Advice on how to make some actual friends here?
July 20, 2011 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Despite my efforts (meetups, work), I don't really have a reliable circle of friends here. Any advice for meeting people?

Admittedly I'm a bit embarrassed to be writing this, but I feel like I have to ask the question, so there you go.

I currently live with my girlfriend here in New York. We've got a pretty good life, but the one thing we're really missing is a good circle of friends. When we graduated from college most of our friends dispersed around the US. Since then we've met a few people, but I wouldn't really call them good friends. We've tried going to a few meetups, but nothing's really panned out from that either. We're on the quieter side - mildly nerdy (but not socially inept in the least), but we don't really go out and party all hours of the night or anything like that.

I just don't get it. Are we doing something wrong? Is it hard to actually make some real friends here in NYC? I'd like to point out that I'm talking about actual friendships and not just drinking buddies or something like that.

Related to this is that I've never really had a group of male friends. I'm a pretty friendly guy, but for whatever reason I've just never had a circle of male friends to, I don't know, hang out with. I started a new position in the past few months and I'm still getting acquainted with my coworkers, but they all seem fairly independent so I don't really see that turning into much of anything outside of work.

Anyway, I don't really know what to do. Part of me just feels like everyone else has their little circles of friends, and here I am on the outside, and I feel like a failure as a human being or something. Does anyone have any advice for me?

(Sidenote - it's also super lame to post on the Internet and admit that you don't really have friends, hence the anonymity. if you want to contact me, I guess.)
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think it's super lame and have experienced this myself over the past few years. A big part of it just inevitable with age (I just hit 30) since people's priorities start to shift to careers and building families; simply keeping up with old friends is enough work, let alone making new ones.

Also, since you said you're looking for more than just drinking friends, remember that those type of deep, serious friendships can't be forced, and usually develop over time. Most of the really close friends I've built up post-school didn't start out that way, they were just drinking/partying/casual friends. Generally I don't realize the relationship has crossed into that super tight, friends forever zone until after the fact.

I'd say the most important thing if you want to develop new friends is to keep yourself open to any possibilities - for example when you say that most of your co-workers seem to be too independant, it sounds like you're finding a reason to cross them off the list without making an effort. Beyond that - yeah, meetups with Metafilter and other sites are a good option. I've had a lot of good experiences with related events, but there you have to be prepared for more temporary friendships due to the traveler/backpacker aspect involved. On the bright side, you'll have friends all over the world to visit in the future.
posted by mannequito at 9:22 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Take classes. Together, or separately. Honestly you should do that even if you HAVE friends, since NYC has so many amazing experts out there giving lessons and whatnot. Take advantage of it!

Work doesn't really count, since I hardly know anyone who is really tight (meaningful friendship) with people from work. And as for MeFi meetups, they are really a mixed bag, personality type-wise. The cast rotates a lot, so I welcome you to keep trying. (I haven't been to one in quite a while myself, but I really ought to...)
posted by hermitosis at 9:23 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Foooood. Make food, share food, eat food with other people. Don't go out, have them come over. Have them bring the most delicious thing they can make. Do it like a potluck, and if you can run a grill. Invite the neighbors, invite the coworkers you like, tell that tenuous 'we met 'em' network about it, and have a good time. Ask the last person to leave when they want to do the next one.
posted by carsonb at 9:26 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

1) How long have you been at it? It takes ages to make new friend groups once you're no longer in school (where excessive time in proximity works its magic). Like it took me probably 4 years to have a solid group of good friends once I moved after grad school, and I was out there all the damn time looking (way more than "a few meetups" -- I did classes, meetups, volunteer groups, threw parties, all kinds of stuff). Don't give up. It just takes time.

2) "Part of me just feels like everyone else has their little circles of friends, and here I am on the outside" -- Just about EVERYONE feels like that in their late 20s and early 30s. Just about EVERYONE has the same problem. It's HARD to make friends after you finish school.

3) "Related to this is that I've never really had a group of male friends. I'm a pretty friendly guy, but for whatever reason I've just never had a circle of male friends to, I don't know, hang out with." -- This is pretty common for men. I'm not a dude so I'm only speaking from observation, but I think there's a lot of cultural stuff that makes it harder for men to make friend groups. From observation, men seem to most often make groups of friends based around activities, from fantasy football to D&D to whatever. So maybe a hobby group would help. But an awful lot of married men simply rely on their wives to make friends for them and tag along with the wife's friends. So there's a number of men who simply aren't in the looking-for-friendship game because they just let their wives do it.

4) Work friends aren't always the best idea once you're starting into careers; it's a "don't shit where you eat" thing. Too many possible complications, too many possible conflicts of interest. So many AskMe questions are about work friends gone awry ... in such a way that trying to handle it is impacting the work environment.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:26 PM on July 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

Oh, I guess I didn't really give any suggestions. :) Where I finally started finding friends was a combination of an active volunteer group, a very active local blogging scene (I started blogging because I was so bored with no social life; linking to other local blogs, commenting back and forth, and attending blogger meetups helped me meet and get to know a lot of people), and finally joining a book club at a whim. The book club has ended up my tightest-knit group of friends but includes people from the volunteer group and the blogging community, so it was all steps in the right direction.

I also got to know some people taking classes, a little bit at work, and being involved in neighborhood and civic affairs. Those are more friendly acquaintances, but good people that easily could have become good friends ... and might in the future.

My husband has met friends through a cycling group, a D&D meetup/game, a community garden, neighborhood & civic affairs, etc.

Really you've just got to try a lot of stuff until you find the right people ... it helps to do stuff that interests you since you'll probably have to do it for a while to make connections, but luckily there's a group out there for just about every interest.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:33 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just another voice chiming in to say that I've had a few times when it seems that all my friends have either moved or have grown apart. I'm actually smack-dab in the middle of one of those times myself. Also agreeing that work friends are good, but you can never be as free with them as with those you meet outside of your professional circle. Also agreeing that trying multiple vectors (classes, clubs, volunteering) at once might help. And it will take time.

As someone about to move and leave all of my friends and network behind for a while, I'm pulling for you!
posted by smirkette at 9:52 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Look for one of those super outgoing people who will talk to absolutely anyone. You might even meet them on the train or in a store or something.

This person will probably not have time to be your best friend, but they will introduce you to all their other friends and you will eventually find some of them that you click with!

This has happened to me more than once, and now I have lots of cool friends who I would probably have been to shy to talk to at first!
posted by exceptinsects at 11:16 PM on July 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

You could practice just saying "Hi" to people you see often, and taking an interest in them. I think the most organic way for friendships to develop is from "Hi," to "Can I help you carry that," to "How's your mom doing this week?"

That's just a theory, though. How I socialize myself is by relying on a couple of women I know who are really good at doing the leg-work of organizing get-togethers. I just sort of show up when I'm told to, and make chatty conversation with whoever else shows up. There's usually a core group of us who keeps showing up, so that makes an opportunity for the chatty conversation to deepen. It's nice, though 90% of the time it's very casual.

As an example, the last time I was at a restaurant with one of these informal groups I mentioned that I needed a new wallet. We wound up going shopping after the meal. One girl impulse-bought a purse that was on sale at the same store. It worked out nicely because we know each other well enough to just hang out. None of them are people I call often, but we've simply spent enough time together to feel comfortable doing whatever.

I've met a few people who can create this kind of group wherever they go. (None of them were straight men, but that's a different can of worms.) You could watch out for one of these social-organizer people. Then, if/when she invites you out to something, say yes. When you've gotten to know the group a bit you can suggest things you'd like to do together.
posted by Net Prophet at 11:17 PM on July 20, 2011

Do you like board games or playing cards? Meetups for games can lead to nice, regularly scheduled hangout sessions. My in-laws made fast friends by hosting mah-jong games which eventually rotated from their house to that of their neighbors. I'm new-ish to my city and playing Settlers at the corner bar helped me and my SO get a leg up in the friends department.
posted by wowbobwow at 11:57 PM on July 20, 2011

It's hard to meet people in NYC. A lot of the advice here, like saying "hi!" to random strangers, would make you look like a crazy person who sleeps on the subway stairs. I asked this question several years ago because I was in a similar state of loneliness (minus an SO, to boot).

One cliché that works is to volunteer. Seriously. Do you guys like dogs and/or cats? Go to the animal shelter and start walking dogs! A lot of the shelter volunteers are young and friendly, and you have the added bonus of bonding over your love of animals. You also meet people on the street with dogs, where you have a semi-awkward "haha our dogs are sniffing each other's butts" conversation, though I doubt those encounters lead to anything more substantial. If animals aren't your bag, try doing stuff like games with kids. I volunteer through New York Cares and spend an hour on Saturday mornings at a nearby public school teaching kids how to play board games. Most of the other adults who show up are people in my neighborhood as well. Be warned, many of these volunteers are women, but by no means all of them.

My most helpful suggestion is to go to a Metafilter meetup. When hermitosis read my similar question in 2007, he told me the same thing he told you. We're friends IRL now, and most of my friends in NYC are through this website. I honestly bypass official meetups at this point and just call my fellow MeFite friends to hang out. As he points out, the crowd is diverse and it fluctuates in size and variety depending on the location, time/date and event going on. Go to several meetups in different spots and see how you guys fare. It's a really casual environment overall and everyone loves meeting new people. You have the added advantage of an NYC locale, where the people skew younger and drinkier (if that's your bag), AND you have conversation fodder already in the bag ("did you see that MeTa flameout the other day?").

My email is in my profile. Contact me or hermitosis and we'll set y'all up with a cool fun beer garden meetup, using our powers of persuasion to get our circles to attend. We tend to stay in Brooklyn for the most part, though downtown Manhattan meetups can be arranged as well. Good luck!
posted by zoomorphic at 4:51 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, it's super early for me, so I'm not sure if the question I linked to you is the most relevant question. I also asked this around that same time, which might be a more pertinent example of how lonely in NYC I used to be. Now I have tons of friends, 95% of them either through the site or friend-of-friends who showed up at our parties. My point is, it does get better, but sitting around waiting for friends to appear never works much, as you well know.

also, I don't know why I kept writing "bag" in my last response. bag bag bag.
posted by zoomorphic at 4:57 AM on July 21, 2011

Life after college is completely unlike the TV show "Friends." Real life just doesn't work that way. Good friends after college are people that you get together with once a week, at best. So relax, the only thing you are doing wrong is holding onto unrealistic expectations.
posted by COD at 5:12 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

It requires a certain level of risk to make friends (which you understand because you posted anonymously.) You risk both rejection and the need to reject. In that sense, it's almost like dating. You need to persist over time. Call people up and invite them to hang out. What are your interests?
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:54 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with hermitosis. I met a good friend through a class. Since you have said you are "nerdy" this may be the best approach for you.

I find it best to have friends outside of work. When I worked for a large corporation and layoffs occurred all of our "friends" left the area for new jobs. It is always nice to have a healthy balance between workplace friends and non-workplace friends.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 6:30 AM on July 21, 2011

When I think about it, all of my friends are people I met through classes (or NaNoWriMo write-ins in one case), or through mutual friends. Some sort of thing where you have a reason to see each other weekly.

Would you be willing to take classes or join a sports team or something like that?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:22 AM on July 21, 2011

Furthering Jenfullmoon's point, I want to encourage activites even more than classes.

My husband and I have made promising friendships through softball, curling and sailing over the last couple years, and we're definitely more nerdy than jock-like. Regular camaraderie is a good place to meet people, have a good time and get the endorphins flowing. What's made this work for me (despite my being non-athletic and playing solo sports as a teen) is that we've joined noncompetitive groups - the lowest rung, the pickup game - places where others are there for the fun more than the win.

My second suggestion is neighborhood groups - find a community garden, seniors residence, theater group in your 'hood and join them. Is there a space in your neighbpurhood that could be better? Gather others to try and improve it in a fun way.

Start a board/card/trivia game night at your local pub.

My final piece of advice is be patient, but take the risk of inviting intriguing people/couples/prospects for a drink/picnic/movie. good friends are sometimes drinking buddies first
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 7:35 AM on July 21, 2011

You know, I didn't make true best friends (as opposed to acquaintances or casual friends) until I had to ask for help and accept it. Two casual friend became absolute lifelong best friends when I separated from my husband and moved in with one of them. I don't recommend getting divorced every time you need a friend (ha), but you can ask for help in smaller ways. People like to be useful.

I also find it's easier to make friends in threes (like, me and two other people). It takes the pressure off and conversations flow better.
posted by valeries at 8:45 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make goals. This is a little weird but... this is something I did when I first moved to NYC. I said "I am going to talk to 3 people at this event" and I did. I said "I am going to have coffee with someone new this week" and I did. I said "I am going to follow up with her" and I did. I knew I needed new friends because I am not someone who can handle being friendless, so I made a very specific plan to make friends... and I did. I now have a new "best friend" and a lot of people I am friendly with.

Generally: Making friends is something you need to be persistent with, because everyone thinks everyone else already has all the friends they need. The truth is, most people would be happy to make another friend. So, If there is someone you seem to like, don't hesitate or be shy! Ask them out, ask them over for dinner, ask them to go get coffee, ask them to play board games with you. Ask. Ask. Ask. If they always say no, then move on, but give them a few chances. I have found that people in NYC are usually booked up for about 3 weeks.

Specific Ideas:
You said "we" a lot in your write up, in regard to your girlfriend and you trying to meet people together. I'm sure it's easier for you both to have the other there when you are trying to meet new people. But, sometimes it's harder to start conversations when you already have someone to converse with. You might want to try going to meet-ups alone (if you don't already).

When I moved to NYC I actually made a couple of really great friends from Craisglist. One just from a "strictly platonic" personals add I answered, and the other because I made a post saying I was looking for someone interested in starting a design firm with me (casually, in our free time). I probably interviewed 20 people looking for someone that I could work with, but I found one and we are very happy together!
posted by LZel at 10:54 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Eat dinner with random strangers with GrubWithUs. The site sends you emails about new dinners, and then 8 of the site's users sign up for the meal and you all eat together. You could do this alone or with your girlfriend.

I've been to a couple of these, and it seems like at least part of the participants are there for exactly your purpose. But they don't come across as awkward or friendless, so I don't think you need to worry about that either.
posted by dynamiiiite at 2:36 PM on July 21, 2011

Join a social sports league, even if you've got zero team sports experience. Check out Zog Sports. I joined a kickball league in Hoboken, played in the least competitive (super casual) league, and made a dozen friends. If nothing else, you'll get a t-shirt out of it.
posted by kidsleepy at 3:41 PM on July 21, 2011

Meetups with random people with no common interest would be kinda awkward, unless you are really good at small talk.
Try to find some group with related to hobbies, like Photography, cycling, etc ...
Then you have some thing to talk about at the beginning, like 'hey, I'm looking at this cool new lens, know anything about it?' or 'know any good trails to bike or what kind of a bike you ride?'
posted by WizKid at 1:47 PM on July 26, 2011

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