I want more friends, not more projects!
July 21, 2011 3:11 PM   Subscribe

How do I make friends with the sort of people who DON'T go to meetups?

Hi, I'm a walking AskMeFi cliche:

* I'm in my late 20s
* I've recently moved to a new city
* I'm not single and haven't been in a long time
* I want you to tell me how to make friends

But wait! I've read the prior posts. I know that making friends is both a process and a numbers game. I accept that as an introvert, I have to increase my tolerance for failure and willingness to interact with people before knowing whether they're folks I'd like to hang out with regularly. I've been working on this.

Here's what's troubling me: MeFi's advice in this situation normally skews towards getting out of the house/meeting people through a shared hobby/finding a thing you're passionate about/etc. I get the benefits of that approach, and after all, you have to start somewhere. But last week I read this comment from clavicle [describing the SF poly community, but that's tangental]. And suddenly, I'm thinking I'm going about it all wrong. Meetup-type events, be they queer community socials, knitting circles, homebrewing get-togethers, board games, or volunteering, self select. They "attract lots of people whose identities are heavily wrapped up in [that activity/community]." And that's just not me.

I'm not that into meetups - the people or the activities. I'm averse to putting more projects on my plate, and I don't want to be a person whose identity is heavily wrapped up in That One Thing. I like dabblers, and folks who don't always need to be doing something every minute. I want to meet nerds who don't necessarily come across as nerds, people who bike on the weekends who aren't That Cyclist Chick, and folks who volunteer occassionally, every now and then, when they have the time. And given my choice, I'd like my socializing to be less Go Do This Thing, and more Kick Back, It's Time For Hanging Out.

Are other people like me? How have you dealt with this problem? Can you think of any ways I can work smarter on making friends, instead of harder?

Important note: everyone I met at SF MeFi Scotch Night #1 was very nice, and more of those kinds of irregular get-togethers may actually be a good idea.
posted by deludingmyself to Human Relations (35 answers total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
Meet people at your job? Make friends with their friends? Join a really low-stakes sports league?
posted by mckenney at 3:14 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Actually half of the people at those meetups are underhandedly just trying to meet people too. They just happen to have found an interesting enough conversation starter. I mean sure the organizers and long time members will be die-hards, but there's folks gaming the system as well. Volunteering for random one-off events may be a good idea as well.
posted by edbles at 3:20 PM on July 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

You may just need more general meetups. I run one for women who want to make friends, for example -- it's not really much of an activity to get caught up in, or an identity.

There are lots of dinner and social meetups that are really just random people meeting other random people, and which aren't married to any given activity.

I met my current circle of friends via the women's social meetup, and now we do fairly low key hangy-outy things with each other, but we met via pot lucks, game nights, book club meetings, etc.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:29 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

You sound like me! I have found that going to meet ups is still worth it, because the hobby/interest thing makes it easier to suggest a one on one scenario at first. Like if I go to a knitting meetup, I can ask Mary Sue if she wants to take a trip to a yarn store & then get a coffee somewhere. If we hit it off, we aren't going to be knitting every time we see each other, it's just the jumping off point.
posted by anotherkate at 3:31 PM on July 21, 2011

Well, I guess I don't understand the question. I mean, all the people you're going to meet at a meetup are complex, 3-dimensional people just like you are. Just because they go to a cycling meetup doesn't mean that's all they do or that's all they're interested in. And if you like them, you can always invite them for coffee or something that isn't cycling-related.

I think jacquilynne is right; if you want to meet a variety of people, go to more general meetups. I go to hiking group meetups because the hikes are pretty easy and attract a lot of different people, not just the hardcore athletes. And they have a meetup group here that's just called "friends"; they get together for coffee, concerts, and other events. Maybe you should start your own "friends" meetup group?
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 3:39 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

When you say you don't want another project, do you mean the going to the meet or do you mean the interest area of the meet? Because if it's the interest area issue then you must have some existing interests, no?

Perhaps you're using the word meet-up differently than I am, since I don't find that people at these sorts of things are necessarily all that wrapped up in them. They may just be there once to learn how to do something. If you're a reader then perhaps book signings or class-type things at the library.

Don't get too hung up on the particulars and don't make excuses for yourself not to go over this passionate-interest thing. Even if you're only mildly interested in thing X and the people there are super into X it just means you have that in common.. just not as much so. People who aren't jerks don't look down on people who like the same thing as them, just not as much.
posted by phearlez at 3:40 PM on July 21, 2011

Best answer: Instead of clubs/organizations/interest groups, I'd suggest watching for local one-off type events and going to those. Assuming you're actually in/around SF and weren't jus passing through on the Scotch Night, you're in luck because there are lots and lots of event notices & calendars out there. You will occasionally still run into people who make, say, all arts events into their identity, but more often than not I think you'll run into people who saw the advertisement and went, "cool, something to do this weekend!"
posted by asciident at 3:41 PM on July 21, 2011

I can't think of a better time for random socializing to foster lifelong friendships than volunteering for festivals during the peak of summer.

For over 15 years now, I've volunteered for our local installment of the International Fringe Festival. I don't know what it is about this festival, but it brings out a wide variety of people of all classes who just like to be out in the crowd, helping out. I've met licensed professionals, teachers, IT tech people, professional artists/actors/musicians, students of all disciplines, farmers, etc.

The best part is heading out to the local pubs after the volunteer shifts are done, and seeing a bunch of people you've only just met who are welcoming you to come sit and have a beer.
posted by lizbunny at 3:48 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Maybe this isn't relevant to what you're looking for, but something to reflect upon.

Relationships take work! You have to give in order to receive. That is, you need to show your love for the other person. This can be done in a number of ways such as calling them up to do stuff, sending them a post card out of the blue, calling them up when you think of them, listening to them vent while not trying to fix them since you can't change anyone, etc.. If you're not giving you will never receive.

You need to reveal your true self for others to know you. That is, talking about things besides the superficial, about your beliefs, values, passions, hopes, dreams, struggles, etc. In order to do this you need to know and love yourself first. That is, you are seeking out relationships to share yourself with others, not to gain something from them. Of course this isn't to say that you need to be gushy all the time, but recognize that you need to talk about things with depth, and not just about the activity the meetup group is doing. Share your honest feelings with the other person to communicate your inner struggles. When you open up, others open up and your relationship deepens.

Try these things with the few 'friends' you have now and work from there.
posted by Mr. Papagiorgio at 3:51 PM on July 21, 2011 [13 favorites]

Also, mefites don't have that much in common other than this strangely colored website.
posted by madcaptenor at 3:52 PM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Do you go to bars? Coffee houses that incorporate a bar-like structure? A restaurant with a bar-like structure?

Becoming a regular at the "bar" (alcohol not necessary) puts you face to face with the bartender, who will probably chat you up. It also puts you side by side with other people who are there for no other purpose than to eat, drink, and possibly be merry.

Go to a friendly, cool bar every week. Wednesdays, perhaps. The wait staff may become your friends if you are personable and treat them well. If you have a great few conversations with Mary Sue, suggest she come to your house for a group dinner, if she wants. Same goes for the people next to you.

This takes time. But it's worked for me.
posted by functionequalsform at 4:08 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Become a "regular" at some of your neighbor joints. For example, eat breakfast (or just have coffee) 2 or 3 days a week at a local cafe. Have a drink (even just a club soda) 2 or 3 nights a week at a local bar. Go out to the local pizza joint, for the pie you'd otherwise order in, once a week. Get to know the people that pour the coffee, the soda water, and make the pizza. At your grocery store, get to know the stockers and cashiers, by name. Compliment people walking their dogs on the brilliance of their taste in canine companions, and learn their names, and that of their pets. Say hi, and pet the dog the next time you see them around. Walk your neighborhood and your city, at every opportunity. Tell people how you came to be there. Tell people what you like and don't like about the area. Ask them the same. You needn't talk politics, religion, or reveal painful personal stories, or embarrassing anecdotes.

The less time you spend on the computer, the more time you spend in the world. I never met anyone at an online arranged Meat-up, that became much of a real life friend. But in real life, I have plenty of friends, and some of them regularly fish with me, out of bigger boats than I'll ever have!
posted by paulsc at 4:10 PM on July 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

1) Coworkers

2) Church members (if you attend church... And if not, and do consider yourself at least vaguely religious, consider joining one).

3) Take a class (college or just "local plants 101").
posted by pla at 4:11 PM on July 21, 2011

Response by poster: When you say you don't want another project, do you mean the going to the meet or do you mean the interest area of the meet?

I mean hobbies that require time investment, or regular, scheduled weekly events. I do have some hobby/interest type activities, but mostly enjoy doing them alone or extremely non-seriously. I also spend a ton of time on work and school right now, so when I do get out, I mostly want to relax vs. anything competitive or crafty.

Mr. Papagiorgio, your point is completely valid, but I think I've mostly got that covered, and I'm trying not to lean too much on the couple of friends I'm becoming close with in New Location. Hence the interest in meeting new folks. I recognize it takes time, but there's also an upfront fit element that has been a requirement for me for any close relationship, in addition to time, honesty, sharing, and all that other good stuff.

I really appreciate all the answer so far, including both suggestions on approach and critiques that I need to reframe my thinking.
posted by deludingmyself at 4:12 PM on July 21, 2011

I get exactly what you're saying (you've articulated what I've felt about meetups for years).

I'm just not terribly into anything. I don't really care for people who define themselves so completely by their interests. I like some nerdy stuff, but I think people who wear it on their sleeve are kinda sad. I volunteer occasionally, but it isn't a way of life. I like photography, but I'd rather be flayed alive then go to a flickr meetup.

So, yeah, basically you should find a local bar you like and hang out. Talk to people, play some darts or pool, maybe join a softball team or bowling league.

I know that sounds simplistic, but after years of trying all the other stuff Metafilter recommended to me, it's how I found cool, well-balanced people who I like going to BBQs with and getting drunk with.

PS I think this is particularly difficult in trendy/hip areas. I live in Seattle and it took me forever to find a neighborhood place and a group of people who didn't annoy the shit out of me.
posted by lattiboy at 4:45 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I guess I'm having problems seeing how your could meet new people without doing anything. Maybe I'm really misreading your statements, but you're going to have to go somewhere, and have some sort of opening to talk to people, in order to make friends.

I'm in two small weekly groups that, as an introvert, are really fulfilling much of my social needs right now. And yes, both are organized around crafts. But no one I have met at these events has been That Knitting Girl. The opposite, in fact. Everyone has been really interesting, with full-on 3-D lives.

I can knit alone at home. I do knit alone at home! But now I also knit on Friday nights at a coffee shop, with a tiny group, while we eat amazing desserts and talk about all sorts of things. My Sunday afternoon group is even more diverse - we meet in bars, and drink beer while people do all sorts of handwork. My husband sorts family photos, the woman who isn't crafty updates her blog, the artist guy does pen and ink drawings, the real estate agent tries something different each week and just started macrame. And we eat snacks and shoot the shit.

I don't have to attend either of these events each week if I don't feel like. No one is keeping attendance.

I also just met a bunch of people because we got a dog. Neighbors on the street now know my name, and we met a bunch of people at dog school. It was a class for crazy dogs, so all the owners were crazy, but if I'd liked any of them, I could've easily transitioned to inviting someone to a barbeque, bring your dog!

But you seem to want to skip the whole "going somewhere and finding mutual interests" and go straight to the "come over for a barbeque" part, and I'm just not sure that can happen.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:19 PM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

If it weren't for church, work and the occasional political Thing I get dragged to, I wouldn't know very many people.

You need a Thing of some sort.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:31 PM on July 21, 2011

Best answer: Congrats on an excellent post that should be a model for how to ask a commonly-asked question! ("I've read the rest, and I'm still wondering...")

I've found exercise-related activities to be a good way to meet well-rounded friends. You can't go running all day long! And meanwhile, it gives you something to do as you get to know one another.

The times in my life when I met the most random assortment of people in one place are: work, this one reading group, an improv class, a meditation class, a Habitat for Humanity volunteer day, and group housing. Grad school was also good.

One thing to think about is that you need a clamp to hold you together with someone while the friendship glue sets. Often a shared interest can be that clamp. You can SEE random people at a café but not really get to know them.
posted by salvia at 5:39 PM on July 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think it might depend on what kind of meetup you do. I like to ride my bike, but I feel like if I went to a bicyclist meetup I would be the lamest person there -- I don't have any specialized stretchy bike clothes or know any bike jargon or anything of that sort. A meetup for a hobby that requires a major investment of cash is pretty much necessarily going to have more 'extremists' there. But I would think that something like a book club or knitting group might be more casual and inclusive.
posted by imalaowai at 5:46 PM on July 21, 2011

I have the same hangups as you do about theme-y groups. But I think there is a difference between joining affinity groups ("Let's get together and talk about xyz") and groups that do activities you're into. There's something that feels very weird and speed-datey about going a place where you're just supposed to chat with strangers, ostensibly about some common topic. If you have something you enjoy doing, though, find some people to do it with; the focus is on the activity, which hopefully you wanted to do anyway, you'll end up joking around during, going out for beers afterward, etc. I think softball is ideal for this if you're into it but there are plenty other, similar things.

Otherwise, yeah, hopefully work will be a fertile place for you.

No one I've ever met in a bar is a friend of mine. Some people can do this and for some people it seems easier.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:52 PM on July 21, 2011

I made friends by going to gigs. Might work?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:54 PM on July 21, 2011

I definitely get what you're asking. If you weren't on the opposite side of the country I'd be all "we should hang out!" The way I've met people like this in my current city was initially through a new faculty group at my university. That group brought a mix of people together with the only shared requirement being that we were new in town.

I met people I liked there and was hoping to get a regular hangout going like I had in my previous town, where a rotating group of friends would always meet at the same bar at the same time on Friday night, and people could just come and go as they pleased. Nobody bit at my initial attempts to start a weekly bar night, but they did bite when I organized a team to play once a week at a local bar trivia night. None of us (well, except for one guy) are people who are super into trivia, but it became the perfect excuse to get together weekly and shoot the shit. I think what helped get it off the ground initially was that it was a defined activity. No one had to worry about what they were going to talk about with these people they barely knew. There was a built-in conversation AND a fixed end point. Now that we're all friends we hang out and do all kinds of other stuff too, but that weekly trivia night was definitely a great icebreaker, and it continues to be, because it's an easy "thing" for us to invite new potential friends to.
posted by MsMolly at 5:58 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I didn't see salvia's comment before I posted, but this

One thing to think about is that you need a clamp to hold you together with someone while the friendship glue sets.

is the perfect description of what our weekly trivia night does.
posted by MsMolly at 6:00 PM on July 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Are you looking for something like Grub With Us?

Their self-description: "Grubwithus builds friendships over good food at restaurants all over the city. We only work with good, quality restaurants that agree to offer family-style meals to our community. Basically, we help you eat good food while meeting new people."

It's non-committal and not datey, and isn't about any particular interest.
posted by tantivy at 6:21 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Are other people like me?

Yes. I am exactly like you. I like A Lot Of Different Things, But Not Seriously.

How have you dealt with this problem?

I haven't. I've tried going to meetups for A Lot Of Different Things, but they're full of people who Like This One Thing And Want To Do It All The Time. If there were people there like you and me, they hid it well - I did, so why not them? Perhaps we need a secret sign that says This Thing Is Cool And All But Want To Grab Some Chips And Watch A DVD And Talk About Random Shit Or Something?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:53 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Count me as another person exactly like you describe... and I live in San Jose, so not too far from you. We should IM or something. Meet for lunch.

Anyway, we need something like a 'friends.metafilter.com' where we introverted mefi folk can post and learn more about each other. There seem to be a lot of us.

Maybe someone will make it a site like that one day...
posted by blahtsk at 9:54 PM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think your bolding of irregular was absolutely correct - any group that gets together all the time will have core people who are super into it. This is true not just for activities but for any sort of social event - metafilter get-togethers, if you have them often enough, will grow to have that same core group of people who always show up and know each other and want to get to know everyone else.

But even at those get-togethers, if they're big enough, there's likely to be some other people beyond the core devotees. What seems to work pretty well for me is going around the edges of a gathering - not necessarily literally, but around the social edges - and striking up conversations with the wallflowers. Whether I'm an introvert or not depends on which test I take, but my friends are almost all introverts and that's largely how I met them.

Some places will have an environment that lends itself more to this - a hike is probably a better place for one-on-one conversation than when everyone is sitting around the knitting circle - so that's probably a good criterion to use for selecting meetups and activities to go to.

posted by Lady Li at 12:12 AM on July 22, 2011

I agree with the people who say you should meet people at bars. Half the people will be alcoholics. The other half are people like you that just like hangin' out and stuff.

It's always awkward to get to the next step with people you meet so I also suggest creating a personal contact card you can give new acquaintances to encourage them to call you sometime.

Put something funny and non-committal on there like:

"Hangin' out since 1984"
"Come kick-it with me"
"I like kittens."
posted by j03 at 1:55 AM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: Pub trivia? It's pretty casual, you don't have to join a team or club or even tell anyone whether you're going or not, and there's usually a good mix of nerdy and less-nerdy people there. Then after the trivia's over, if people hang around, and you start talking to a stranger who was also playing, you have a lot of topics of conversarion. ie - "Did you get question that about Pluto's moons? NOW WAY! Fred and I were arguing about it .... blah blah blah"

[disclaimer: Pub trivia nights may or may not be like this in your part of the world.]
posted by Diag at 3:29 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Same issue as you.
Especially currently.
In the last city I lived in- where it had more of an online presence, I met people through Yelp community and some online forums where there were some people from the same city.
I also made friends at work and through some of my other friends. Made a couple of pals through some volunteer work as well.

Now I'm in a smaller city and work with people that are 50+ years old... and ... yeah. Kinda stuck, too.

Good luck!
posted by KogeLiz at 6:19 AM on July 22, 2011

Lots of informal events. Outdoor concerts, picnics. This is actually one way Facebook is really useful--on the left of the page is Events and under that, Friends' Events. I've discovered cool things happening that people I knew were going to, whether I knew them well or not.

Talk to strangers. Introduce yourself to strangers. Learn the names of people you always see around. Don't be shy about saying you want to make new friends. Employ social lubricants. Always have something to write with so you can remember people's names/numbers. Follow up. Invite them to low-key and low commitment events. Almost everyone likes to get drinks. Almost everyone likes to get ice cream when it's hot. In a way it's about appealing to the common denominator, then going from there.
posted by girlmightlive at 11:43 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it depends on the *kind* of meetup. For fun, I once went to a meeting of a Sherlock Holmes appreciation society (I was a teenager and one of the youngest attendees, I think). It was interesting but a bit spooky...those people were obsessed.

I think you'll do better with more general meetups rather than more specific ones. Politically charged meetups are going to attract more single-minded attendees than social ones.

For example, if you community has a local Outdoors Club, these are great. I've never used them but I had a friend who swore by them. If you like getting outside and doing physical activity, these are a good choice. They generally have all kinds of activities for all levels of fitness (most of them assume you could handle a good solid 2 hours of walking or equivalent exertion, though). Anoher good choice is volunteering for the local theater company. Things like light and tech are a long-term commitment you might not be ready for, but they always need people for set building and set breakdown. Tech people are great and varied and are usually more laid back and less obsessive than the actors. :)
posted by Deathalicious at 12:12 PM on July 22, 2011

Oh, right! Church!

I'm Jewish but most of my good friends in Philadelphia I met through the local (Unitarian) church. If you are of a particular faith, go for that but if you're not, do consider heading to the nearest one. You won't regret it. Unitarians are awesome and not at all dogmatic. They local joke is that Unitarians are atheists, with children. They also have a ton of social activities that aren't narrow in focus, so you can get to know people through them.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:16 PM on July 22, 2011

When I moved to a new town I had amazingly good luck with the "Strictly Platonic" section on Craigslist. I responded to a post for a girls' night out gathering, and 5 years later some of the women I met there (and, more importantly, their friends) are my best friends. You may not become super friends with the people you meet at a meetup or gathering, but you may connect even better with their friends, and then you've found a whole new group of people to hang out with. So it does take some time to make those "friend of a friend" connections.

I also went to a monthly dinner Meetup group, which was good for sporadic socializing without a project besides eatng, but it never went beyond the dinners for me. There's also Meetin.org, an alternate website, and the people in my city who used Meetin tended to do random things together (concerts, hikes, dinners, Jenga competitions, BBQs). I liked Meetin because you could post your own activities within the local group, so if there was a concert or a street festival or whatever going on in town that you were interested in but didn't want to go to alone, you could organize a crew of similarly-interested people to go with. It was a really nice community that helped me bridge the time until I had a really solid circle of friends.

Good luck - stick your neck out there and see what happens!
posted by Maarika at 6:44 PM on July 22, 2011

Response by poster: Although I can't quite call this one resolved, I really appreciated all the answers here, as well as the flurry of MeMails. Y'all are nice folks. I'll be seeking out more irregular events, continuing to get to know friends-of-friends, and maybe trying out a few bars for a second night of pub trivia (we already have one regular game with our couple friends who are in the area). And being patient. Thanks all.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:20 PM on July 30, 2011

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