Despite the interconnectedness of our modern, digital world, loneliness is a growing problem for many Americans. Recent research on the subject indicates that one out of every five people reports regularly feeling alone.
One of the factors contributing to the rise in feelings of isolation is an increase in the number of remote workers. More employers have adopted increasingly liberal work-from-home policies in recent years and, while widely viewed as one of the most attractive work-related perks out there, working from home tends to impact their employees’ abilities to socialize in the way that humans need to in order to be happy. Like chimps, dolphins, and elephants, humans are social creatures – most of us need to be part of a group in order to feel a sense of belonging.
Another challenge is that people often meet new friends through current friends. About 62 percent of those surveyed have between two and five close friends yet would like to feel more connected. However, if we don’t already have a large pool of friends to draw from, it reduces the chances that we will meet others this way.
It’s understandable that you may have some skepticism about making friends online, but we’ve reached a point as a society where we have no qualms about using dating apps – why shouldn’t we also be able to meet new friends online too?
1. Where can you find friends online?
There are several apps and websites that can help connect you to others. Mobile apps like Bumble BFF, Friender and Hey! VINA are similar to dating apps but rather than looking for love, users search for friendship. These apps are user-friendly and highly intuitive.
You can start out by creating a profile and listing a few interests or hobbies you have. Then you can search for others with similar likes or those who live in your geographical area.
Facebook has also enhanced its design and offers users a way to search out people close to them with similar interests. You can search for events in your area or locate ways to get involved in community activities. Facebook groups and now Facebook Local are other good ways to find new friends online.
Meetup.com is a great place to connect with others. The platform lists events, groups or meetings that are happening in cities and other areas around the world. You can search based on geographic area as well as for those with the same interests.
2. How should you choose whom to contact?
In order to get the most out of friendship apps or websites, you’ll need to build a good profile. This includes a user name and a small write up about you that will show off your personality and make others want to find out more about you.
One thing to consider is creating a user name that you can use on all the sites and apps. This will help you avoid confusion by simplifying your account details over several platforms.
Writing about yourself can seem intimidating at first but it doesn’t have to be. Just focus on a few of your favorite personality traits and keep it positive while creating a simple and brief introduction into who you are and what you are looking for in a potential friend.
Don’t forget to add some good-quality photos so people can see you smiling and being happy. Images can also show off things you like to do so try to include action shots.
Another thing to keep in mind when you are searching for a friend online is to look for someone who appears to be honest in their profile and uses positive language. If someone is using too many negative words in their write up it’s likely that they won’t be someone you want to spend your time with.
3. How should you start a conversation?
Creating the initial contact can seem intimidating. It’s not always easy to start a conversation with someone when you’re staring at a screen rather than their face. If you’re feeling some anxiety in this department, try to consider the fact that by being brave enough to start the conversation, you may also be taking the first step towards a meaningful, long-lasting friendship. Hopefully this gives you the courage and motivation you need.
Here are some tips for getting started:
- Begin with a hello
- Shift the focus from yourself by asking them questions
- Use humor; a joke is one of the best ways to break the ice
- Look for clues into their interests; if you notice a mutual interest you can ask them more about it and share your own love for it with them
- Try to understand them; if you are genuine about building a friendship, it will come through in your words
4. Connection and bonding online
As the friendship starts to develop there are some things you can do to help cultivate a good relationship.
It’s important to always write and communicate in a way that is clear enough for the other person to understand. If you start using too many shorthand words or acronyms, the other person may not understand, and you creating distance in the new connection you’ve created.
Remember that, like in real life, online friendships require some give and take. Continue to ask questions to get to know your new friend better. You should also be willing to share a little about yourself but maintain your privacy.
This means it is okay to discuss a shared experience or common goal but be wary about giving out your address, phone number, birthdate or other personal information.
If you’re ever concerned that your new friend may be trying to take advantage of you financially, emotionally or in any other way you can always look them up via a people search engine. Looking up their name, email address or phone number could reveal useful info that can help you decide whether or not this is a person you should open yourself up to.
5. Can a friendship formed online be considered a real friendship?
When it comes to connecting with others an online friendship can be just as meaningful as one that developed in real life. Sometimes it can actually be even stronger, as Crystal Ponti wrote about in The Washington Post. What’s important is what the two people get out of their friendship rather than how they communicate or where they met.
Sometimes, those who live close to us can’t understand what we’re going through. This is when online friends can be a better option. For example, if you’re going through a divorce but all your real-life friends are also friends with your ex, they’re not going to be able to support you as well.
“Research shows that it’s ‘safer’ to be open and honest about our struggles, issues, and anxieties with ‘online buddies’ than with people we see on a regular basis,” according to an article in Psychology Today.
Still skeptical about trying to find friends online?
When it comes to making new friends, people used to be limited to those who they either work with or live close to. Thanks to the Internet, we can now make friends with people all over the world. This can help people overcome culture gaps and create more understanding connections.
Because we are able to search out others with similar interests or those who are going through similar life experience, online connections can be just as meaningful and important to our well-being as those connections we have with people who live in the same community or city. We hope this article will encourage you to try and find new friends online!