When we were kids, making friends came naturally: it was as simple as saying “hi” to another kid at the schoolyard. But as we get older, the stresses of life can make our social circles shrink. We move to a new town or city and lose our old friends. We get too busy with work or family obligations to make time for anything else. And as we mature, learn, and grow, our friends are doing the same, and often we grow in two different directions. This often leads to friends drifting apart.
We’ve all experienced a loss of friends, in one way or another. At the same time, we’re always hearing messages about how important it is to have at least a few good friends: it lowers our stress, it gives us social support in times of need, and it actually makes us healthier and more likely to live longer.
So how do we stop our social circles from shrinking and make new friends? The best way might be through some new and not-so-new websites that make friend-meeting as easy as it used to be. Here are our top 5 favorites:
Type the name of your town or city into Meetup’s search bar and find dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of special-interest groups in your area. Sign up to attend an event with like-minded people, whether it be a hike, a knitting night, a canoe trip, or a writing critique. Meetups are free to attend, and it costs nothing to join.
Meet others who want to make a difference with this online directory of nonprofit organizations. Search for nonprofits in your area and then filter them by which ones need volunteers now, so you can get out and meet people in a way that’s good for your soul and for your social life.
If you’re a woman looking for new female friendships, you’re in luck: a bunch of websites have been popping up just for you. Girlfriend Social is one, Social Jane is another, and GirlFriendCircles is a third. Many women find it hard to approach other women for friendship—these sites make it a whole lot easier.
Peoplehunt is an app that lets you make spontaneous connections based on reciprocal skills. It sounds complicated, but in reality it’s simple: you create a basic profile, create a list of things you want to learn, and then make a list of things that you know how to teach. You then swap skills with someone in your community: for example, if you offer to teach someone Spanish, then they can reciprocate by teaching you how to refinish your wood floors. It’s a great way to meet people and learn something at the same time.
Whether you’re crazy about fishing, soccer, dominoes, or badminton, Sportsvite helps you find a league, team, or players. If your area doesn’t yet have a team for your favorite sport, the website makes it easy to set one up and promote it to others.
But whatever site you choose to use, the most important thing is to be brave! Everyone who uses these sites is there to make friends, so don’t hesitate to ask for phone numbers or email addresses. Most likely, the person you ask for a friend date will be relieved that you took the first step.