When we were children, making friends was as easy as sitting in the sandbox and saying hello. Suddenly, you have a new best friend.
As we age, our lives become busier as we juggle our jobs, families, and health, and finding new friends becomes increasingly difficult. Many of us have probably asked ourselves: Why can’t I make friends?
According to a global Gallup study, Americans are among the most mobile humans on Earth. Nearly 25% of Americans have moved cities in the last five years, often for education, work, or a simple change of scenery. Because we’re constantly moving, we’re often forced to leave our social circles behind.
But friendship is vital to leading healthy lives, and learning how to make friends online means our social health won’t take a hit after relocating. We’ll be better at maintaining our existing relationships and seeking new ones to enrich our lives.
Creating space to meet people in person and make new friends as we move from one place to another becomes increasingly challenging — which is why we’re here to help.
The importance of good friends
Social connection and meaningful friendships have easy-to-see benefits: a good laugh, a group chat to turn to, or a person to meet up with over a shared interest. Good friends also provide emotional support during life’s most challenging moments or encourage us to be the best versions of ourselves.
But having good friends is more than just hanging out or personal growth. Meaningful connections contribute to our well-being in ways invisible to the naked eye.
Researchers at Harvard have found that happiness is a collective phenomenon. Surrounding ourselves with friends with cheery dispositions is our best weapon to combat feelings of isolation, depression, and loneliness.
These emotions and states of being are connected to several health problems like diabetes, heart issues, and insomnia. Our health depends on our social connections.
Using our time online with purpose
Humans increasingly depend on the internet for day-to-day necessities.
A Digital 2022 Global Overview Report found that humans will collectively spend 12.5 trillion minutes online in 2022, or an average of seven hours per person every day.
We’re constantly connected to our devices and more comfortable leading online lives, so why not use some of that screen time to find new friends?
The taboo around meeting friends and partners online shrinks as younger generations who have spent their entire lives online come of age. Nearly 60% of today’s teens report that the most common place they find new friends is on gaming and other social media platforms.
For many who grew up before the 24/7 internet age, there’s a tinge of shame or embarrassment about not meeting people in person, as if making new friends in real life is a greater measurement of our social worth. But that feeling of shame about leaning into the algorithm is misguided.
According to psychologist Leanne Hall, the anonymity that social networking allows makes it easier for us to be more vulnerable and ultimately leads to more meaningful connections. This is great news for introverts who have difficulty meeting people in real life.
How to make friends online
Constructing new friendships online doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Understand your intentions
Before you look for potential friends, know what you’re looking for. Sit down and create a set of social goals. Are you looking for someone to chat with? Do you want the friendship to extend into the real world? Do you want a friend for personal reasons or to make friends in your remote workplace?
Figuring out what you’re looking for will help funnel your energy into the appropriate online spaces.
2. Try an app
Many of us lead busy lives that make it difficult to meet new people. Finding new friends online saves you time and money by looking for friends from the comfort of your device while helping you narrow your search down to people with common interests.
There are plenty of friendship apps to choose from to connect with people in your area, like Bumble BFF or Friender. Pay careful attention when building your profile to increase your chances of connecting with like-minded people.
Fill your profile with photos, link other social media accounts like Spotify, Instagram, or Snapchat, and, most importantly, fill in the about section to give a glimpse of your personality and what kind of friendship you seek.
3. Join an online community
Friendship apps are great for meeting the people right next door — but the beauty of the internet is that you can meet anybody from anywhere. It’s a great option for introverts who may not feel comfortable socializing face-to-face but want to build meaningful connections or people who move around a lot.
Conversation is an art form. For many people, especially introverts, it can be hard to come up with things to talk about with friends. A great strategy for learning how to make friends online is seeking platforms that connect people based on shared interests — this makes conversing much easier. Here are a few:
Twitch is an excellent live-streaming service for gamers and people who enjoy bonding over subjects like music, sports, movies, and other forms of entertainment. Since the objective of Twitch is to connect over a love for a common interest, this is a great way to take the pressure off. Friendship isn’t the primary goal, but a valuable benefit.
Yubo is a chat and live-streaming platform with separate apps for teens and adults. Yubo has a video chat function that lets you speak with people after swiping right.
Atleto is an app built for athletes and sports lovers. If you’re looking for people with shared interests in sports and outdoor activities, this is the ideal social network. While they can’t be your workout buddy, these connections will celebrate your fitness milestones and cheer you on during training. Take initiative.
4. Take initiative
There are many fun ways to start a conversation online. But don’t wait around for people to chat you up. Take the initiative to start new conversations. Think about what engages you when meeting new people: ask questions (“What’s your favorite food?”), ask for advice (“What show should I start watching?”), and if the mood is right, find shared interests.
5. Get the hint
Online interactions aren’t always easy to navigate. The internet doesn’t allow us to pick up on body language or awkward lulls in the conversation. If someone leaves you on read over and over, take the hint. Devote your energy to a conversation with someone who actually wants to talk to you.
6. Meet in a public place
If you’ve found someone nearby and feel comfortable with your new friendship, it’s time to take it offline. Exchange phone numbers and meet in a public place. Meeting someone in public is your chance to make sure your instincts are right in a safe way — and turn a virtual connection into an in-person one.
7. Be yourself
Learning how to connect with people takes practice, like everything else in life. One thing we can be sure of is that the key to any good relationship is honesty and transparency. Friendship is no different and is built around a series of honest moments of vulnerability and sharing. Be yourself.
8. Have fun
The best friends bring out the best in us. Don’t be afraid to have fun looking for new friends online. Try out new social media apps, join a community you’ve always wanted to be a part of, and learn from culturally diverse individuals. Having friends should be about having fun, and finding them is no different.
Pros and cons of meeting people online
Solid friendships are vital to our health and happiness, but we don’t always have the time to cultivate them in real life.
Here are a few pros to turning to the internet to make a new friend:
Resources. Virtual meet-ups and platforms save time and money.
Global friends. The internet allows you to meet people from all over the world.
Community. Hobby-specific forums help you meet people with a common interest, like knitting or board games.
Stronger friendships. Online anonymity can build stronger, more vulnerable connections.
Here are a few things to be careful of when making new friends online:
Safety. Always be careful sharing information about yourself and meet in a public place.
Emotional investment. No one likes getting ghosted. Invest your emotions into people who actually want to speak with you to prevent opening up to people who aren’t going to maintain a meaningful relationship with you.
Build meaningful friendships online
The friendships we cultivate in our lives are intimately connected to our well-being. Finding new friends is hard, but investing time to build and nurture significant relationships will create healthier lives.
In a world where it often feels like we don’t have extra time for ourselves, let alone for other people, the internet is a valuable tool for building new friendships. Have patience, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Finding new friends is hard for everybody, but the value of a meaningful relationship is worth the extra effort.