By Henry Shorr
In another installment of “things I love about Youngstown,” I’d like to talk about third spaces.
Our homes are our first spaces and school or work are our second spaces. A third space is a communal gathering place, like a church or shul, a youth group or PTA, a bar or sports league.
Robert D. Putnam wrote about third spaces in “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.” Putnam described the decline of social groups and communal gathering spots with the advent of the internet.
Yes, in some ways social media has become a digital third space. However, we still find these “analog” third spaces thriving in smaller cities like Youngstown.
While I do not have many friends or peers in groups like the Elks or the Shriners, at least everyone I know here has some space they frequent outside of work, school or home. We all have friends or family who are active in their churches, mosques and synagogues. I have friends who belong to rock-climbing gyms that take climbing trips on the weekends with each other.
Recreational sports can be great ways to meet people in your community too. I’ve met people at YSU and around the city who play recreational sports with their friends every week, ranging from conventional to the more obscure. For every three people I’ve met who are in a rec soccer or softball league, I’ve also met someone who rides motocross, does roller derby, or — like me — plays disc golf.
When I moved here, I didn’t know many people my age, so I found a group on Facebook of Youngstown disc golfers since that’s a pastime I’m passionate about. I started attending league nights, where we play for cash, and before I knew it I was a part of the community.
I started playing rounds with people outside of league nights and making friends in the group. Now, I’m able to say some of my closest friends in town are people I’ve met through the Youngstown Disc Golf Club.
One of those friends and I will also go to Westside Bowl for trivia every Monday. I can be fairly certain when I walk in who will be behind the bar, I will have an idea of who is going to show up for trivia, and I know my man Eric will be up there to stump me with some “this week in history” trivia.
Some of the bars in Youngstown have created some of the best communal spaces I’ve seen. Both Penguin City and Westside Bowl host events or leagues almost every night of the week. Penguin City hosts bar sports leagues like darts, cornhole and a disc golf putting league. Westside Bowl has events like the aforementioned Monday trivia night, but they also host bar bingo, open mics, dance parties and even reggae nights every week.
Spaces like these strengthen our communities. Yes, we have created a more global community through the internet and social media, but sometimes you have to connect with people close to home. It’s good for you and it’s good for your soul.
If you don’t have a space outside of work or home in which you feel comfortable, go out and find one! Or even better yet, make one.