I want to be social and have fun. What do I do?
September 26, 2012 2:52 PM   Subscribe

I feel like I've tried the usual suggestions...I'm looking for more ways to "get out there", meet new people and have fun.

I'm looking to shake things up a bit in my life and would love to get out more and meet new people. A few bits of info: I'm 30, male, healthy, and have a full-time job at a bank. A few limitations: I don't have a car, I don't drink, and money is tight.

Meetup.com is always suggested here, and I have been looking, but all of my local meetups are about very specific things that don't interest me, like polyamory, horseback riding, or singles over 50.

Classes are another thing that is suggested. Great! I spent a lot of time looking for community college classes, night classes, adult learning, vocational training, etc. The problem? Programs and classes fill before I can enroll. I've tried for 3 consecutive semesters to get into a class at the local community college and there simply isn't space. The state has deeply cut funding and class availability is low as a result.

I'm not too interested in the standard "nightlife," partly because I don't drink but also because I don't find bars and clubs to be the ideal place to meet people and have a good time.

Any other ideas? Or maybe how I can go back to the things I've tried and find ways to make them happen? I'm open to anything here.
posted by allseeingabstract to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (29 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Apologies, I should add that I've tried volunteering but haven't had much success. At one place, I was assigned to literally peel potatoes all day, which I did earnestly but without much sense of accomplishment. I also didn't really encounter many people in my assigned spot in the back alley behind the soup kitchen.

At another charity, I met some lovely people but the group changed completely week-to-week, which made making any kind of lasting friendships very difficult.
posted by allseeingabstract at 2:57 PM on September 26, 2012

I'm open to anything here.

If that's strictly true, you should go to a meetup for something you're only halfway interested in (assuming you don't crash the 50+ meetup or try to join the horseback ride meetup without a horse). See if something new and unexpected sticks. It doesn't have to.
posted by slow graffiti at 2:58 PM on September 26, 2012

Also, groups that are only halfway what you're interested in could connect you with groups that you are more interested in. Or just people who might want to start one.
posted by eruonna at 3:07 PM on September 26, 2012

Are you religious? If so, you could maybe services and/or connect with their youth group. Even if not, if you have a Unitarian Universalist church nearby, you could see if you like that... it's basically a secular spiritual organization more than a church.

What about book clubs?

A lot of cities have generic "Young Professionals" groups, but yeah, a lot of them are centered around happy hours/ drinking. Hmm.. what about sports leagues?

Also, if you have even just 1 or 2 people you're friendly with you can sometimes build from that, if you take the initiative. Arrange an outing or host something low-key and ask people to bring friends.
posted by Asparagus at 3:16 PM on September 26, 2012

I generally don't talk to strangers, but it is nice to go to places where you'll see the same people day-in and day-out. For me, that was public transportation, and the gym. You might try becoming a regular at a coffee place, the library, anywhere you go that isn't work. Maybe even try work! I've met a number of friends through work, or friends of coworkers.

If you like animals, volunteer at a shelter. There's a good chance you can walk a dog, and talk to others also walking dogs.
posted by Fig at 3:23 PM on September 26, 2012

Best answer: I've asked questions like yours and was vaguely thinking of asking more questions along similar lines. I didn't like the answers I got, and they were the same or similar from question to question. You've asked this question before, and the answers you'll get now will be similar to the ones you've gotten in the past.

Some possibilities that are not necessarily mutually exclusive:
  • AskMe is not equipped to answer this kind of question. We don't know you personally. We don't know what your situation is like. At best we can give generic advice. We can't take you places, we can't hang out with you (unless there's an IRL meetup nearby). That's the sort of thing it might take for you to break out of your shell.
  • People who respond to questions like these often live in cultural meccas and may not be able to understand your question in the terms you posed it. For example, I live in a black hole, so asking "how do I get out there" inevitably leads to suggestions like "get out of the black hole first."
  • You might be resistant to suggestions because you secretly suspect that it's no use. I know I am.
  • Sometimes life is boring and it sucks. A lot of people arrange their leisure around watching TV for hours each day. It's hardly everyone that gets out there and does non-boring things.
Best of luck.
posted by Nomyte at 3:28 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sports leagues. Even if you're not into sports. There are usually non-competitive leagues.

And move to somewhere where this is easier.
posted by grouse at 3:36 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Based on your previous questions, you are based in the Chicago area, no? How about organizing or partaking in a MeFi meetup there? Is there a social gathering you could organize around your workplace, like a bowling night? Or ping pong?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:00 PM on September 26, 2012

Best answer: Are you interested in anything at all? It sounds like you just want to do stuff to meet people and they're going to sense that and its not going to work.

Also stuff like peeling potatoes all day is how charities weed out people they don't think are committed. Try volunteering somewhere for a year and then decide if its working for you.
posted by fshgrl at 4:04 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chicago has a very active MeFi meet-up group from what I've heard. And MeFites are generally really nice and awesome people.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:16 PM on September 26, 2012

You already mentioned volunteering and how it didn't work out, but I have a volunteering suggestion - One Brick. They find single day volunteering gigs and you sign up. I don't know what the Chicago one is like, but the San Fancisco Bay Area one has all kinds of stuff and attracted all age groups (a little common sense could find events with younger or older crowds. Outdoor stuff trended younger). They also had social events at regular intervals.

I didn't make many long lasting friendships, I have to admit, but I did meet a nice woman, get married, and have a kid. So, you know, there's that.

If that's really not your thing, try the community college thing again, but be a little more persistent. I've taken a number of classes that were massively overbooked, but it was a pretty safe bet that a third to one half of the people who showed up on the first day would be gone by the next week. Everyone who remained was in the class.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:20 PM on September 26, 2012

Swing dancing! Take a few classes to get the basics down, then go dance. Most dances are at gyms and the like, and when they're at bars you'll find a lot of dancers sneaking in their own bottled water.
posted by rouftop at 4:28 PM on September 26, 2012

If you are indeed in the Chicago area, might I suggest the Chicago Metro YMCA? Just from poking around the various locations, it looks like they have murder mystery dinner groups, a charity golf tournament, an adult basketball league, a fencing tournament, an indoor triathlon group, dozens of volunteer opportunities, music lessons, community barbecues. . . the list goes on and on.
posted by KathrynT at 4:38 PM on September 26, 2012

Focus on activities that have a built-in community or that tend to foster camaraderie. Those things tend to grow through:

- Collaboration. Think sports teams, community choruses, bowling/kickball/bocce leagues, team-oriented volunteer opportunities.
- Repetition. I'm pretty convinced that familiarity and proximity are the bedrock of friend-making. Choose activities that repeat on a weekly or monthly basis: social dancing (square dance, swing, folk), teams and leagues, open mic nights, fitness classes, etc.
- Vulnerability. When you're getting sweaty playing a sport, sharing something that you created, or learning something difficult and unfamiliar with a group of strangers, they become non-strangers pretty quickly.

Class-wise, I've always made friends in language classes. A huge part of the class usually involves interrogating one another about your lives and beliefs while practicing the target language. You usually get to know each other pretty well. If there's a community college in your town there are probably also community centers, music/dance/art schools, etc. with classes that are easier to enroll in.

The other key point with community/camaraderie is that there are usually a few people who foster it - by suggesting everybody get drinks after class, organizing potlucks, suggesting a get-together to rehearse outside of class, etc. Be one of those people.
posted by messica at 4:57 PM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Everybody peels potatoes their first few days. "Success" for the charity is getting the potatoes peeled every day, not making sure the volunteers get a chance to make friends.

If you like, I will scout out activities for you. Either tell us where you live and what your preferred travel radius is, or MeMail me that info and I'll do a search.

In general, if you're someone who likes building or painting things, most amateur theater groups welcome help with set construction.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:59 PM on September 26, 2012

Everybody peels potatoes their first few days. "Success" for the charity is getting the potatoes peeled every day, not making sure the volunteers get a chance to make friends.

To be honest, I have a volunteer job very similar to this and I love it. The key to meeting people is consistency. ALWAYS be there. You will be the potato guy and people will start to know you. Plus it fills your schedule and gives you something to do that IS actually meaningful, even if it doesn't feel like it at the time. (Then who knows, you could meet even someone just by walking there- it switches up your routine a bit, is what I'm trying to say.) But I've said this before, you have to like the actual activity you are doing or have a vested interest in the organization itself. Otherwise, you won't actually want to be there and it will be obvious and not good for anyone. So find something or somewhere that suits you.

THe key to friendships generally is repeated exposure. Sometimes you meet people right away, hit it off and exchange numbers. Usually though (and that's why it was so much easier in school), it takes time and repeated meetings (like your volunteer shift or night class) to build friendships.

If you can do those evening sports like volleyball or any intramural sort of thing, that's ideal too. But frankly, it's harder to meet people when you are older and have a job that is not conducive to socializing. It's just a fact. (or at least my opinion.).
posted by bquarters at 5:11 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed going to a couple of dinners via grubwithus.com. There were 8-10 people, very friendly and with common interests.
posted by bashos_frog at 5:20 PM on September 26, 2012

Check out contra dancing. If you are in the Chicago area, here's a page of links to get you started. In my experience, contra dancers are very friendly non-drinkers. Dances usually do cost money, but it's still a cheap night out: usually $5-10. And you'll get to hear some live music and get some exercise.
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 5:25 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Role playing games? Non accredited classes through somethinb other than a college? Teach something, even as a volunteer?
posted by Michele in California at 5:28 PM on September 26, 2012

Best answer: What ARE you interested in?

I meet most people through people I already know - by saying yes to everything I'm invited to, throwing dinner parties and telling people to bring friends, browsing for cool events/concerts/exhibits activities and inviting people (then they'll invite me back to something else), going to young professional events. Do you have 3-5 people that you hang out with socially? even occasionally? work through them. Invite them to things, they'll invite you to things, you'll meet their people. Tell them to bring friends along when you invite them to grab a drink or go to an activity!

Ideas that may or may not work for you: rock climbing (super friendly), alumni groups for your school, soccer/softball/kickball leagues, online dating. Pottery or carpentry or some other kind of classes. Music concerts. Politics - political groups and volunteering on campaigns.

Nth-ing volunteering week after week after week as the way to make friends - but you'll have to follow up and invite the people you meet to hang out outside of the volunteering.

Don't be afraid of happy hours, just order a soda water. Late-night bars/clubs are obviously a little different.
posted by amaire at 5:46 PM on September 26, 2012

Meetup.com is always suggested here, and I have been looking, but all of my local meetups are about very specific things that don't interest me, like polyamory, horseback riding, or singles over 50.

That is hilarious - I hope someone thinks to combine all of those into one Meetup group one day.

Anyways - anything creative and anything sporty. Anything where you have to go a large number of times to build up those associations. I find short classes don't work. It has to be some kind of extended thing. People have their longest friendships during school and uni simply because everyone's there together. (Work is a different matter entirely). And volunteering with something you're passionate about - not just volunteering for the sake of meeting people. Chances are, you'll find someone else equally passionate about it, and then you build something from there.
posted by heyjude at 5:59 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

What kinds of volunteering do you want to do? What about the soup kitchen appealed to you before you went? How come you didn't get a chance to talk to others? Did you not stay to help clean up? Did you peel potatoes all the way through the meal? Were you invited back?

How many weeks were you at the other place? Do you have any suggestions for how that group might retain volunteers? Maybe the rotation is a feature, not a bug? What was appealing about that work?

What kinds of people do you want to meet? Because usually people want to meet more people like them. And really that's a tough thing, because the people who volunteer come from...everywhere. You are very unlikely to find a group that fits "you." And if you do it will be assembled over time with you at the core. People who keep coming back in part because the potato guy looks them in the eye and thanks them for helping at the end of each meal. It happens because you show up a half hour before the start time of volunteering and say, "I'm here to peel potatoes, what can I do before it's time to get started on that?" People notice that.

What kinds of activities, invitations, or relationships are you hoping volunteering will lead you to? More volunteering? Romance? Friendship? Best Man at your future wedding?

Why doesn't horse riding interest you? Have you ever considered taking a lesson? Do you have any curiosity at all about polyamory? Because if so, the people to ask might be folks willing to meet up and talk about it openly (though, ymmv considerably on that one)

I'll second social dancing as a great place to meet people and make friends. It's also an opportunity to volunteer.
posted by bilabial at 6:01 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's hard to answer this question without knowing what you're interested in. (If you're not interested in anything, then you might consider getting a psychological/psychiatric evaluation done.)

I know here in Austin there are a ridiculous number of Meetups on almost everything imaginable. If you're living in a small, isolated community, is there any possibility of moving?

A few general tips, though:

If you're into sports, join a rec league.

If you're into geeky/gaming things, hang out at a gaming store.

If you're into dogs, go to a dog park.

If you're into politics, join a campaign or volunteer for an advocacy group.

I'd continue, but there's a certain pattern that emerges after a while.

Every place I've ever lived, there are have been fairly easily accessible recreational, professional, religious, political, and parental/school-related groups. Meeting new people is just a matter of deciding where you fit in.

Also, if you're really desperate (or just very compassionate), visit a nursing home and listen to the residents' stories. Oh, and bring some home-baked goodies. They love that.
posted by GnomeChompsky at 6:08 PM on September 26, 2012

What about people at work? I don't mean team-buildy bowling games but an evening out at a baseball game, or whatever your equivalent is of the CNE or something and get to know each other in a different way. Or even a pub but sticking to the OJ. In some places I've worked the trick is someone actually stepping up and being the one to suggest something rather than clockwatching til 5 then sprinting out the door.

If you can't get into a community college class there must be a small art school or a couch to 5k club or something near you that would be a good option for learning and getting out there.

How about community groups that organize pumpkin parades, farmers markets, deliveries of organic eggs, mural painting, etc in your neighbourhood? Or starting one? There are always events like that near me that need help, a 30 year old guy would be very, very welcome!

Weekend job at a bar, hotel or restaurant?

For me the single best way to meet people in my urban neighbourhood was adopting my dogs and becoming a regular at a couple of local doggy parks. But I love dogs, not sure getting one just to meet people is the best idea.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:38 PM on September 26, 2012

Seconding non-competitive sports leagues. Everybody is a beginner and its a great way to have a shared experience to a develop friendship from!
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 8:27 AM on September 27, 2012

Best answer: You still in the Chicago area? Go take an improv class. Why would you take an Improv Class specifically if you don't want to be a professional actor? I'm glad you asked:
  1. Classes are a good way to meet people, they cost money and last for a set/finite amount of time - there for people show up, regularly which is key
  2. All classes are not equal, improv is specifically about loosening up and interacting - this is a great idea and very helpful when you're planning to meet people
  3. After class you can go to the bar and hang out/chat for an hour, yes I saw the part where you don't drink - unless you cannot be trusted around alcohol go anyway, there are many people who don't drink alcohol when we go out, nobody cares, it's about unstructured hang out time
  4. In general, arty communities are filled with people who like people, and are open to new experiences - Like the experience of meeting you. Every time I've tried to join a theater based community I've found this to be true, you should give it a try
  5. As a bonus, one of the tenets you'll learn in class is "yes and" which is important on stage, but really - extremely relevant to regular life too, it gets you in a positive mind set of trying new things
If you're not still near Chicago search "improv classes" for your area and see if there's a community around you, the point is not to develop a new skill (although I hope you enjoy class) the point is that a silly, loosely structured class where you're all working towards a common goal is the easiest/best way to meet people quickly.
posted by dadici at 12:28 PM on September 27, 2012

Think about the things you are interested in, and make your own group based on that. A long while ago I started a 'books and beer' club to keep myself entertained when I'd moved to a new city by myself and couldn't find an existing group that looked appealing to me; I just posted a notice in the 'Groups' section on Craigslist detailing what I had in mind, and lo and behold, people got in touch and showed up! I met a lot of people and had a lot of fun with that.

Not sure if Craigslist is still the place to go to start a group or if you'd have more success on Meetup, but either way the idea is the same: if you're interested in something, odds are other people will be, too.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:09 PM on September 27, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the thoughtful responses, everyone. Based on the answers, I think I need to be more persistent with the volunteer work, but I also need to figure out what my interests are, exactly. I can't think of specific things that I like that lend themselves to a group activity.
posted by allseeingabstract at 1:48 PM on September 27, 2012

Here's some advice: the "sexy" volunteer work isn't in volunteering to peel potatoes or whatever. It's in getting involved organizing the fundraisers. It's work that needs to be done, it inherently involves working with other people, and the event itself is a social event.

Get involved in a cause or charity and join the fundraising/events committee.
posted by deanc at 7:20 PM on September 30, 2012

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