Plus, tips for safely meeting IRL
Making friends as an adult is hard. Most people form lifelong friendships in school or college, but there are many reasons why you may no longer be in touch with those friends today.
Moving to a new city and drifting apart for various reasons are pretty normal. If you now find yourself without a buddy to hang out with, looking for friendship online is a viable option. Yet here, as in the offline world, you have to play your cards right if you’re looking to connect with new people.
So if you want to know how to make friends online, here are some practical tips to make it happen.
Do You Want Online or Offline Friends?
The first thing you need to consider is whether you mainly want to make friends with people online who you only plan to hang out with online or if you want eventual real-life meetups. The reason this matters is because you only have so much time to pursue friendships.
If you want to leave the possibility of real-life meetings open, you need to focus on people who are physically accessible to you. Such as those who live in the same city as you.
If you’re only looking for people to be in a digital pen-pal friendship, then it’s less important where in the world they are. Though you might want to look for people in a similar time zone to your own, if you want any possibility of a real-time interaction.
Keep Romance Out Of It
There’s a big difference between looking to make friends online and looking for people who you want to date and have a romantic relationship with.
If you say you’re looking for friends as a pretense for romance, then you’re not only being dishonest but also sabotaging both goals. If you’re looking for romance online, be upfront about it and make use of online spaces designed specifically for that purpose. Don’t insinuate yourself into online spaces where people just want to hang out and chat about their hobbies or interests. Don’t make it weird!
Connect With People On Your Level
Shared interests, similar life experiences and comparable lifestyles are all important factors in building meaningful relationships. Which is why you should look for people who share a significant amount of similarity with you in all three areas.
Not only does it give you plenty of material to initiate and maintain contact, it also means you’ll be more likely to genuinely take interest in the other person, which brings us to the next important tip.
Take an Interest in the Other Person
There’s nothing more off-putting than someone who only talks about themselves. Yet most people like to do it! In both real life and online, it’s a great trick to refrain from talking about yourself unless the other person asks directly.
When having a conversation with someone (online or elsewhere) don’t just wait for your turn to speak. Pay attention to what they’ve said and then ask them to elaborate. We’re not saying you should pretend to be interested or that you should go overboard and interrogate them, but try to make it about the other person.
Not only does this give you more information about whether an online friendship is possible or even desirable, it will endear the other person to you. Since most people like to talk about themselves, you can give them plenty of opportunities to do so and they’ll most likely enjoy doing it.
Natural points in the conversation where you can contribute your own opinions, views and experiences will happen. It just shouldn’t be more than half of the exchange!
Don’t Be a Creep
This is probably a good general life tip, but online the creep factor can bring a fast end to a budding friendship. What do people find creepy? For one thing, going too fast on the course of a friendship, being overly needy and radiating desperation are all surefire ways to send potential friends running for the hills.
The most important thing is to let the relationship evolve naturally. Be a good conversationalist. Don’t share incredibly personal things or ask them before you’ve reached an appropriate level of trust with the other person. Most importantly, don’t attach explicit or implied obligations to the friendship!
In other words, keep it casual for as long as the other person needs it to be. If that means a casual friendship online on a permanent basis, then so be it. Both casual and deeper friendships are good for you and can exist side-by-side.
Use Platonic Friend Apps
Just as there are applications to help people find love online, there are actually websites, apps and services dedicated to helping people meet with the explicit goal of making friends. One of the advantages of these apps is that they prohibit flirting or other dating-related activities. So if you’re looking for friends, it can help filter out people who are looking for something else.
Patook is probably the best and most focused example. It works a lot like a dating app, with potential matches showing up and you swiping left or right on them. When there’s a mutual connection, you’ll get an opportunity to break the ice and start having a chat.
Once you’ve talked a bit, Patook will encourage you to take your conversation onto another platform or even real life. Does it work? We’ve actually made real-life friends with Patook! So make of that what you will.
Bumble is another platform offering a platonic friend service, but they also offer a traditional dating app as well. The friends-only version of Bumble is called Bumble BFF and it offers another way to meet people who live in your neighborhood who are also looking to hang out and make friends, without the pressures of dating thrown in the mix!
Safety and Real-life Meetings
So let’s say you’ve made a friend online and the time comes when you both feel you want to meet in real life. This is a big step! Meeting online is one thing, but being in someone’s presence is very different.
On top of all the normal human anxieties that go with all interpersonal relationships, you also have an added layer of safety concerns. Since you can’t be sure the person you met online is really who they say they are or aren’t part of various scams, such as catfishing.
Which means it makes a lot of sense to take sensible precautions when meeting a friend you made online in real life for the first time. Here are a few important ones:
- Meet in a public place with other people around.
- Take a friend or family member with you.
- Let people know when and where you’re meeting your online friend.
- Also let them know what this person looks like and what their name is.
You’ll want to get some first-hand evidence that the person you’re meeting is really who they say they are. You don’t have to be too blatant about this. Chat about where they work or what they’re studying, for example. Of course, you should offer the same sort of information about yourself to build trust in the other direction!
The most important thing is to trust your gut. If something feels off about your in-person meeting, don’t hesitate to leave! Good luck making more friends online!