We’ve all been through a lot over the last few years. From pandemic-induced social distancing to worries over natural disasters, to an endless doom-and-gloom news cycle, there’s been a lot to deal with. And these kinds of challenges can lead to surges in depression and anxiety.
One of the main ways to improve mental health symptoms is by building resiliency, or what is essentially your ability to weather the storm. Resiliency allows us to adapt to less-than-ideal situations and bounce back from disappointments and hardships. Sometimes, resiliency even allows us to thrive in the face of our challenges.
Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be cultivated and developed. There are many ways to build resiliency, including creating meaningful relationships. It’s called social support, and it can improve not only your mental health but your physical health as well. Connecting with others helps you understand that you’re not alone in the struggle.
Fortunately, technology makes connecting with others easier than ever. Through the internet, you can make both 1:1 and group connections. Both types are important for building your resiliency according to the American Phycological Association. Let’s go over some ways to make friends online.
Niche interest groups
The internet is a big place, and finding friends online often starts with your interests. That’s what makes the internet great anyway. Not only can you explore what you love, but you can learn from other aficionados in the process. There are platforms, forums, groups, and instant messaging platforms all dedicated to specific interests, like gaming or cryptocurrency.
Groups are probably the best thing on Facebook and are one of the main reasons people stay on the social network. Facebook Groups come in all shapes and sizes, including the very tiny. These thriving online communities are sometimes oriented around a brand (like the multiple Peloton Facebook groups), a podcast, or a hobby. It’s an easy way to connect with people, especially if you already have a Facebook account. Just join a Group and you can interact with people who share your interest–not to mention your friends and family who are already on the platform.
Reddit & Discord
If you’d prefer your connections to come with more anonymity, you can try subreddits and Discord servers. Operating under a username with an optional profile picture, Reddit and Discord can be good platforms to use if you would prefer to keep your online and personal life separate. Like Facebook Groups, Reddit has subreddits and Discord has servers, all dedicated to specific interests.
You might be surprised to see an instant messaging platform like Slack on the list. But Slack channels work really well for connecting with other people socially, even outside of work. The platform does tend to be more industry-related, but not everything is shop talk. You can find like-minded people in your field that share other interests you have, like fitness or cooking.
We’ve already mentioned both Facebook and Reddit, but Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok are also platforms you can meet people on.
Since social media platforms can be so large, get intentional about who you want to connect with. Maybe you’ve admired someone in your industry or field for a long time. You can connect with them on LinkedIn or Twitter. Maybe you really admire someone’s sense of style on Instagram. Try reaching out to them too. Whatever it is, follow a handful of accounts to start. The algorithm will help you find other people as you use the platform, saving you time and effort.
If you want to find friends from your smartphone, Bumble BFF, Friender, and Hey, VINA are all options. They work like a dating app, allowing you to swipe right or left on potential friend matches. As a bonus, you can usually find new friends in your area so you can meet up with them IRL. There are also plenty of friend-making apps for specific groups of people, like moms or dog owners.
Meetup is dedicated to connecting people in groups so they can meet in person. On the website, you can join groups and sign-up for outings and events. If you can’t find a group that you’re interested in, you can always create your own. From there, it’s a matter of going to the scheduled events and meeting the people that share your passions.
How to make friends online
Ok, now that you’ve found the group, or the app, or another platform you want to use to meet people, it’s time to make friends online. Here’s how:
1. Stop lurking. The only way to make connections with people is to engage with them. Putting yourself out there isn’t easy, and it may take some time to get used to it, but it’s important to stick with it.
2. Create your own posts. Hopefully, you’ve joined some groups or forums that share your interests. So, feel free to contribute to the conversation and share your own experiences.
3. Express an openness in meeting new people and making new friends. On your social media profiles, include a bit in your bio that lets other people know you’re open to chatting.
4. Reach out to people. If you saw someone tweet something that you thought was funny or smart, send them a DM to let them know. Or if someone regularly posts in a subreddit that you’re part of, let them know you always enjoy what they share.
5. When it comes to apps and sites designed to meet up with people in person, it’s important to take steps to ensure your safety. Spend some time chatting first to make sure you actually want to meet up with the person. If you do meet someone from the internet, always let someone know who you’re meeting and where you’re going.
6. Not sure what to say? Start by asking questions. If someone posts about a new Netflix show, ask them who their favorite character is. If they share a picture of their garden, ask them if they have any tips.
7. Don’t give up. Making friends takes time! Try not to take it personally if people don’t respond to you online. After all, it may have nothing to do with you. Be consistent in your online spaces and show up. After all, there are millions of people online. You’re sure to find a friend to connect with.
Taking online friendships to the next level
You don’t have to leave your friendships in the Group or forum you met people in. Try video chatting, streaming movies together, or gaming online together to deepen the relationship. If you feel safe, you can even meet up in person.
Just remember that online connections are supposed to enrich your life, not detract from it. If your online connections aren’t bringing you positive feelings, you can always reconsider them. Connect with kind people, and feel free to block or mute anyone that isn’t. Just focus on the people you like and put your efforts there. You’ll have meaningful online friendships before you know it.
Have you made a friend online? Share your tips in our comment section.
For more on mental health and technology, check out:
- What is digital mindfulness?
- Mindfulness in the small business workplace
- How to use social media mindfully