How do I make new friends?
November 27, 2017 1:50 PM   Subscribe

As I get closer to middle age, how do I make new friends?

My pool of friends has shrunk down over the course of the last couple of years and I'm looking to make new ones. The problem is that I've explored most options and I don't know what to try next.

Here's where I've gone:

Besties - My closest friend(s) have moved out of the area or I movef out of their area
Work - While I work with lovely people, I don't have any that I want to hang out with
Church - I volunteer at the church, but the age of everyone else skews a bit older
Education - I went to school 2,500+ miles away so I can't expect to hang out with alumni
Sports - I have a very, very limited ability to play sports, even flag-football or softball
Pub quiz/etc - As a recovering alcoholic, I can't use alcohol to set a meetup
Family - My family is also 2k miles away

As I've hit a wall, I would love some extra suggestions.
posted by jaybeans to Human Relations (22 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
You sound like a perfect candidate for a board game club! Look for local chess club, go club, board games have come a long way in the last few years.

If you've tapped those resources, as nerdy as it sounds, Dungeons and Dragons is making a resurgence as people are valuing away-from-screen time more than they have before, and there's tons of groups for that too.

Also, there are young churches nearby you I'm sure.
posted by bbqturtle at 1:53 PM on November 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

After stalking your profile, check out this group!
posted by bbqturtle at 1:55 PM on November 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you're in the Bay Area, is still doing pretty well here (and in other places). I've made a couple of really good friends through a writing meetup.

And Metafilter events are also worth a try, if you haven't already.

I've made friends in community college classes, particularly non-academic "community education" ones. SF City College has a lot of options, as I recall, but even if you're somewhere else, that's worth a try.

Good luck!
posted by wintersweet at 1:58 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Make sure you haven't written off your pool of acquaintances too soon. If you're not opposed to being actual-friends with a coworker, and are just saying wouldn't work because you can't think of anybody you'd want to hang with, give it a shot. Similar with older people in your church community. Not saying instead of meeting new people (and people your own age, and relationships you don't have to screen for work-appropriateness) but in addition to. One of the reasons we urban humans tend to feel isolated is because we are surrounded by people we don't feel close to, and taking steps to feel closer to a few people in your current circles could help to counteract that.
posted by aimedwander at 2:07 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Speaking to your 'education' bullet point, being that far away from your alma mater may be beneficial. If alumni were everywhere around you, it wouldn't be special. But with the distance, that gives you a commonality with folks that have also relocated. Look to your alumni association, and find out if there are alumni groups in your area. It's possible, depending on the size of your school, to find a local group of transplants. Perhaps they do volunteer projects together; maybe they watch sporting events (you don't have to love sports to just show up and hang out).
posted by hydra77 at 2:30 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding I’ve met so many nice people that way. I joined a Scrabble meetup and a hiking meetup when I first got to Hong Kong.
posted by frumiousb at 2:47 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hiking isn't really "sports" in the same way football is - if you can walk and your knees are basically okay, you're good. I'd imagine there are a shitload of wilderness groups in your area.

What about classes? Cooking, photography? Something that prices out the college crowd, but isn't full of old people either. (I tried a knitting class and it was almost entirely 70 year old women who already knew each other.)

Volunteering. In my experience, most volunteer orgs are majority-women. I don't know what really attracts dudes in your age group (if you are looking for dude friends). Habitat for Humanity?
posted by AFABulous at 3:13 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Make art. Make food. Make volunteering. Make political movements. Clean up your neighborhood. Walk shelter dogs. Help you neighbor. Join a book writing group. Learn circus arts. Learn public speaking at toastmasters. What do you love and what do you need?

I have found that the older I get, the easier it is to make friends, as all that young superficial stuff drops away.

(On preview, start a group to invent a new board game!)
posted by Vaike at 3:23 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are you on Facebook? I'm a middle-aged woman and have made about a dozen new IRL friends over the past few years through local FB groups for women (not "mommy" groups, but more along the lines of networking or resource sharing groups). You may need to try out a few to find one that fits your interests and personality, but I've found that establishing rapport through liking and responding to posts has led to coffee meetups, walking dates, happy hours (I don't really drink, but I go for the social time) and gatherings before shows/gallery crawls, etc.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:31 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Any interest in politics? Joining your local DSA/Indivisible/City Advisory Board is a great way to connect with people because the shared work on a shared project is bonding.

Also, you're a recovering alcoholic. Not into AA? It is such a good social opportunity!
posted by latkes at 3:39 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you tried your local library? Many public libraries offer more than just book clubs to socialize (though book clubs are fun, too!) political/documentary discussion groups, writers' clubs, board game nights, craft workshops... A lot of libraries are putting themselves out there as community centers.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 3:42 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Re. people skewing older: one of my dearest friends is almost thirty years my senior. A quick glance at the two of us might suggest little in common, but, it went from meeting up for lunch and spending three hours chatting away, to a lot of !!! on my part when I discovered we had absurdly similar record collections, books, and even furniture. The age difference is a non-issue, except it's made me wish I had more older friends (well, so long as they're just like this one), and occasionally it comes in handy when we have different experiences of things to discuss. It's swell having a friend I have a lot in common with, but differences -- where the differences aren't, like, "ew, nice person but votes Tory," but nice ones like "has more experience than me with X so can ask questions," "doesn't know about Y so I can have fun introducing it," "has completely different take on X because we experienced it in different decades," etc.

Unfair generalisation that's probably largely useless but: older people who swear are, I have found, somewhat more likely to be "fun" rather than "stodgy," and more open to drinking beer (not your thing, but, insert stereotypical younger person thing here) with someone their kids' age. You can throw out some gentle test swears and any outré views you happen to hold to suss out whether or not you are dealing with a person who has decided to be old and act old, full stop, or a person who simply happened to be born before you. You are after all looking for someone to pal around with, and not a parent-like or mentor-mentee sort of relationship.

Also, I mostly can't stand them, but, the people who are in to local politics here seem awfully chummy. Maybe your area attracts a more pleasant sort?

Once you have built up a few solid "acquaintanceships," I can't say enough good things about inviting them all for dinner at once. Ask them to bring their SOs, their children if you like children and they have them (adult discussion can be accomplished via a "children's table," or excusing them early and letting them have dessert in front of the teevee), or just a good friend they think you might enjoy meeting. Having parties means solidifying friendships, and meeting bonus people, and getting yourself reciprocal invites.
posted by kmennie at 4:26 PM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Does your school have alumni meetups in your area? Mine has a few each year. There's also an alumni book club.
posted by radioamy at 4:49 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm a birder with a flexible work schedule. Most of the new friends I've made lately are retirees that I've met through various birding activities. Since I'm just looking for friends, I don't really care about the age difference, and it's nice to meet new people. Find something you're interested in, and find groups that do that, and let it go from there.
posted by mollweide at 5:30 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Volunteering is a great way to meet people who (probably) aren't axe-murderers. This works especially well if you can find a volunteer gig that really suits you. I'm a dog person, so I volunteer with my therapy dog and meet tons of cool people, who have or like dogs!

But it doesn't have to be dogs - if you generally like handy DIY types, run around with Habitat for Humanity. If you are big for social justice, get involved with your local BLM or DSA group. Like outdoorsy people? Find out who is maintaining the hiking trails and watersheds in your area. You get the idea. The right volunteer opportunity will sort of pre-screen people for similar values and interests.
posted by workerant at 7:06 PM on November 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

How about joining a book group? You'd probably have ample opportunity to learn about how members think, how they interact with other members, and whether they are interesting to you. It also gives you a natural forum for suggesting coffee dates or other get-togethers for your group or smaller subgroups of potential friends. People who gather to discuss books are usually interesting and inherently social. I think this approach would have loads of potential for meeting people who might eventually become friends, but you'd have an interesting time reading and talking about books whether a friendship developed or not.
posted by citygirl at 8:08 PM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've known a number of people who had great luck using OkCupid specifically for new friends, with profiles that made that clear.

Neighbors? A volunteer gig that allows you to see the same people each week?
posted by metasarah at 8:41 PM on November 27, 2017

From your profile I see we are both 36 and located in San Francisco. Making new friends in the sense of "people you casually hang out with" or "people you can confide in" has been challenging in my mid-30s. I have had the best luck finding meaningful social interaction by participating in book groups and joining a choir. Taking classes through university extension would also be a good option, if you are willing to commit the time and money. My experience is that book groups in particular do a good job at attracting a mixed age group. There are a number listed on with different areas of focus. Other areas, as you found, tend to skew older for some reason and you will need to shop around a bit before you find a group that is a good fit for you (not that making friends with older people isn't worthwhile—of course it is—but I understand wanting to make connections with people around your own age).
posted by 4rtemis at 9:20 PM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Pub quiz/etc - Learn to go out without drinking alcohol

Church - Befriend the people regardless of age. This is how you broaden your horizons, intellectually and otherwise, with the added bonus that you get to know some of their younger relatives who might be closer to your age.

Also, it’d be embarrassing to admit that you find nobody worth befriending because they’re of a different skin colour and you’ve nothing in common (besides being chastised by the group). Think of age as the same thing.
posted by Kwadeng at 1:35 AM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

What do you do for fun? What is important to you?

See if you can find people who are doing the same kinds of things that you do for fun, or that you would like to do, or that are involved in causes that are important to you in your area.

Join a group, or see if you start a group of these people. Then find something that is slightly challenging to do as group together. It should be just challenging enough that you finish with a the group delighting in "We did it!" even if it was nothing more than unloading a car trunk full of books. Make sure to celebrate and affirm this things with each other. This will build the sense of closeness and belonging.

It helps if the projects you work on with other people are important and slightly challenging, so that you get the sense that it matters and you are making a difference - it doesn't matter what you are doing. You might be doing something creative, or something that saves the world. But closeness builds on these triumphs.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:56 AM on November 28, 2017

I live in your area (and am around your age) and can confirm that OkCupid matches can result in IRL friendships. I've also made several connections with friends of coworkers at work-related get-togethers, and with family members of friends who have moved away. Many of these folks have recently moved here and are looking to establish a social group. It's one of the (few) advantages to having such an influx of people to this area.
posted by ananci at 11:24 AM on November 28, 2017

I've made a great majority of my adult friends through getting very involved in an interest area/hobby and meeting like-minded people through social media groups/circles based on that interest. I start with social media, but end up finding local folks who I have a lot in common with and we become IRL friends.
posted by quince at 1:12 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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