The time between your late teens and early 20s is a critical period in which you build the network of friendships that can last your entire life. But during the present era of social distancing and online classes, what are the best ways to meet other people your age?
The good news is that there are things you can do right now to befriend new people, even if you are physically isolated from your community. This includes all you introverts – you can’t remain a hermit forever. It’s up to you to take the initiative to get out there and meet new people. Taking part in local activities or joining online communities will make it easier for you.
You will have to make finding friends a priority, because it won’t happen magically on its own. Set a goal and add it to your to-do list or make it a new year’s resolution. You must be willing to put forth the effort and try various socializing options before you find the friendships you are looking for, but they are out there! Here are some ideas:
You might start conversations with someone you happen to be connected with on social media because you met once in a class. If you’re working on a project of some kind, like a research paper or a new hobby, reach out to other people who might be interested in that topic and form an online community. Ask friends to invite their friends. You may not meet your best friends right away, but keep socializing with those who aren’t a perfect match. They can introduce you to others in their circles who might be.
Talk to your neighbors. Sometimes the places to meet new friends are right in our own backyards. If you see your neighbor working in the yard or struggling to carry in the groceries, walk over, introduce yourself, and offer to help. By extending yourself just a little, you might meet some wonderful new friends within a short walk of your home.
Take your dog for a walk at the local dog park and you are sure to meet lots of other dog lovers. The dogs will be naturally curious and drag their owners over to say hello. Taking your dog for a walk also gives other passersby a reason to stop and talk to you.
If you’re new to the neighborhood (or even if you’re not!), host a casual dinner party or open house and invite your neighbors, people from work, or other acquaintances. Invite them to bring a friend along so you can expand your connections. You don’t have to do anything elaborate. Have a barbecue or order a few pizzas. The point is to simply bring people together and potentially meet new ones.
HouseParty is the digital version of an open house. It’s a social networking app that allows up to eight people to video chat at once in a “room.” Users can have infinite rooms and easily float between rooms. The app alerts you when your friend is chatting with someone, and allows you to drop into that group. When you drop in, you may see some more of your friends, and friends of friends, as well as others you’ve never met before. It’s the virtual equivalent of meeting and talking with people at a party.
If your city has a community center near you, check it out and pick up a copy of their activity calendar. Show up for some events and mingle to get acquainted with locals who might become friends. For example, they might host a Farmer’s Market. These have a festive, sociable atmosphere, and if you enjoy cooking and healthy eating, you’ll find plenty of other people who share your food values there.
Place of Worship
If you’re a spiritual person, your church, synagogue, or other religious community is the perfect place to meet supportive, like-minded friends. But don’t just attend a service and leave. You may need to participate in a Sunday School class, young adult group, or other small gathering to break the ice and get to know other members. If you are musically inclined, join the choir or band. And don’t forget the pot-luck dinners!
Charities and Social Justice
Do you have a charity or cause that you care about? Join a local walk, fun run, bike ride, march or protest to help raise awareness. You’ll meet others who are there for the same reason, and who knows what else you’ll have in common. If you’re really serious, get actively involved in the sponsoring organization.
Volunteer in areas that are meaningful and interesting to you. You can volunteer as a coach, for a cultural event, or for a church event. If you’re not sure what the volunteer opportunities are in your hometown, check out VolunteerMatch.org to match you with an organization that would love to have a little of your time and energy. While you’re there, you may find a like-minded person to socialize with.
Join a Club
The more you put yourself in social settings, the better the odds are that you’ll meet interesting, fun new people who will improve your life. If there is a particular pastime that you enjoy, join a group of like-minded individuals who have the same interest. Here are some examples:
- Archery Club
- Astronomy Club
- Book Club
- Bowling League
- Debate Club
- Ham Radio Club
- Hiking Club
- Homeschool Group
- Musical Group
- Sports Team
One of the best ways to meet others is in a class, even if it’s just a non-credit class at the local community college. Taking a class automatically throws you into a group of like-minded people who share your passion for learning. Try to enroll in a more hands-on class (like art) rather than an online lecture course. This will allow you to talk with other students. Make a point to initiate conversation with those around you. College students also have the opportunity to join campus clubs and organizations.
If classes aren’t your thing, maybe you would prefer working out at the fitness center or at the gym. Spend time in the weight room when it’s busy so you can converse with people. If there’s a cafe or juice bar at your gym, hang out for a bit after your workout and connect with other members.
Whatever kind of group activity interests you, you’ll find it at MeetUp.com. Simply go to the website and type in the city where you reside, then start looking for groups that you might want to join. Scroll through the various events to find something that sparks your interest, or type in a particular interest and see what’s available. You’ll find book clubs, networking groups, special interest groups, and social groups. There will be some that aren’t appropriate for you, but hopefully you will find one that’s just the right fit.
Are there any groups or associations related to your career or college major? Research local business events and attend them so you can network professionally as well as personally. When talking with the other participants, expand your discussion beyond the typical business topics. Ask about their interests and hobbies, and perhaps you’ll find someone who shares a common interest. There are also networking groups for job seekers.
Get Out of the House
If you work from home or in an environment that isn’t conducive to meeting new people, then consider a part-time job working in a more social environment. If you don’t want to work in a restaurant or coffee shop, another way to meet people is to sit at the counter instead of alone at a table, and chat with those around you. Wherever you happen to be — whether it’s in line at the post office, at the grocery store, in a bookstore, or at the laundromat, don’t be afraid to start a conversation with someone.
Try Something New
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Even if you think something like an art exhibition, ballroom dance, karaoke, poetry slam, bus tour, or sporting event might not be your thing, take a chance and go anyway. It will broaden your horizons and you never know who you’ll meet.
One Final Caveat
Despite all the horror stories about online predators and human traffickers, not everyone is out to get you – but you can never be too cautious when it comes to your personal safety, especially when meeting an online friend in person. So you need to be smart about who you let into your life. Good luck!
What have you done to meet new people? Leave a comment!