How to build a new social circle?
September 8, 2008 6:14 PM   Subscribe

How do I build myself a new social circle from scratch?

Long story, I'll try to make it short.

In my childhood, my family moved a lot around the country, so I don't have any friends in any of those cities. When my father finally settled down, I moved out to go to college 1500 miles away, so no friends there either.

In the six years I spent in this city, I made some real good friends, just to move to another city (about 300 miles away) because of work. A couple of friends there, 18 months later, guess what? Moved to the other extreme of the country for a nice job opportunity, and nine months in I got transferred to the city in which I live today, since 2005.

In this job I travel a lot, and because of that I don't keep in touch with people from the office; also, the work environment is quite harsh and people aren't usually friends with each other. I brought my girlfriend to live with me, but she couldn't get a job, so we didn't have many friends from her side either. We broke up, she left, and I briefly dated another girl (whom I had known in the "other extreme of the country" and moved here), just to break up a couple of weeks ago.

I still travel a lot, don't have any friends from the work and is hard to keep in touch with friends from the previous cities, as they go on with their lives and we usually end up losing contact.

Now I have this big challenge: I am not leaving this city anytime soon, as I'm making good money, the company is nice and I have a decent living standard. I just need to make new friends, meet new people, perhaps a new girlfriend, I don't know. I am a shy person and have been in therapy for 12 months treating what? Social phobia :)

With that (awful lot) said, what are your suggestions for me to make new friends and start a new personal life?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Get involved with groups/clubs based around a common interest. Take the pressure off yourself. And take the focus off of the "relationship" piece, nurture friendships instead...
posted by HuronBob at 6:22 PM on September 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm the last person to be pushing internet networks since I know nothing and don't use them, ... but networks like Facebook seem just the thing for keeping up with your old friends in far-flung cities.
posted by JimN2TAW at 6:29 PM on September 8, 2008

Seconding the group / club suggestion. I'm involved in a sporting group, and from what I've noticed, a sizeable proportion of the members seem to be in it as much for the social side as for the sport itself. Or maybe you could call it a collateral benefit.

But certainly, there's a greater proportion of exchange students, people who've relocated from other cities or countries etc in the group than in the general population, and these are the same people who are more proactive than the native Sydneysiders when it comes to throwing parties, going out for dinner after training, etc. In other words, you'll probably find that there are others in exactly the same boat as you.

And if you're as shy & socially phobic as you say, the fact that you're primarily focusing on the sport itself means that you can get a kind of social fix just by training, and then take or leave the extracurricular activities as you see fit, depending on your mood, who you click best with, and so on.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:32 PM on September 8, 2008

posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:36 PM on September 8, 2008

Pushing through your fear of talking to strangers is the most efficient way of building a social life. It's not easy, but it's simple, and you can practice anywhere. Talk to everyone, even if it's just to say "hi".
posted by mpls2 at 6:51 PM on September 8, 2008

Don't know if it's your particular ball of wax, but many people find church/parish/synagogue/mosque/temple communities to be a good place to meet like-minded people who are usually at the same place on a regular basis.
posted by valkyryn at 6:58 PM on September 8, 2008

Honestly, you have to be willing to reach out, and then you have to be willing to follow up by taking risks. Reaching out means: organising a local MeFi meetup, seeing what's going on around you on even if you're only barely interested, seeing what's up on your local CL, and joining a club or group or something like a book group.

And then you have to follow up - you email or call anyone you exchanged more than hello with and ask them if they want to get a coffee or grab a beer after work.

Loads of people will tell you #1 - where to make friends, but most people forget or ignore #2 - how to make friends - because that's the scary part.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:52 PM on September 8, 2008 [3 favorites]

This might be a bad suggestion for someone with a "social phobia", but...

I have found that an excellent way to meet people and socialise is to pick up a casual job in a nice bar, restaurant or club. Not a dodgy place, but somewhere you like, think is a reputable venue and would actually feel comfortable if you were a customer there.

Working a couple of nights a week - say Friday and Saturday nights - you feel like you're out and about, you're interacting with lots of people and usually the staff hang around after the shift to enjoy a few drinks or a night on the town. You get to make friends very quickly working in a team, and the constant chatting with customers and staff brings you out of your shell pretty quickly. If it's a nice restaurant, you can learn a lot of interesting things about food and wine, where as in a club you learn to mix drinks and usually get to flirt with the clientele ;-)

It really depends on whether you enjoy that kind of 'scene'... and whether you have the time and energy to work nights. But when I moved to London I found this the best way to meet a lively social crowd, get to see a cross-section of the population, and be out of the house of an evening rather than sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. Of course, a lot of this involved late nights, drinking and partying so I guess that might be a downside for some. But after a couple of months I had the extra cash to put towards other activities I really wanted to do - for example language class fees, an art class, joining a sporting team or whatever.

Another great (and probably more healthy) way to meet people is to volunteer at music festivals, community events or with the Red Cross. Often these organisations have a register of volunteers so you get to work with same people frequently.

Finally, what kind of city do you live in? If it's near a big tourist or travel destination, you could try something in your holidays/ weekends like a Contiki tour (or a more civilised equivalent) to a nearby destination - you will get to travel and make friends for life, and it's possible that many of them actually live in the nearby city like yourself.
posted by Weng at 7:54 PM on September 8, 2008

Wouldn't a MeFi gathering be a good start? Lord knows I have driven around the block repeatedly for a few of them before driving home due to my social phobia...
Can you give everyone a hint about where you live?
posted by TomSophieIvy at 8:13 PM on September 8, 2008

I moved from LA to NYC this summer and didn't know a soul when I got here. I have always had some social anxiety, too, but I resolved to get over it and throw myself out there. I joined and began hosting travelers from all over the globe in my living room. I went to weekly Couchsurfing meetups and got to know some great people. I began attending MetaFilter meetups and have met many wonderful, solid people, including my new roommate/wing(wo)man. Asking two people on the subway platform whether my shirt matched my pants was serendipitous: turns out they're my neighbors and we're going to begin hanging out together. I joined a restaurant group on Facebook and met a few friendly people that way. In my old town, I joined the Sierra Club and met a ton of great people on hikes. I met some new friends at an orientation for my new job by making lame-funny comments about the profession and starting conversation that way. One thing I can tell you is that making friends in a new place becomes easier the more you force yourself to socialize with strangers. Just start going to every event you hear about. Visit the "strictly platonic" section of Craigslist and see if anything sounds appealing; if not, post something yourself. It's a numbers game and you'll eventually find some people you click with if you keep meeting new people.
Have a glass of wine if needed. Good luck.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:12 PM on September 8, 2008 [5 favorites]

Um... how does an OP who posted anonymously reply to a question?
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:27 PM on September 8, 2008

Um... how does an OP who posted anonymously reply to a question?

They contact a mod to post it on their behalf.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:33 PM on September 8, 2008

I had a similar problem with a lack of a social circle and a bad case of social anxiety. Sites like craigslist and were recommended, and while I wouldn't trust craigslist to get me anything more than cheap furniture and an STD-- joining was definitely worth the time.

At first I considered joining a group that catered to my specific interests (like a D&D or gaming club or something) but I opted against it since I didn't want to join a group of equally socially inept people. So I joined a hiking group instead. It sounds weird, but the best thing about it for me is the carpooling. When you're stuck in a car with 3 other people for 1-2 hours you learn to make friends rather quickly.

I don't regret it. My decision to try something outside my realm of familiarity has introduced me to many interesting people from all walks of life and it gets me away from the goddamn computer at least one weekend out of the month.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 12:47 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if you've considered this, but have you thought about getting another job?

It's just that this:

In this job I travel a lot, and because of that I don't keep in touch with people from the office; also, the work environment is quite harsh and people aren't usually friends with each other.

and this:

I am not leaving this city anytime soon, as I'm making good money, the company is nice and I have a decent living standard

appear to be telling two different stories. Is the company really 'nice'? Do you love your job? Or are you just used to the money?

I ask because I used to do a job that required a lot of travel, paid really well and had a similar effect on my personal life, and I'm by nature fairly outgoing. Even then it was tough to make 'real' friends (I had plenty of colleagues to go for the odd drink with, but not much in the way of genuine, deep companionship and mutual interests). Changing job to one that had exponentially less travel completely changed my life, entirely for the better. It's so much easier to do things outside of work when work is more predictable and you don't live in hotels, it's easier to plan things at weekends, and it's easier to have lunch with people, hook up after work and do all the myriad of little things that allow you to effectively build solid friendships.

The money probably will be less, but the quality of life will be so much more.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:26 AM on September 9, 2008

Craigslist. Start with the w4m or m4m sections, write a few nice thoughtful notes, or try your own post in the m4w or m4m sections. Don't forget about the community boards - yes there's noise and spam with anything online, but I've had good luck with the 4-5 different communities of CL'ers out there.

Nthing the other suggestions about joining groups. Photography buff? Explore the city and find some photogenic places / people. Musician? Try joining the choir or orchestra. Being around people will get you more friends than staying at home wishing for it. :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 4:28 AM on September 9, 2008

Take up yoga. It's good for you, women significantly outnumber men, and the women are much fitter than the average and thus (knowing nothing about your preferences) likely to be more attractive to you. Yoga is a lot harder workout than most people realize though, so don't expect to have the energy or leisure to look around the class much. Just smile and say hi, do your workout, wave goodbye afterwards, and don't push a conversation. You will be assumed to be a creep just there to pick up, until you've been to the class multiple times.

You might or might not meet women, but you will get fitter and get your mind off your problems, and no-one will give you a hard time for being quiet, shy, and minding your own business.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:31 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

The best advice I ever heard on how to broaden my social network, is to make regular appearances at the same location. It's possible to do that and be friendless as well, but showing up often enough for people to expect it, is a good first step. Sports clubs and classes are much better choices than something which doesn't repeat like a gallery opening. Becoming a regular, i.e. an hour or so, most Thursdays nights at X bar, isn't a bad idea either, if you drink.
posted by BigSky at 6:13 AM on September 9, 2008 [5 favorites]

I would not go looking in bars for friends. You should try myspace, facebook, ect. Also take a few classes like yoga or spinning. Plenty of times you can find people to talk to and hang out there. Also try searching for clubs that share the same interests as you. EG photography or sports.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:31 AM on September 9, 2008

Social dancing is great for this! If you go regularly (say, to the weekly monday night swing dance) you'll see a lot of the same people go every week, and repetition is key to turning strangers into friends. I was in a similar position to yours (lived here a few years, broke up with boyfriend, had no friends) and decided to take up swing dancing, and it has introduced me to so many fun people. It took me a little while to really make some friends there because I'm slow to open up to people, but it was still fun during that time, and has only gotten more enjoyable the more friends I make.

Each song is a 3-minute-long period where you are one-on-one with someone, which is enough time to say hi, quick get to know a little about each other and then enjoy the rest of the song just dancing. And if you don't enjoy each other's company very much, it's perfectly acceptable to dance without speaking until the song is over. (in fact, be careful that you don't talk *too* much even if you do hit it off with a new friend! it's best to balance it with just enjoying the dance.)

And you can totally start this as a beginner. You don't have to have any dance skill or experience. If you find it fun and enjoy the music, then jump in! There will be all levels of dancers out there, including a lot beginners, so you won't be alone. (typical social dances are swing, salsa, contra dancing... look for opportunities in your area.)
posted by inatizzy at 8:59 AM on September 9, 2008

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