[Original publication date: March 29, 2012]
Mouth-breather I am not. I’m socially adept, I have a quick wit, and I can flit around a party with the most social of butterflies. I have online dated, been to meetups, and taken classes. And you know what I’ve learned? Making friends is difficult. Post-college, post-breakup, post-new city, making friends is sometimes way harder than finding someone with whom to make out. So how do you make friends, anyway?
The Internet is your friend: While the option of “activity partners” seems like a tempting choice in online dating land, the person at the other end rarely accepts that you just want to be friends. Instead, turn to the online communities of which you are a part. Tumblr, blogs, forums – you’d be surprised how many people live close to you. And guess what? They already share your interests. Hot diggity! Indeed, most of my recent friendships were generated online, first. As with all meeting-strangers-online things: meet in a public place and assume that they are possibly out to harm you until proven otherwise.
Volunteering: Second to the Internet, volunteering is a great way to make new friends. It tends to attract individuals (in other words, not couples) and since you feel passionately about what you’re involved with, there’s a natural flow of conversation. Invite your volunteer friends out for dinner after you’ve done some work or offer to bring a snack to the next meeting. You’ll be making friends in no time!
Meetup: Meetup. What can I say? Such a great concept, such a poor execution. Now, others may have had different experiences, but my Meetup experiences were not bad, but not good. Co-ed groups tended to be filled with people looking to date and the groups with girls were made up of ladies on the prowl. That said, Meetup works (at least for me) if you’re willing to not make your friends in the group. For example, in one Meetup, I met a girl, we became acquaintances, she invited me to a party. I met another girl, we become acquaintances, and so on. Six degrees later, and I meet someone with whom I really click and who I’d love to call a friend.
Classes: Classes are good for making friends if they are group-oriented and not couple-focused. A cooking class seems like a great way to make friends, but if you are single, you’ll find it difficult to break through the couple wall. Look for classes that probably won’t attract the smugly partnered, like art classes. Classes where you’ll have opportunities to work with other students are ideal since you’ll have excuses to talk to everyone.
Work: Tricky. Very tricky. On the one hand, you see these people every day and have many opportunities to get to know someone new. On the other hand, you could work with a bunch of people who find your obsession with Doctor Who odd or who don’t share your views on the Republican party. What’s more, you may be the sort who likes to keep work as work and life as life. That said, your new best friend might be in the cube next to you!
Dating is not a substitute for friendships: When you’re in a place that requires making new friends, it often feels easier to sign up on your favorite dating website and start looking for Mr./Ms. Makeout. After all, they’ll introduce you to people, and if it works out, automatic bestie, right? Right? In some cases, maybe, but in many cases, you’ll find yourself in a lopsided friend pool, which can be stressful for the both of you.
Go out, dammit: If you’re new and lonely, accept invitations even if they are to go out with people you don’t have much in common with. In my experience, those people lead to new people and eventually, after lots of hard work and boring conversations about reality shows over Bud Light, you start to connect the dots to a group of friends who really meet your needs.
And here’s my story: I moved to my current city six years ago. I had extended family here, but no friends. Not one. I did everything on this list, including the dating and Meetups. Doing ALL the things helped me make friends, but in all honesty, it wasn’t really until the past year (after five years in a new city) that I started making close friends, the ones I call bosom buddies. So my last bit of advice is to give it time. When you don’t have the close confines of a dorm or childhood connections, friendships take ages. Be patient, and keep commenting on Persephone, because, you know, point number 1 – the friendships you make online can lead to IRL friendships!