Lonely Lonely that is me.
May 18, 2010 7:08 AM   Subscribe

How do I meet new people when I am embarrassed because I have had no friends for a while? I'm afraid I'll come across as desperate.

I'm lonely and in need of a friend. My good ones live far away and I only get to see them a couple of times a year. I have never been the kind of person that has tons of friends and I like it that way. However, since I haven't had friends and basically no social life for well over a year due to crippling depression and other issues, It would just be nice to have someone to go to the movies and lunch with. So I guess my question really is how do I get up and brush myself off and start LIVING again? (please don't say therapy, I'm on medication for the depression and can't afford therapy.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's important you start small. Don't run around looking for a friend- run around looking for a date for this, a friend to accompany you to that. As you get to know people over dinner, movies, parties, etc., you'll make good friends.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:11 AM on May 18, 2010

Shortly before you go ANYWHERE to do something social, call one of your far-away friends to chat for a bit. Not only will this boost your confidence, it will make you feel less rusty when you start talking to someone you don't know, so you don't have that "I haven't interacted with another human being all day!" awkward feeling.
posted by hermitosis at 7:16 AM on May 18, 2010 [10 favorites]

2 things:

1) I agree that you should remember you do have friends, they just live far away.

2) Be straightforward. When you hang out with people casually, you have to suck it up and make a move, of sorts. Not a big deal, but some intro of "I've been really buried at work/just moved here/other white lie, and I'm trying to be more social this summer. Call me next time you're going to the movies/want to get lunch/etc"

People aren't mind readers, but almost all of the ones worth being friends with won't be bothered that you're not playing hard to get. You have to let people know you're interested in doing more. You don't need to come out every time they invite, but do respond and reciprocate.

Good luck!
posted by mercredi at 7:22 AM on May 18, 2010

Ok I won't suggest individual therapy, but you might want to consider group therapy or a support group. It could be a safe way to learn about you and what gets in the way of making friends. While I know you feel you can't afford therapy,you might be surprised. There are many sliding scale agencies, private therapists, and universities that offer reduced fee or no fee therapy. Good luck.
posted by ChicagoTherapyConnection at 7:27 AM on May 18, 2010

Even if you can't afford therapy, you can afford to check out the books Feeling Good and Thoughts & Feelings from the library. :-) I found them very helpful, although I also go to therapy.

I don't think you have to be embarrassed that you don't have (local) friends. Nobody's going to quiz you or judge you based on that.
posted by callmejay at 7:37 AM on May 18, 2010

When I was young, I went through something like this during a time when I was away from my friends, whom I'd left behind in another state. What helped for me was getting to places where people didn't already know me--so they didn't know I was that lonely loser, I was just some new person showing up at the club meeting or whatever. In your shoes, I might start with communal events that are open to the public, like club meetings, book discussion groups at bookstores, or whatever activities you're interested in.

And I'd go one step further than mercredi: don't just let them know you'd love to be invited, issue an invitation or two. If somebody mentions a new movie opening, say, "Hey, would you like to go see it together next weekend?" or if it comes up that someone hasn't been to that one really good Ethiopain restaurant, suggest a meal. Be specific: "How's Tuesday? Tuesday's good for me. Shall we meet at 6:30?"

Yes, I know what I have just suggested is hard. This is an area in which I often find it hard to take my own advice. But you are not branded with a big purple P for Pariah. There are plenty of people out there who would like you just fine and enjoy spending time with you if they got to know you. They don't necessarily know you're available for friendship. Let them know.
posted by not that girl at 7:38 AM on May 18, 2010

I like hermitosis's idea re speaking to your far-away friends first. Also starting small ala TPS might be going to some structured events just to be in society (book reading, lecture, workshop, that sort of thing). With your goal just to go, as practice, not to necessarily make a friend. (Unless you think that would make you feel more lonely.) Re CTC's suggestion, DBSA groups are nearly everywhere, and free. Some people become friends through support groups. Some people use Craig's List to make friends, I haven't done it, but people do.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:40 AM on May 18, 2010

Take up a new hobby eg a dance class - get to know a couple of the regulars. Then "Hey I am totally craving sushi, want to go check out that new restaurant on x street?" etc...
posted by Chrysalis at 7:41 AM on May 18, 2010

This happens to a lot of people in their 20s and 30s when they move ... when I got tired of being lonely after establishing myself in a new town where I knew no one and working solo so I didn't even get to meet people at work, I basically just started saying, "It's so hard to meet people once you're out of college, and I need more friends," in friendly social settings. People CONSTANTLY agreed with me and one of three things happened: 1) Other Lonely Person and I went out for lunch/coffee/whatever; 2) Other Person with Friends invited me to go do some group outing with their friend group; 3) Other Person looked at me like I was high. In the cases of 1 or 2, yay! In the case of 3, no harm, no foul.

I also spent a lot of time volunteering with groups that drew people similar to me in age and interests, and taking "community rec" classes -- any class that sounded interesting, pottery, stained glass, latin dance (with my husband), gardening, anything. I met a lot of people that way.

The fact is that it took a couple years of doing this to start to build a group of close friends, but I started to have "people I knew" and "friendly acquaintances" almost immediately. (In fact, I just ran into a girl I took pottery class with some four years ago at a couch-to-5K program!) A lot of people were perfectly nice but we didn't click; a lot of people I got along with but we were more "casual friends" than close friends; but eventually I did find my tribe (in a book club, actually). It takes time and it is frustrating! But it's like this for everyone; it isn't just you. And the fact is that most people are sitting there going, "Man, I'd like to meet that guy, but I feel so awkward just APPROACHING people," so SOMEBODY has to make themselves vulnerable. I'm shy myself, but I keep in mind that like 90% of everybody feels awkward meeting new people, so I'm actually helping the other people out -- that makes it a lot easier for me to put myself out there. I do get rebuffed now and then, but far more often people are so pleased that I "made the first move" and saved them from having to do it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:12 AM on May 18, 2010 [7 favorites]

Don't concentrate on making friends, concentrate on doing things you like where other people who like doing the same things will be. You could take classes, or join a community theater, or a sports league.

Don't put the pressure on whether or not people like you. Instead, find people who like what you like, which will give you more of a foot in the door than trying to present yourself as a potential friend. I find friendships evolve out of a lot of things, but one of the easiest is doing things together.

Good luck and be easy on yourself!
posted by xingcat at 8:13 AM on May 18, 2010

Meetup.com and craigslist are your friends (not to mention MetaTalk meetups). Surely you must have an interest in some activity that is more fun in groups?

I play poker, ride a motorcycle and love board games. So, when I moved to philadelphia, I joined the board game and motorcycle meetup groups and scanned craigslist for poker home games that were looking for players.

The result is low-pressure socializing. You're all there to do something you already enjoy doing anyway. But go a few times and you're sure to hit it off with someone. Before you know it, you're grabbing a drink together after the meetup. Now you have a friend. And soon, some of their friends will be your friends too.
posted by 256 at 8:13 AM on May 18, 2010

Volunteer. Find something you like to do nearby and volunteer. Shelve books at your local library. Plant trees. Sweep alleys (all stuff I've done after moving). This will have several results. You'll meet other volunteers and have something non-threatening to talk about with them. You'll feel like you truly belong where you are because you've done concrete things there. Plus it'll get you moving and out, which helps fight the depression.

After a few months, you'll start to get invited places. You can also say things like, "Say, would you like to grab a cup of coffee after we finish planting these trees? I could use a snack and some caffeine."
posted by QIbHom at 8:22 AM on May 18, 2010

Assuming that you have your situation handled enough to be presentably datable, a girlfriend/boyfriend could be a great solution. You don't need friends to meet one (hurray for the Internet), they can supersede friends for many movie-and-lunch purposes, and for other occasions they often come with friends and family attached (which is a downside for some people, but not for you!)
posted by MattD at 8:52 AM on May 18, 2010

Go to Metatalk and propose a meetup for your area. Even if you think there aren't any other MeFites close by, you might be pleasantly surprised. And if there are already meetups going on where you live, show up at one!

Take a class in something you are interested in. Photography, Karate, Sign language, wine tasting, pottery making, belly dancing, poetry, rock-climbing, fencing, knitting, whatever grabs you. Not only does this give you a low-pressure format to see the same people regularly, but it also gives you something else to sprinkle into your conversation in other arenas. That might help you feel less desperate- you have other things in your calendar to schedule around, you *do* have a life. At the same time, finding an outlet for personal expression is always a good thing for one's well-being.

It's a weird transition once you are out of school to make new friends in a new place. You are not the first person to encounter this, and you have a lot more company than you might realize.
posted by ambrosia at 9:06 AM on May 18, 2010

I was recently in a really similar situation. I "broke up" with my best friend and transitively broke off from my main group. For a number of months I was basically friendless and didn't do much. I spent a lot of time hanging around the house moping and became really depressed because of it.
Out of the blue, I joined a rock climbing gym. I started off going because I really loved the sport, and climbed a couple hours every day after work. Immediately, it killed the "boredome-that-becomes-depressing" sort of time I used to have every day that made life suck. Whenever I was home and felt like crap, I'd head to the gym and do a few routes. Even if I wasn't climbing, just chilling and watching other people climb was a sort of psuedo-social thing I could do that wasn't depressing like sitting with my computer in bed.
After around a month, some of the staff invited me to climb with them in the gym after hours, and I've been friends with them ever since.
I'm still working on the outside-of-the-gym friendships, but I'm at least happy for now.

Hope this helps, good luck!
posted by pyrom at 9:25 AM on May 18, 2010

Yes, try a metafilter meetup!

Or a church adult group, or a church soup kitchen that you like (it's a good way to get social contact, even if just with the people you're serving or if you hang in the kitchen). Here, people often go out afterwards for drinks and socialize outside of the volunteering. Also they tend to be staffed by extroverts who like helping people, so, there you go! Let them know you need someone to go out with and I bet someone will take you under their wing.

The reason I say church is not because I'm religious, but because it gives you a lot of different ways/times to socialize with the same people. They come for the soup kitchen, then you can see them again after church, on a somewhat regular schedule. I sometimes attend services at UU which is generally tolerable even if you're not churchy.

Almost everyone I know has had some period of time where they kinda lost touch socially, didn't have the best time of things, moved to a new place and got isolated. Please don't feel afraid or like you are a burden. There are lots of people out there who want to know you. You are doing the right thing by thinking about this and asking about it, and I wish you the best of luck.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:55 AM on May 18, 2010

You are in a perfect situation for putting buddy-moves on people! Out of towners totally get to say things like "I don't know that many people around here" and "I haven't had a chance to build up my social network since I moved here". You sound all exotic! I would love to take the exotic stranger along when we go to the movies. Look on dating sites for people who are looking for friends as well as loveurrrs. Find somone who has set, say, Tron as a fave movie (and you like Tron too) and drop them a line and tell them you are also looking for non-sexual friends and would love to go see Tron 2 with a fellow geek (or sportsfiend, or whatever).
That's how I met my zombies-and-gaming buddy, and her mates.

It works in real life too when a coworker or friend of a friend mentions an interest, suggest an event. "Motokross? Really? Dude, I have the most amazing motokross dvd, how about you and Helen come by, have a bite and check it out?" "Sounds fun!" "You got plans next weekend?". Inviting in somone else makes it sound a little less datey too.
posted by Iteki at 11:12 AM on May 18, 2010

You know, when you meet people for the first time, they don't ask you how many friends you have. Or, if they do, you can look at them and say "what an odd question!" because, frankly, it is an odd question.

Go find things you like to do, and do them. When you think you'll have more fun going with a person you know casually, ask 'em if they want to go with you. One of my friends got to know me because we worked in the same office on different parts of the same project, and he just walked up, talked business for a few minutes, then asked if we wanted to come over for a bbq.
posted by davejay at 2:46 PM on May 18, 2010

I don't think the problem in your situation (by the way, 30 people have favorited this so far, so that's a pretty good indicator that you're not the first person to think about this) is so much a matter of meeting more people. Volunteering, mefi meetups, etc could achieve that, but you sound like you need a more solid footing in your situation?

As difficult as it is, try not to remind yourself that you don't have friends. Like others have said, I don't think people care--or the people you want to get to know--care that you don't have friends. That said, I think the normal assumption is that people do things with other people. So it's difficult to shake your "unlikeable" self-image when people ask you what you did over the weekend, and you have to bullshit your way through it.

If you view yourself as flawed for not having friends, which you do, then you'll project that to other people. The reality is that you're in a new city and you've been down a rough road. It would be surprising if you did have a new group of friends. But the reality also is you've proven that you're capable of making friends. Don't try to prove or disprove things to yourself or others, and I predict you'll end up in good shape.
posted by tenaciousd at 10:43 PM on May 18, 2010

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