How to make friends online
September 18, 2009 1:23 PM   Subscribe

How does one make friends on an online dating site?

I just moved back to the NYC/NJ area after graduating from college this spring. I don't have any friends here--the one friend I had from high school is now a med student in Southern California--and I'd really like to change that. Unfortunately, making friends isn't easy for me because I have Asperger's and social anxiety disorder. It's incredibly difficult for me to just go to someone's party or a bar and meet people there--I just don't know how.

So I try to find other ways to do it. I much prefer meeting someone online first then seeing them IRL, and also structured things like stuff on, but that's proving difficult in this case: with the Meetups, the event either conflicts with my schedule or is so pricey that I can't afford it at the time (I'm working part-time rather than full-time because of the economy, so budget-friendly activities are a huge plus). As for the online front, I'm not that active on any internet bulletin boards, a lot of my LJ friends don't live in the area, and I've tried the strictly platonic section of Craigslist, with very mixed results.

I've heard a lot of great things about OKCupid, both for finding friends and romantic partners, and so I'd like to try there. Thing is, I have tried OKC in the past for both myself, and it didn't quite work out--I rarely got any responses from people, and when I did, it never really came to a real-life meeting. In addition, while it was easy for me to message people if I was interested in getting to know them romantically, getting to know them just platonically was difficult, especially if that person was a female (I'm also a girl, and I don't swing that way). I just didn't know how to do it without being afraid that the person at the other end would get the wrong idea. I simply didn't know how to say I was only interested platonically through a site primarily geared towards romance.

I'd still like to give it another go, though. Has anyone had any success finding friends on OKC? What did you do and how did you do it? Any profile tips (mine needs a lot of work)?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Here's some advice taken from the site about what to say in a first message
posted by Proginoskes at 1:27 PM on September 18, 2009

Phalene's approach sounds about right, in general, and in terms of response rate. You can also specify in your profile that you're only interested in new friends, both in the "looking for" and the essay fields.

Have you asked your friends whether they have any friends in the NYC area that they think you'd get along with, and if so, if they'd introduce you via e-mail? This is pretty standard practice in my group of friends, and seems to work out pretty well for people in terms of getting a start making friends.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:42 PM on September 18, 2009

-I remember reading somewhere (not OKCupid) that women are more likely to look at someone's profile before reading the someone's message, so make it clear in your profile that you're just looking for friends on the site -- nothing romantic whatsoever.
-When you message a potential friend, let them know that (a) you think their interests match yours, and (b) you're new in town and don't know anyone, so (c) what's something to do in the area that someone like you would like, but might not find otherwise?
-At worst they don't respond, at best they'll invite you to do something, and in between you'll probably get a few good leads.
-Most people aren't looking for friends on OKCupid, so many people won't respond, or the conversation will just die after a couple exchanges. Phalene's rate of one in twenty sounds about right. Don't take it personally.
posted by clorox at 1:55 PM on September 18, 2009

I have made friends on OkC, but only with the gender I'm romantically interested in. They were cases of people I enjoyed spending time with, but didn't want to date (or vice versa). I'm not sure OkC is very well suited for just making friends, but it doesn't hurt to keep trying. I wish I had a better suggestion.
posted by Cogito at 2:01 PM on September 18, 2009

seems like a lot of people on OKC are just looking for friends, this is in the Boston area.
posted by sully75 at 2:04 PM on September 18, 2009

I just didn't know how to do it without being afraid that the person at the other end would get the wrong idea.

Yes. One of the many annoying aspects of that site. They really encourage the friend thing and for people in relationships to join, I guess to make it seem less creepy and "hook-up"y? I'm not saying this is you, but when I did try the site, I could really have done without all the girls who post 8 paragraphs about what they look for in a date, 9 hot pictures, and then at the end write "I HAVE A BOYFRIEND SO DONT CONTACT ME IF YOU'RE A PERV I KNOW YOU'RE A PERV LOOKING FOR A DATE ON A DATING SITE HOW DARE YOU GO SIT IN THE CORNER NOW."

I think it does a service to everyone to leave the dating sites to people who want to date. Maybe try something specific to an activity you enjoy? Like for photography, Flickr has groups where the people meet up. Also a lot of volunteer orgs have online presences, so you can get a sense of their culture without getting too committed. And they definitely won't charge you anything.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:28 PM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I would just skip the whole internet thing. I know it's tougher to start, but just get out there and join a sport of volunteer group or There's not much ambiguity there.
posted by mattsweaters at 3:03 PM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

"I think it does a service to everyone to leave the dating sites to people who want to date."

This. This. 1000x this. I'm about ready to give up on dating sites because of all the profiles I read that say things like "I'm just here because a friend made me join".. or ... "I'm just here for the forums"... etc

Expecting to make friends on a site designed for dating is like expecting to deliver a baby grand piano with a sports car. With enough effort, you might get lucky and be successful, but the odds are not good, and the payoff to effort ratio is going to be very very small.

I'd echo what some of the others have said above... you just need to get out in person more and find activity groups that "click" with some of your interests. Atleast that way you're 1.) not in a place that was designed to facilitate dating and 2.) there are a lot lower expectations and drama because its not about the people/members, its about the event/subject/topic.

I feel your pain though.. I tried joining some local Meetup groups.. and pretty much just fizzled out. (was nothing like I hoped/expected it to be)... I'm almost considering starting my own Meetup group - although I'm pretty sure (for my age group) the local population is not big enough to support it. (I'd probably get like 4 people to show up, and it'd be all guys.
posted by jmnugent at 3:11 PM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

OkCupid is first and foremost a dating site, and despite having the best of intentions, intentionally attempting to make friends through it (as opposed to chancing upon them on the forums or other community features) can and will be confusing for either party, not to mention it muddies the waters. I think you should give the other avenues you've already tried another shot, and just vary your approaches.

When I was active on LiveJournal a few years ago, I sought out well-written journals by people who lived nearby in the interest of feeling the pulse of Manila in words. If there's anything LJ is good at, it's fostering a sense of community and closeness. It wasn't my primary intention, but I made a lot of new local friends with similar interests through it.

More recently, I tried the local Craigslist's strictly platonic section with very low expectations and was surprised and impressed at the quality of results I got. I did indeed make several new very smart and articulate friends, and a good friend of mine had similar success when she had to live in Seatle for 6 months. The trick I think is a well-written, self-selecting post that shows off your sensibilities and sense of humor along with starting points for conversation, much like a profile you'd make on OkCupid, except more targeted. Sure, there will always be spammers, scammers, and shockingly ill-formed responses, but if you make even one bona fide friend out of it, it would still have been a worthwhile exercise.

Good luck!
posted by Lush at 3:28 PM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just look for an activity partner for a common interest you are genuinely interested (tennis, dancing, going to museums, music etc.) That way you'll already have something to talk about and bond over.
posted by debbie_ann at 4:49 PM on September 18, 2009

A dating site isn't really a great place to seek friendship, you should stick with Meetup or look for other clubs centered around a common interest.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:57 PM on September 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I would not recommend trolling OKC for friends. It really isn't meant for that. You're going to disappoint a lot of people, give a lot of people the wrong idea, and will be ignored by most of the rest.

I'm not saying that it can't happen, I'm just saying that your chances are better somewhere else.

Aren't Facebook and its ilk pretty much meant for this sort of thing?
posted by Sloop John B at 10:39 PM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Stick to straight women (who say in their profile specs they're looking for friends) on OKC to make things less complicated, and say something about looking for friends in your first message. Someone once wrote to me "you seem like exactly the sort of person I'd like to be friends with" or something, which was flattering and got the message across pretty well from the start. I've also found that it's actually more awkward if you send messages for a long time before meeting in person.

You could also start something yourself, as scary as it may sound. Buy a Scrabble board and put up a Craigslist ad inviting people to a game in a cafe. (Don't put the place in the ad, screen responses and pick a few people.) Sometimes there's less pressure and awkwardness in a small group as opposed to a large group (mingling is tough!) or one-on-one.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:31 AM on September 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Lots of great advice here, and I second the "start something yourself!" suggestion - that has worked well for me in the past. That way, you're in the driver's seat. You can screen people online, and then meet up in a small group (maybe 4-6 people?) for an enjoyable low-key activity of some kind that will help you focus on something other than your anxiety. Keep meeting with the same folks over time, and acquaintanceships may develop into friendships.

The rest of this comment is sort of tangentially related, but hopefully my personal anecdotes are of some relevance, since you're considering using OKCupid to make friends.

Thank you to everyone above who recommended leaving the dating sites to people who want to date. This thread makes a really convincing case for doing just that.

I'm one of those people who has been using OKC primarily to make friends (after some laughably unsuccessful dating attempts), and although I've had some minor success making friends, I have to admit the payoff-to-effort ratio is not particularly impressive.

The thing is, though, I am open to dating. I just like to do it in a way that allows me lots of room and time to get to know people. By focusing on making friends instead of dating on OKC, yet still leaving myself open to dating eventually, I've been screening out the folks who aren't similarly inclined. Or so I've been telling myself, anyway. But after reading this thread, it occurred to me that I may also be accidentally screening out otherwise compatible folks who are similarly inclined, but who find my roundabout approach vague, confusing, or otherwise off-putting. Can't blame them, I suppose.

A recent experience I had on OKC shifted my perspective, too. Under the rubric of friendship, I began a correspondence with someone whose profile really impressed me. Our early exchanges impressed me even more, and I quickly found myself feeling mildly flirtatious toward him (which is rare for me, especially when I haven't met the person in the flesh yet). When I suggested a face-to-face get-together, though, he balked. And while I'll probably never know his reasons, it's entirely possible that my friend-focused approach played a part - or at least muddied the waters enough that he didn't feel up to sorting it all out, just parked me safely in the friend category, and left it at that.

Lesson learned. I'm going to either 1) delete my OKC profile entirely, or 2) modify it so that it's clear that I am interested in dating. As for making friends, I'll go elsewhere.

I am now done overthinking this particular plate of beans. Thanks, MeFites.
posted by velvet winter at 11:35 PM on September 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

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