The online world can be a great place to meet people … but many find it a frustrating place where people brag about hundreds of ‘friends’ they’ve never met. Connectivity online is possible not mean connections online.
Forming real connections
First find people who share your interests on an online platform. This could be cooking, knitting, owning a Bichon Frize dog, your town, your neighborhood or where you grew up, books, history, the outdoors, a sports team, dining out, or a support group (for caregivers, health concerns, etc.) . You name it, there’s a group for it.
On Facebook, click “groups”
A woman’s experience
Jessica Levant (left), a 60+ artist, is a supporter of Meetup. First, she joined a local group of walkers in San Francisco. “I’ve made some real connections, and some ties remain friends after meeting nearly 20 years ago,” she says. Then she joined a social group in her age group that wanted to ‘do things together’. “After many interesting performances, newly discovered eateries and day trips, some people became famous, and one of my best friends came out of that group years ago.” Levant adds. Later she joined Meetups for artists, jazz and photography enthusiasts.
“The artist group, where we present and discuss our own art and get valuable (or questionable!) Feedback, is a tight-knit group and the only Meetup I continued during the lockdown. We met in a gallery. But it turns out we can function pretty well without the wine and cheese! “
A Facebook group for travel, food, and wine writers around the country was how Penny Sadler, 61, a makeup artist in Dallas, met a Los Angeles woman who she now visits at least once a year.
Don’t rush it!
But making a real friend takes time. In real life, it takes an average of 50 hours together to turn an acquaintance into a casual friend, about 80-100 hours to transition to a true friend, then about 200 hours to delve into a close friend, one found study by Jeffrey Hall, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas who studies social media and relationships. So the best way to make friends online is to mimic the optimal real-life circumstances, such as routine, motivation, and reciprocity (feeling heard and understood when you reveal personal things), as much as possible. In the real world, regular events at, say, 6pm Tuesday guarantee that the same people interested in the same thing will communicate regularly, and such closeness and frequency often blossom in friendship.
Persistence, consistency is key
Don’t blame technology if you fall into groups sporadically, and just lurk when you do. “You have to do the work and participate, not just be passive. People who don’t use the capacity of technology will not benefit from it, ”said Hall, author of it Relationship through technology (Cambridge University Press, 2020), a book that analyzes the good and bad things in the online world. As Woody Allen once said, 90 percent of life shows up. Apply the advice about making friends by older adults in Marla Paul’s book to online platforms. Remember, the best friend you’ve ever had may not have met you yet!
Try these tips
- Think First, don’t just rush online. Consider your interests and find communities with similar interests. Offer information that can help others.
- Think narrow and local. This increases the chance of meeting group members in real life, whether planned or purely by chance. For example, Hall is part of a Facebook group dedicated to clouds in northeastern Kansas, which shares photos of vibrant sunrises and sunsets. If a simpatico friend lives in Kyrgyzstan, you may not see them for a long time.
- Participate: post and respond regularly. Don’t just read. That can even worsen your mood, according to a study of passive Facebook use.
- Broaden your definition of a friend. What you wanted in friends years ago may not be what you want now.
- Don’t sound too needyDon’t say you are lonely, even if you are. It is a letdown. “Research shows that it is quite normal for lonely people to behave in such a way that their isolation is exacerbated,” Hall says.
What is your experience with online socializing? Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments!