After tallying up all the inbound queries we receive since daily at Loveawake.com dating service, it became clear to me that many singles are in the market to meet new friends but simply don't know where to get started, or feel as though they have tried everything without success.
This one query from a reader named Sue, for example, asked "How do I go about finding single or divorced women to be friends with in my town? I would like to meet women around my age who are divorced or single and enjoy doing things together like hike, go to the movies, shop or take trips without men?"
Then there was the empty nester who stated "I feel like a young 47 year old but I don't know what else to do to have fun and meet people." She went on to say "I have tried activities like horseback riding, yoga and volunteering but still find myself so empty at times." Another reader informed us that "Widowed people want information and help locating social activities with mixed gender groups."
Personally I believe that finding new friends is a lot like dating. It only takes one, the right one, to change your life. But in order to find the perfect match you have to keep "putting yourself out there." Trite, but so true in this circumstance.
When life transitions such as a relocation, a separation or a shift in a relationship throws you back in the social scene, there are many things you can do to grow your circle of acquaintances, friends and/or intimates.
But if you've tried everything, including continuing education courses, volunteering, professional networking groups and social clubs, without much luck then it may be time to go online to expand your search.
Take my friend Lori as an example. This 39 year old single Mom was having a difficult time meeting other young mothers until one day while she was checking out potential mates on Match.com "It dawned on me that if I am on this website looking for a man, there must be other people just like me doing the same thing." So Lori started writing to single females who also had kids in search of friendship. The results were astounding. Lori now meets with 4 women every Sunday for family brunch at a local diner. The most amazing part is that "all of our kids have bonded as a result of my outreach," says Lori.
For Alex who was too timid to chit chat with strangers when he first moved to New York, Craigslist.com was the saving grace. "A lot of people use this classified site to find jobs and apartments. So I figured why not use it to look for friends?" he noted in his Loveawake.com interview. Shortly after he posted his ad in the "Strictly Platonic" category of Craigslist.com, Clever Alex received dozens of responses from like minded transplants. And just like Lori, many of those connections have blossomed into long term friendships.
Indeed, a closer look at the listings in the "strictly platonic" section of Craigslist showed hundred of posts from individuals of all ages and areas seeking friendship. I found a 45 year old man living in Boston who was looking for a weekly pick-up football game. Another came from a newly widowed woman in Birmingham who was interested in meeting or dining out with companions in her area. And then there was the runner from Omaha who was searching for a training buddy.
But then there are people like newly divorced Melanie, who are quite shy and concerned about security. In her case she turned to MeetUp.com. If you are not familiar with the website, Meetups are online groups which are designed to bring people with common interests together offline. I decided to conduct a search and based on the preference criteria found The Triangle Widows and Widowers Group in Durham, North Carolina. Safe to say that if you want to practice your Italian, find other pug owners or go hiking on weekends, with thousands of Meetup Groups around the world, your chances of finding a fit are pretty good.
As for me, my experience in online friendships started as a social experiment when an investment banker on Facebook invited me and 20 other purported business development strangers (all women!) to meet for cocktails. Sure I was apprehensive in going alone but what did I have to lose? I made sure we were meeting in a very public place (the front bar area of a restaurant), told people where I was heading and saw that several other people were planning to attend. Turns out, the investor was merely looking to hook up, but I met a co-attendee and walked away with a new friend. In fact, I am meeting her for lunch this Wednesday!