When online dating first rolled out, it was met with a lot of skepticism and derision. Many people likened it to “shopping” for love, and a good portion of users were embarrassed to let their friends and family know they met so-and-so on a dating website, often because it seemed like a desperate measure, one last chance at love.
Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore. As with many attitudes, society has for the most part progressed over time. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of people in the US thinking the concept of online dating is a good idea increased from 44% to 59%. And now, in the age of Covid and beyond, it’s likely to reign as the primary method of initiating a romantic relationship indefinitely.
Online friendships are similarly coming of age rather quickly. Humans are social creatures, and we crave companionship and communication. While the coronavirus pandemic shut us off from traditional methods of making acquaintances and building connections, we luckily live in an age where we can turn to the digital space to make real-world relationships.
If you’re new to making friends over social media, apps, or the internet in general, it may seem daunting, at first. What’s the best way to make friends online? Where to start? Is it safe? Are some online friendship sites better than others?
But, don’t you worry! Meeting new friends online is not as difficult as you might think. With a little effort and knowledge of where to look, you’ll have a new network of friends or a lifelong BFF in no time at all.
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Here are some of the best ideas for how to make friends online:
1. Cleanse (& Update) Your Online Image
Say you’re going out IRL to a get-together your friends are throwing or a speed-dating sesh at your local bar. You’re eager to meet a special someone, whether it be a romantic interest or your future BFF. To make certain you give a fine first impression, you’d likely throw on your best outfit, shave, and spritz a bit of your favorite perfume or cologne, right?
Do the same thing when making friends online.
But, when preparing for online friendships, your first impression isn’t based on what you’re wearing (for the most part). Rather, it’s your online image you’ve got to freshen up.
One of the first things people do when meeting someone online is to Google their name, just as an employer would do when considering you for a job (side note: make sure you research them, as well!). If they did yours, what would come up? Is your latest Facebook post an obscenity-laced tirade against a restaurant that didn’t get your order right? Do you have a LinkedIn account that’s completely out of date?
Preemptively clean up your presence online, and you’ll definitely improve your chances of making a great first impression!
2. Find a Niche You’re Passionate About
If you’re looking to make friends online, consider your interests. What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing during your free time?
When you connect over shared interests, your future relationship gets a significant head start. Not only will you both have something that prompts a conversation, but you’ll both be genuinely interested in the topic, increasing your chances of having a conversation that lasts longer and deeper than usual.
Here are some ideas for shared interests groups you might search for:
- Book clubs
- Expat communities
- Travel groups
- Neighborhood ferret owners
- Beer connoisseurs
- Graphic design network
- Science fiction enthusiasts
- Local foodies
- CUNY alumni
- White-hat hacking collective
- Language lovers
- Hobby model train collectors
- Devon Rex owners
- Black Lives Matter regional chapters
- French cinephiles
- Weekend hiking get-togethers
- Freelance workers community
- Amateur photographers
- Local fitness Facebook group
Really, there is no limit to the number of communities waiting to welcome you. And, they’re quite easy to find; Google is a great starting point, of course, as is Facebook and Reddit. For more options on places to meet new friends online, we’ll give you a list of great apps and sites just below, so keep reading!
3. Make Your Pitch at the Start
I often get messages from people wanting to start a conversation with me on LinkedIn, due to the fact that my profile is linked from many of my past writing work. However, a good number of them simply write to me with “Hey” or “Hello.” I’ll be honest—these all get ignored or deleted..
When you send the first message to start a conversation with someone, explain what made you choose to connect. You can combine that with a nice compliment and a quick sentence about yourself to make for a connection request that’s quite hard to ignore.
Here’s an example:
“Hi Julie, my name is Christian, and I’m fellow Cavalier King Charles Spaniel owner myself. I just moved to the area and joined this dog club, and it’s quite cool to see another Cavalier in the group. Perhaps we could sync up our walks one day so your Rex and my Fifi could meet? Either way, I’m so excited to be a member of the Prospect Heights Kanine Klub, and I look forward to speaking with you more soon. Take care!”
What’d you think?
Sure, it’s not going to work 100% of the time. However, the message conveys enthusiasm, shows you have common interests, and pitches a meetup. The meetup pitch may work in this case as both parties have dogs, but play it by ear each time, as each scenario is different. Chances are, you may need to nurture your budding relationship for significantly longer before proposing an IRL meet.
4. Join an Online Community
If you’re wondering how to make friends online, it’s important to know where to make friends online. While Google may be a great place to start, there are a whole host of mobile apps and websites dedicated to specific groups and communities.
Here are some of the best websites and apps for making friends online:
- Goodwall – That’s us!
- Meetup – Events and get-togethers IRL or virtually for specific interests or groups.
- Hey! VINA – App for women to make female friendships while bonding over wine, travel, and other similar interests.
- Bumble BFF – The popular dating app’s counterpart for making platonic friends.
- InterNations – City-based network of expats with a business-minded atmosphere.
- Nextdoor – A neighborhood-based platform for connecting with locals.
- Patook – Only platonic friendships, and flirting gets you banned.
- Interpals – Connect over a love of languages and traveling.
- Facebook – Gazillions of local and niche groups to be found.
- Meet My Dog – “Location-based social application that helps you connect with other dog owners in your local area.”
- BarkHappy – Similar to the previous one.
- Friender – Connect with people and meet new friends over common activities and shared interests.
- Yubo – Tinder-like swiping app for making friends nearby.
- Skout – Meet people online from all over the world.
- Couchsurfing – Meet locals when traveling, host travelers.
Remember—find something that interests you to help narrow things down, because more people doesn’t always mean more friendships. You’ll likely have more luck finding friends in a small group of 50 people with similar interests than you would in a larger community with tens of thousands of members.
5. Sign Up to Goodwall
We mentioned Goodwall already as one of the best platforms to connect with people and make friends online, but I’d like to dive deeper.
Goodwall is an amazing platform built especially for high school students, college students, young professionals, and entrepreneurs. With a footprint in over 150 countries all over the world, we’ve recently passed the 1.5 million-member mark, meaning you can easily find friends online with similar interests and passions.
On Goodwall, you can join topical groups, from region-specific sub-communities to virtual book clubs and beyond. Chat one-on-one with your new friends, and join our challenges (such as BetterTogether) to make an impact on the world around you while having fun and the chance to win amazing prizes!
6. Don’t Set High Expectations
One important thing to remember is that, while you might have found someone who you think would make perfect BFF material, they might not feel the same way about you.
Keep your expectations low. If you don’t get a reply or receive one that basically ends any chances of a friendship from the get-go, don’t take it personally. In this case, “it’s not you, it’s me” could actually be true. Perhaps that person has too much on their plate at the moment and doesn’t have the time or energy to connect with new people for the time being. Maybe they’ve disconnected from social media and aren’t receiving anyone’s messages. Or any of infinite reasons, really.
Also, if you do make a connection with a potential new buddy, don’t expect everything to go according to your schedule or preconceived notion of how a friendship ought to work. Everyone is different, with different priorities, expressions, responsibilities, expectations, and personalities. One new bud may reply to you immediately every time simply because they’re always on their phone, while another future bestie could take hours or days to reply to you because they’re just not on Facebook so often.
To sum it all up—
We’re still not through the coronavirus crisis, and, even once we’re out, the friendship-making landscape might be forever altered.
However, with the full power and resources of the internet, it’s now easier than ever to make friends online. Identify interests you’d like to connect over, sign up to a few choice apps and websites, and send that first message. Your next friend awaits around the digital corner!