Making friends in college is easy. Dorms, classes, clubs – everywhere you go is a chance to tell someone your name, where you’re from and that you’re majoring in Biology, either that or Poli Sci, you’re not completely sure yet. From the moment you step on campus you’re bombarded with fliers and promises of free food in exchange for joining a group with dozens of other people, strangers, potential friends. Each encounter offers the possibility to connect with someone new, form a bond based on shared experiences, geography or interests.
These opportunities shrink exponentially in the real world. Distance and busy lifestyles mean it’s more difficult to make new friends and maintain those bonds you forged in college.
Go to work. Go home. Repeat. You get together on the weekends with the few friends who still live nearby, if you’re motivated enough to get off the couch, put on real clothes and figure out what everyone wants to do. It’s tempting to become complacent, but in doing so you’re depriving yourself of new experiences and perspectives. Enjoying and learning from new friends shouldn’t be unique to college.
1. Sign Up For A Rec Sports League
No innate athletic ability or prior sports knowledge required. I joined a kickball team last year knowing only that kickball was the game I’d played in elementary school PE that was kind of like baseball, but also kind of like soccer. All the other teams had played together previously, but I was put on a team of ragtag “free agents.” We were terrible, like didn’t-win-a-single-game terrible, but I met some wonderful people, other 20-somethings looking to make friends. We still keep in touch and we’re all playing kickball together again in the Spring.
2. Join A Book Club
Joining a book club is a pretty low-impact social commitment, if you think about it. You’ll only have to meet with the other members once a month, max. If you can’t make it out for a couple hours once a month, you don’t deserve friends. It might also encourage you to cut that Netflix binge short and read a damn book. What a novel idea. Pun intended. Moving on…
3. Become A Meetup Member
If you’re like me, you’d sell your soul to avoid being added to another website listserv, but digital connection is the way of the future. Sites like Meet Up are to friendship what OkCupid, Match and Tinder are to dating – regrettably necessary. Meet Up unites you with people in your area who share similar interests, and introduces you to hobbies you may not have otherwise considered. I’d probably try to avoid that Cuddling group, but give Bike ‘n Knit a chance.
4. Hang Out With Co-Workers Outside Of Work
You spend 8+ hours a day with your co-workers but chances are your conversations don’t go beyond explaining that your weekend was “fine, a bit boring, but also relaxing, and sometimes you need that, you know?”. I’ve recently started doing Zumba with a couple girls from work. The shared experience of acting silly and putting ourselves out there has helped us form a friendship. Dinner, movie nights, drinks, the possibilities are endless. Just make sure you talk about something other than work.
5. Follow Up On “We Should Hang Out Sometime…”
You know who I’m talking about. You see these people around every once in awhile – co-workers in other departments, friends of friends, the girl who used to live across the hall from you – but your interactions are always brief and unintentional. You ask how they’re doing and enthusiastically propose hanging out, getting coffee some time. They tell you they’d love to, but neither of you ever follow up, not that you intended to, and the whole thing is all but forgotten. Follow up next time. Chances are you have a lot in common and you may end up forming a friendship with someone who was barely a blip on your radar.
6. Use That Gym Membership
Misery loves company, even self-imposed misery. You’ll form a bond with the people you see toiling away at the gym along side you day after day. You’ll understand their pain, and their motivation. You’ll applaud their progress, and let it inspire you. Go introduce yourself. Maybe they’d like to meet up for workouts. Maybe you’ve both been wanting to try a group class, but have been too nervous to sign up alone. Maybe not, but you have nothing to lose.
7. Drag Yourself To That Mixer Your Apartment Complex Is Throwing
Apartment complexes, especially ones that cater to young professional types, frequently throw mixers to introduce residents and foster community. This may seem like the adult version of those freshman club meetings, but mingling with your neighbors for a few minutes isn’t going to kill you. You might meet a friend who’s just a few doors down when you want to have a wine night, or you know, in case of an emergency.
8. Attend A Place Of Worship
That is, if you’re into that kind of thing. Whether you just chat with a friend at service once a week, or join a group that delves deeper into the text, it’s nice to surround yourself with people who believe the way you do.