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Making friends online can be one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to enrich your social life. But for many, online friendship is just a blank page. In this guide, we got you covered.
You will get our best tips on:
- Where and how to find new friends online
- How to start a conversation online that leads to you meeting up
- 7 Mistakes that make you seem needy or desperate in online communication
- How to make an online conversation more interesting
- How to connect and bond with someone online
- Making an online profile that draws new friends to you
- Choosing who to contact online
- How to choose the right platform to make friends online
1. Where and how to find new friends online
To find friends online who are more like you, the first step is to find the right network for you. By choosing a network with like-minded people, you will find more people who interest you, and others will also be more interested in you.
Here are my best tips on where to find like-minded friends online:
A. Smaller communities are almost always better than larger ones
The reason I recommend joining a small community is that it’s a lot easier to make a connection there. In a small community, each member is important to keep the community alive and people will want to include you as much as possible. In a large community, you blend in with the crowd and people might not even recognize you unless you’re a long-time member.
B. Are you interested in gaming with other people online?
Gaming with others online is one of the easiest ways to make friends online. The reason I say it’s easy is because you always have something to talk about – the game you both like. And you can even play it together if it’s an online game!
And if there’s ever a lull in your gaming conversations, you can turn it more personal and get to know your gaming friends.
In almost every game there’s a community you can join. Smaller communities are usually better. Look up if they have a Discord server you can join, or even better, join a clan if it’s a multiplayer game. There are usually groups both for casual and hardcore gamers.
C. Niche interest groups on social media
Personally, I’m really into edible plants and orchids. So, I joined a few local groups about those subjects on Facebook. And I’ve found many friends through these groups that I know would be happy to have me visit them. We could talk about plants all day together.
I’ve done something similar on Instagram, where I have an account only dedicated to one of my interests (plants), and I mostly follow other plant-nerds.
After some time, maybe a few days or weeks, you start getting to know each other by asking questions and liking each other’s pictures.
Then, if you want to meet, it’s perfectly natural to send them a message and ask them if they would like to eat out together/have a beer and talk about your common interest. I’ll describe it in more detail further down.
D. Mobile apps or websites to find friends online
If you like online dating, this can be a great alternative. It’s fast and easy, but the downside is that it’s also “fast and easy” to just stop responding.
So, there’s an element of rejection here that can be tough to deal with for some. But if you know you can take a couple of “no’s” before you find a new friend, it’s worth a shot.
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2. How to start a conversation online that leads to you meeting up
Here are examples of how you can start a conversation on different online platforms and also how to meet up IRL.
A. How to start a conversation in a Facebook niche interest groups
In a Facebook group, the main activity is usually to share pictures or content with the group. Make sure to engage regularly on those pieces of content, leave a like and a comment or question.
The comment can be short and positive, like: “Nice!” or “I love that!”. A question is even better if there’s something you are genuinely curious about in the shared content.
After a few days to a few weeks of being active in the group, you’ll start to recognize people (and they’ll recognize you). That means it’s a good time to take some more initiative.
Often there’s already some sort of regular meetup you can join, but if there aren’t, there are alternatives.
For example, you could arrange a local meeting at a café to discuss your mutual interest for anyone in your group who’s interested. Or you could write privately to someone and ask if they want to meet up and discuss your interest.
Read our complete step-by-step guide about where and how to find friends who are like you.
B. How to start a conversation on Instagram
Instagram is quite similar to Facebook, but there’s no clear group to follow there. Instead, I recommend you follow people who share some sort of niche interest with you.
For example, I’m into growing my own food, so I follow some local enthusiasts in my city. I regularly like their posts, and leave a reflection or question about it if I come up with anything.
Now, we know each other a bit better, and it’s only natural to message them (if I want to meet them). So, for example, I could send a message like this:
“Hi, I love what you’ve done with your garden! I’m especially curious about your fig tree. I’d love to visit your garden sometime in the coming weeks if you’re open to it?”
“Hi, I’m so curious about your orchids. Can I buy you lunch this weekend? I’d love to learn more about your collection!”
It doesn’t need to be more complicated like that. Not everyone’s going to say yes, but from my experience, a surprising number of people would LOVE to meet up with someone like-minded.
C. How to start a conversation on Discord
On Discord, you’re usually part of a “chat group”. It could be a large group of several hundred people, or it could be a small group of friends who game together. (I recommend the latter, smaller groups are better to make friends, but large ones can work too.)
So when you’ve joined a group, it’s not so much about starting a conversation. It’s more about participating in the conversations that come up. At first, you can talk mostly about the game your playing and ask for advice on it. But after a while, once you’ve got to know your online gaming friends a bit better, you can start to ask more personal questions.
And from there, you can even invite just one person to play together. It’s a lot easier to get to know someone when it’s just you two. Then you also have lots to talk about the game you play, so the conversation never runs dry.
D. How to start a conversation on a “friend dating”-app or website
First, you need to write your own profile. (Click here to jump down to our section about how to write an interesting online profile.)
After that, you can start reading other people’s profiles to see if you seem to have a lot in common.
When you find someone you like, it’s time to message them. (P.S. Try to message at least 5-10 people to start off, not everyone will be a good match.)
Here are some examples of how you can start a conversation on a friend dating app or website:
“Hi, how are you? I see we have a lot in common. I would love to get to know you better! Check out my profile and see if we match :)”
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“Hello, I see you also love Disney movies. It would be fun to go watch the upcoming new Disney movie together at the cinema. Check out my profile to see if we match 🙂 Have a great day!”
After your first message, they’ll respond if they think you match too and it should be relatively straightforward to set up a meeting after that. You don’t need to chat too much unless you want to because you are both there to meet new friends.
Top 8 mobile apps (or websites) to find and meet friends
- Bumble BFF (like a dating app, but for friends)
- Meetup (for finding events where you meet other like-minded friends)
- Friender (interest-based “friend dating” app)
- InterPals (learn or teach a second language through casual conversation with new friends/penpals)
- ATLETO (if you’re looking for a friend to do your favorite sport with)
- Hey! VINA (for women looking for female friends)
- Peanut (for moms looking for other mom-friends)
- Meet My Dog (for dog owners wanting to meet other dog owners)
3. 7 mistakes that make you seem needy or desperate in online communication
Many people are afraid of scaring people off because they seem too needy. Here are some of the biggest mistakes I often see.
A. Just throwing out one hook
What I mean by this is that you should try to keep in touch with several potential friends at the same time. That way you don’t get too attached to the outcome of any single one, because there’s always someone else you can meet up or chat with.
It also makes sure you don’t invest far more energy and feelings than the other person. This makes it so that you’re both on equal ground and neither of you feels pressured.
B. Investing more into the relationship than the other person
5 Signs that you’re investing more in the relationship than your online friend:
- You’re the one who starts most conversations.
- Your messages are almost always longer than your friend’s.
- You are trying to meet up repeatedly, but your friends don’t make any efforts.
- You’ve shared A LOT more about yourself than they have shared.
- You always respond instantly while they often take some time to respond.
C. Expecting (or demanding) instant replies
Most people who work or study don’t have time (or energy) to answer their messages within hours of receiving them. Sometimes it can take a couple of days to get a reply, and in most cases, that’s perfectly normal and fine. Especially in new friendships.
The problems start if you get whiny or complain that they don’t reply quick enough. That signals to the other person that you’re needy or very demanding which is a big turn off. It shouldn’t feel like a chore to reply quickly just to avoid conflict.
If you feel anxious that someone isn’t replying, take a step back and focus on other people in your life.
D. Being too eager to meet up
When you’re trying to make friends online, it’s normal to ask if people want to meet up pretty quickly. So never be afraid to ask. But if you get a no or a maybe, take a step back and forget about meeting up for a while.
It can often be better to step back and not push the issue. Let your friend develop more of a desire to meet up with you first. Let them take some initiatives (even if it takes time).
If you get impatient, ask someone else instead. That way your potential friend who doesn’t want to meet up right now won’t feel pressured into meeting with you. You never want someone to feel pressured to be with you because then they’ll start associating you with that bad feeling of neediness and desperation.
E. Unloading your life story on the other person without any reciprocity
Opening up is good, it’s even essential to form a close connection. But opening up needs to be mutual. If you’re the only one sharing, you are going to feel a lot closer to your friend than they feel close to you.
Make sure you also focus on getting to know the other person and open up more about yourself at an equal pace as they are.
Tip: The opposite mistake (that’s just as common) is to not open up at all. If you relate to that, here’s a great guide on how you can learn to open up to others.
F. Talking too much about yourself
Two of the most important principles to become friends with someone is to make them feel heard and appreciated. If you talk too much about yourself, you deny both those principles.
An easy rule of thumb is the 50/50 rule:
Aim to talk about as much as you listen.
By following the 50/50-rule, you make sure your friend feels heard and appreciated around you.
G. Writing long novel-like answers to your friend
This mistake goes in line with the principle of investing equally much into your online friendship. It’s not wrong to write long answers, but make sure it’s mutual and that your friend is writing about as much.
For example, if your friend replies with a few sentences, and you reply with a small novel, your friend might feel overwhelmed. It demands a lot for them to reply thoughtfully, which they might not have the time or energy for, and then that makes them avoid you or try to cut the conversation short.
My rule of thumb early on in a new friendship is this:
Keep your messages about as long as the other person’s.
That way you build your friendship on an equal basis where you both feel like you’re on the same level. You won’t feel resentful because their replies are too short, and they won’t feel pressured into writing more than they have energy for.
Finally, it’s impossible to win them all. You will get rejected and some relationships will never amount to anything. But all it takes is a deep connection with one person and you got a friend for life.
4. How to make an online conversation more interesting
The secret to making a conversation interesting is to find commonalities. A commonality could be anything from growing up in the same city, to sharing the same passion for role-playing games.
The advantage online compared to real life is that you usually know a lot more about the other person from the start. You can often read their online profile to see what interests you have in common before you even start talking.
Use that information to make your conversations more interesting.
For example, if someone is interested in the same tv-show as you, you can ask:
- Who’s your favorite character in the show?
- What did you first feel about the show when you saw the first episode?
- What do you think about the latest episode?
By focusing on your common interests, the conversation becomes more interesting for both of you. And then, you start getting a connection which we’ll talk more about in the next point.
Click here to read our full guide on how to find commonalities and make interesting conversation.
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5. How to connect and bond with someone online
Here’s a quick trick to make deeper conversation that helps you bond faster.
Instead of asking about the subject, example:
“Where do you live?”
Ask about their relationship to the subject, example:
“What do you think about your place of living?”
By asking about someone’s relationship to the subject, you make a deeper and more meaningful conversation. This is what I call Personal mode. When you’ve switched to personal mode, it gets easier to ask more personal questions which helps you bond even faster.
Here are some examples of even more personal questions:
- Where do you dream of living?
- What’s holding you back from living there today?
Note that it’s also important to share equally much about yourself to bond.
6. Making an online profile that draws new friends to you
Once you have chosen the social media platform(s) that you will use to make friends online, it’s time to work on your profile. Your profile is an important part of the online friendship process because it is your virtual first impression– it is the first thing people will notice about you and can determine whether they have an interest in developing a friendship with you or not.
Your user name
The first step to creating an interesting profile is your username. Some social media networks require you to use your real name (like Facebook), in which case you have one less thing to worry about.
But on others, such as chat rooms and many apps, your username will be your primary identifier.
A good username is unique and tells other users something about yourself. “PizzaGirl85” is not a very original username because it tells other users nothing more than 1) you probably like pizza (but who doesn’t) and 2) 1985 was probably a significant year for you for some reason.
“SciFiAdam” is an example of a more unique and interesting username because 1) it tells other users you’re interested in science fiction, which will draw other science fiction fans to you, and 2) your name is Adam, which distinguishes you from other science fiction fans/users with “sci-fi” in their usernames.
Another tip on usernames is this: If you use or plan to use multiple sites or apps, it can be a good idea to keep the same username across the different networks. Since your username is your “Internet name,” consistency between platforms will make you recognizable and can help other users who may also use multiple sites identify you more easily (which will increase your chances of being befriended by them).
Once you have chosen a username, most sites and apps will give you the opportunity to write a bio or “About Me.” Always take advantage of the “About Me” feature. On the surface, the “About Me” section is simply a place to tell people about yourself, but in reality, this section is your “sales pitch” to potential friends.
If someone is drawn to your profile from your username or posts you’ve made in chat rooms/other online social spaces, your “About Me” will let them know if you have enough in common to make getting to know you worthwhile.
5 tips for how to write a good online profile to make friends online
- Include your hobbies and interests.
- Include any important personal information that will affect the type of friend you’d like to meet. For example, if you’re looking for friends with similar religious beliefs, share your religion in your “About Me” and state that it’s important to you. If you’d like friends the same gender, in a similar age group, or in the same geographical region, share these details about yourself.
- If you’ve had any interesting experiences/successes related to the hobbies and passions you’re listing, name them. For example, if you’re a runner, name some of the races you’ve run. If you’re an avid video game-player, share the names of any games you’ve gotten to “test play” for the company who made them. These details will spark the interest of people who have things in common with you and can provide information for you to bond over.
- Express an openness to making new friends. Ending your “About Me” with something along the lines of “I love meeting new people, so feel free to send me a message if you’d like to chat!” will make people more comfortable reaching out to you because you’ve already given them the go-ahead.
- Be honest about who you are and what you enjoy. Just like with face-to-face friendships, pretending to like things that you really don’t for the sake of “fitting in” will not attract the type of people you can truly bond over mutual interests with. In addition, the untruths will come to light eventually, which is sure to cause problems in the friendship.
Here is an example of an “About Me” (from our co-author, Amanda):
“My name is Amanda Haworth, and I’m 24 and married with two dogs and a cat. I love anything to do with words, and my passion for reading and writing, as well as my fascination with human psychological development, is what led me to be a teacher specializing in the early childhood years.
In addition to expressing myself through writing, I also love to express myself through other forms of creativity such as painting, sewing, and crocheting. I’m interested in pretty much anything your grandma likes (call me an old soul)– woolen socks, a fresh pot of coffee, card games, movies taking place in the WWII era, and really thick books.
I’m an introvert, but I enjoy having in-depth conversations with new people and would love to meet some other women in my age group to share life with! Feel free to send me a message if you want to chat :).”
Some things to take note of from my example:
- I provided my age because at the end I mentioned the desire for friendships in my own age group
- I listed many of my different interests so that I can find friends who have things in common with me
- I mentioned that I’m an introvert (so as not to attract friends who are interested in partying/other things I don’t enjoy)
- I expressed my desire to make friends and gave people an invitation to contact me
7. Choosing who to contact online
Having a great social media profile will definitely help attract new people, but when it comes to making friends, you can’t just sit back and wait for them to come to you. Now it’s time to learn how to reach out and initiate contact with people you’re interested in befriending.
Most social media networks will offer some sort of “people search” that includes filters to help you narrow down your results. These filters typically consist of the general location where users reside, their approximate distance from your location, and their gender, and some networks provide the option to also filter by marital status, age, and other factors. Using these search filters to narrow your results will help you save a lot of time when looking for friends online.
In addition to searching for people to befriend, you also need to have an active presence in the site/app you are using.
When you first join the group/chat room/etc., make a post introducing yourself to the others. You will likely get some welcoming comments, and this is an easy way to kickstart your search for friends.
Next, maintain your presence in the virtual social sphere. If it’s a chat room, get involved in the discussions! If you’re joining a Facebook group pertaining to one of your interests, post friendly and encouraging comments on people’s pictures and posts, and make posts of your own that share your own work related to the group’s topic.
For example, if you are a member of a Facebook group for musicians in your area, comment on a video of someone playing their guitar and say, “Great job! You’re really talented,” or “Wow! I really enjoyed that! Keep it up!”
If you strike up a good conversation with someone in the group/chat room/etc., send him or her a friend request (if the site/app you are using doesn’t offer friend requests, send a direct message to continue/expand your conversation outside of the public forum).
It’s a good idea to include a personal message when sending a friend request to someone you don’t know in real life. This will allow you to explain who you are and why you’re adding them as a friend. Your message can go something like this:
“Hey [name], I’m also a member of [name of Facebook group] and I’ve really enjoyed seeing your posts about [topic]. I also love [topic] and I’d love to chat with you some more about it!”
If it’s applicable, you could also include:
- “I think I could really learn a lot from you about [topic].”
- “I’d love for you to take a look at [my painting/my writing/this video of me playing an instrument] and give me some pointers!”
- “I would love to meet up sometime and [skateboard/play the saxophone/cook Italian food] together.” (Caution: It’s best to say this only after having previous discussions with the person about your mutual interest so you don’t come on too strong and scare them off).
When you begin having conversations about a specific topic in this way, often you will find that you and that person have other things in common as well. Your conversation will naturally branch off into other areas, and pretty soon you will find that you have a great new friend.
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By choosing the best social media network for your needs, developing an interesting profile, and initiating contact with other users, you can quickly and easily meet many new people–both near and far–who share similar interests, values, opinions, and more.
8. How to choose the right platform to make friends online
As the Internet has increased in popularity, the number of social media networks has increased as well. Many have been short-lived (think MySpace and Vine), while others seem to be here to stay (like Facebook and Twitter).
Believe it or not, some social media networks are more conducive to making friends online than others, and researchers have already done the work for us to determine what those networks are.
When choosing a social media platform for the purpose of making friends, you should make sure it is
- Reciprocal, and
A reciprocal social media network is one that promotes mutual friendship instead of allowing one person to have access to, or “follow”, the other person without requiring the other person to “follow” back.
Twitter and Instagram are two examples of non-reciprocal social media networks. Both platforms allow a user to follow a person, but the person being followed may not necessarily follow back. This is great for allowing people to keep up with celebrities and political figures, but not so great for someone who is looking to develop meaningful online friendships.
Facebook, on the other hand, is reciprocal because when someone accepts a friend request both parties instantly have access to one another’s profiles and information.
According to one study on close-knit friendships developed through social networking sites, the level of reciprocity (or the two-way, mutual friendship requirement) of the site will impact the success of the friendships formed through the site.5
The other thing to look for when choosing a social media platform for making friends online is the site’s interactivity.
According to Desjarlais and Joseph, “For socially interactive technologies, messages are directed to a specific person and conversing typically occurs in real time (e.g., text and instant messaging). Such online conversations resemble [face-to-face] interactions but in a text-based form.”3
In other words, the social networking sites that are most conducive to forming new friendships will allow you to communicate with people in a way that is as similar to “real life” communication as possible.
This is opposite of socially passive technologies, which promote much longer delays between responses (such as email and direct messaging) and do not mimic face-to-face interaction as closely. It was found that these types of social technologies are much less likely to be used in forming close online friendships– or, at the very least, will significantly slow down the development of the friendship.
With as many social networking sites as there are, it can be overwhelming to sort through them in order to choose the best one (or several) for your journey in making friends online. But don’t panic- we’ve compiled a list of the best social networking sites and mobile apps for making friends online:
- Facebook.com: Use the “Groups” and “Events” features to find just that–groups and events– pertaining to your interests and hobbies. Get involved by attending events or messaging with another member of the group to discuss and bond over your mutual interests.
- Meetup.com: Search for your interests or hobbies and find social events in your area created by other users. You can also create your own social events for other users to find and attend.
- Rendezwho: This app uses questions about your personality and interests to match you with one other user (who can be anywhere in the world). You cannot directly share anything about yourself with the other user (and vice versa) but instead get to know each other by sending and receiving music playlists, memes, etc. Once you figure out where your friend is located, you can travel to meet your new friend for the first time.
- Meet My Dog: According to the app, “Meet My Dog is a new location-based social app that helps you connect with other dog owners in your local area and many other locations.”
- Monarq.co: This is a social networking site for women who run companies and startups.
- Patook: “The strictly platonic friend-making app” as it calls itself, this app allows you to find people in your area who share your interests.
- Nextdoor.com: This is a social networking site that allows people to connect with others in their neighborhoods.
- Not4Dating.com: This site is very simple and shows you other people in your area who are also looking to make friends online. You can filter your search by different characteristics (age, gender, etc.) to find friends who will best meet your needs.
- We3: This app is designed to help you make not just one friend, but two, by putting users in same-gender groups of 3 (hence the name). The app advertises “no awkward silences or unwanted advances” and uses an algorithm that “considers over 150 factors when deciding who to connect.”
- Chat rooms: The Internet provides a variety of different chat rooms for you to explore, the sole purpose being (you guessed it) to chat with other users. Most chat rooms are divided into categories by interests, age, gender, and more, so you can narrow down your friend search however it best suits you. Check out this article by Rinkesh Kukreja for Stackroom to find a list of great chat rooms for making friends.
- Online Games: If you enjoy playing video games, many games offer online/computerized versions that also offer social components. You can even participate in social aspects of games used on popular gaming consoles, such as Xbox and PlayStation.
9. The benefits of online friendships
We all know that friendships are good for our health. But according to a study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, friendships formed on social networking sites can have the same emotional and psychological benefits as face-to-face friendships.1
Online friendships have been found to be particularly beneficial for people who struggle with shyness, social anxiety, or a lack of confidence in their own social skills. While these people may avoid face-to-face social settings that would provide the opportunity to make friends, the Internet provides a “safer” social setting in which alternative friendships can be formed.
In this article by Arti Patel for Global News, therapist and friendship researcher Miriam Kirmayer supports the use of the Internet to develop lasting friendships. “It can be easier to reach out, introduce yourself, and get a friendship off the ground when you know that the other person is also looking to make new friends,” she says.
According to another study, “The high sense of control and reduced social threat during online interactions have been indicated as reasons why [people] may want to find online friends.”2
But you don’t have to be shy to look to the Internet for friendship. Many people have busy schedules that prevent them from getting as much face-to-face social interaction as they would like, and others live in small towns with few people to choose from as potential friends.
“It can become increasingly difficult to make friendships as we age,” says Kirmayer. “Often times, it is a practical issue. Our schedules are busy. We are short on time. As we try to balance the various relationships and responsibilities that we have, our friendships are often the first thing to go.”
Making friends online is one way to solve the issue of time that can prevent us from developing close social relationships.
Another benefit of online friendship is the ability to make friends from different parts of the world, whom you would likely never have the opportunity to meet were it not for the Internet.
Says Ellie Larson in this blog post for A Beautiful Mess, “I think the reason [online friendships] are often MORE successful is because what’s bringing you together are common interests and passions, not proximity.”
In addition, social skills that are developed and used in the formation of online friendships (such as rapport building, making conversation, and self-disclosure) are transferable to face-to-face social settings as well.
One study found that “When using [social networks], individuals may improve upon their self-disclosure skills, including what, how much, and when to disclose personal information, which then transfers to offline interactions with peers…[this] in turn enhances the quality of existing close friendships.” (3)
10. Are online friendships as real as face-to-face friendships?
For many people, the biggest concern when it comes to attempting online friendship is the issue of whether or not online friendships are as real as face-to-face friendships. A study done by ethnographer Denise M. Carter over the course of three years proves that they are.
According to sociologist Anthony Giddens, whom Carter references extensively, the three components of friendship are:
Freedom refers to the concept that friendships are chosen, unlike kinship ties which are determined by birth. Commitment is the idea that your mutual bond will withstand trials throughout time, and intimacy is the bond of trust that makes people comfortable sharing personal information (such as their secrets, struggles, and hopes for the future) with one another.
While many people question whether these three components – especially intimacy – can truly be developed online, Carter’s study shows that they can.
In fact, she says, the Internet makes it easier to develop intimate friendships because people are not bound by the social and cultural norms that may influence their face-to-face friendships, such as socioeconomic status and social hierarchy. In addition, it can be easier to open up to people online because of the security in knowing they are unable to break your confidence by sharing it with mutual acquaintances.(4)
Ask yourself these questions to find out if online friendship is for you:
- Do you struggle to form face-to-face friendships as a result of shyness, social anxiety, or a perceived lack of social skills?
- Do you live in an area where it is difficult to meet many new people?
- Are you interested in making friends who live in different parts of the world?
- Are you interested in finding people who share the same passions as you, regardless of where they may live?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then online friendship may greatly benefit your social life. Keep reading to find out exactly how to do it.
Also, check out these guides on how to make friends:
Are online friendships a good option for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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