeking a similar sense of community, there are often unmistakable obstacles. In many European countries, the average price of a coffee is around 1 to 3 euros, but in the United States, prices are less accessible.
This is exactly the problem travel influencer Jimmy Sweeney talked about on TikTok. Americans face a higher barrier to entry in many potential third places that make it easier to go home rather than interact with others in a shared space.
While America’s older generations can use outdoor parks or coffee shops with lower prices, millennials and Gen Zers don’t have the same luxury. That means they spend more time at home when they are not at work.
A 2018 study on socializing showed that individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 spent nearly 70% more time at home than other older generations.
Third places provide safe, welcoming, and accessible places for community building and social interaction.
There is more to third places and their social significance than their separation of work and home. Isabella Segalovich shares Ray Oldenberg’s original meaning to add context to a larger conversation.
Not only are third places separate from work and home, but they are also neutral spaces where socioeconomic statuses are not measured, environments are welcoming, and conversation is celebrated. According to Oldenberg, these spaces are the anchors of our communities.
With the growth of streaming services, social media, and work-from-home, the younger generation has less need to leave their homes. Ultimately, consequences such as very high levels of loneliness grow and the accessibility of neutral spaces becomes smaller.
Lack of community can contribute to social isolation and lead to mental health consequences such as depression and anxiety.
The divide among younger generations such as millennials and Gen Zers has only grown larger in recent years. During the pandemic, 61% of Americans between the ages of 18 to 25 reported being often sad compared to only 24% of older generations aged 55 to 65.
Sitcoms and classic movies have portrayed the dream of third places as spaces where our parents and grandparents remember stories from their glory days. But, they declined rapidly over the decades.
With a lack of social interaction and connectedness, more and more people begin to feel the consequences, leading to increased rates of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Gen Zers have created their own third place to find community.
While technology has played a role in this social isolation for millennials and Gen Zers, it has also helped create a new third place for people to connect and find community.
Social media, online chat, dating apps, and other platforms have made room for previously isolated people to connect with others.
The consequences and benefits of the internet are consecutive. Although it increases social isolation in the traditional sense, for many people, social media can also provide a community that was previously unavailable.
It has been a temporary solution to a larger crisis of social isolation, but social media is not a sustainable way for people to communicate all the time. Things need to change to promote the community at the local and national level. Fostering a sense of community, connection, and bonding should be a societal priority that is sustainable and accessible to all.
Zayda Slabbekoorn is a news and entertainment writer at YourTango focusing on pop culture and human interest stories.
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