Use apps to find friends after quarantine
Dominique Williamson, 23, has never had a hard time making friends. “I’ve never been in a position where I didn’t have girlfriends, at least to hang out with,” she said.
But Ms Williamson, who is a vegan chef and sells cookbooks, moved to Atlanta from New York City just before the pandemic. When things were still open, she dined alone and introduced herself to anyone else sitting alone at the bar.
But once Covid-19 hit, that option dried up. The few friends she had from growing up in Atlanta all moved for jobs, college, or because of the pandemic. “I am a creative. I work from home, how can I make friends? she said.
For most of the last year, no one was doing anything fun. But now that cities are reopening and vaccines are widespread, she wanted to reclaim a social life. So three weeks ago, she Google searched “Making Friends in Atlanta”.
The research led her to a Facebook group named Friends in Atlanta with over 13,000 members. It works the same as a dating app: participants, all women, post pictures of themselves and a description of what they like to do, and other members can message them. private if they are interested in a meeting.
Nurse Kourtney Billups, 23, reached out and they agreed to meet for Sunday brunch in early May. “I’m also on dating apps, so I kind of considered that the same sort of thing,” Ms. Billups said. “We bonded right away. We have the exact same theme when it comes to astrology.
When the two realized they wanted to spend Memorial Day weekend in Miami, they booked a trip – flights, hotels, restaurant reservations – on the spot.
Across America, many people are emerging from the pandemic with a diminished social life. Some people moved when the meeting places were closed and did not have the opportunity to form or maintain new friendships. Others stayed behind to watch much of their network flee.
Now they are turning online to Facebook groups, Meetups, and apps like Bumble BFF, where they can connect with potential friends just as they might go out with partners. Some more established clubs and groups, like Soho House, help their members, desperate for human connection, to meet more easily.
“Who knew making friends as an adult during the pandemic would be so hard to navigate? Said Mrs. Williamson.
Finding friends can feel like a full-time job.
“I had a system for that,” said Stephanie Stein, 35, a single lawyer who moved to Manhattan in March 2020 after living in Florida for 10 years. “I needed a friend for brunch, a friend to hang out with, a fancy friend to shop with, a worker bee friend. I had buckets that I wanted to fill.
So she got down to business, sweeping Bumble BFF. Her matches had to be female, single and look like they’re having a blast in all of their photos.
Ms. Stein found the process more liberating than dating. She didn’t care what their jobs were, where they lived or if they were sexy. The “friends” dates did not have the same expectations. “Even if you go on a date and you don’t like him, but he never texts you, your ego takes a hit,” she said. “With a girl, it’s like having a bite to eat, it’s good if I never speak to her again.”
Now she has five or six friends that she sees regularly, just as New York City reopens. “We’re going to dinner, we’re going to brunch, we’ve all been to a Kentucky Derby party,” she said. “It’s the same as what you do with regular friends. They are my real friends now.
Some people turn to Meetup or Facebook.
Nick Yakutilov, 29, a consultant who lives in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, started a Meetup in April called Hangouts in person in New York for group dinners and comedy shows. “People seemed to be eager to go out and meet, so I thought why not start a band? ” he said. It has 500 members and each event (a dinner reservation for 10 people, for example) sold out in two or three days.
Michael Wilson, 36, works as an industrial engineer at Boeing in the Seattle area and runs a Facebook group called Make friends in Seattle!, where people post things they want to do with new friends like hiking. Before the pandemic, it had 700 members. Today, it has 8,000.
“Every day we probably have a few dozen membership applications,” Wilson said. “We’re talking about taking a lazy river trip for everyone or maybe Go Karts.”
Member clubs that at one time could be considered distant are now helping socially eager members to connect. Soho House recently added a feature to its app called House Connect which matches members based on mutual interests, work activities, and answers to questions such as “What’s on my mind”.
Other people find friends in a less structured way.
Molly Britt, 38, a content designer for Chevron, lives outside of Seattle. She moved there just before the pandemic with her husband, but they are now separated. With few friends, she felt lonely. “The pandemic hit, and I was like, ‘What am I going to do here? “” she said. “I’m as outgoing as they come.”
Then a new friend showed up at his door.
Michelle McKinney, 46, quit her job during the pandemic and was delivering groceries for Safeway next door. She rang on Mrs. Britt’s door and the two began to chat. Soon it turned into discussions about their kids and their lives… and how they both wanted to meet new friends.
“She stayed at my door for about 30 minutes,” Ms. Britt said. “At one point she was like, ‘I guess I’d better go back to grocery delivery, but before I go, can I get your number please. “We immediately started sending each other GIFs like, ‘Did we just become best friends?
Now that they are both vaccinated, friendship has settled inside. “Last week she showed up to my house with pizza and sangria,” Ms. Britt said. “We couldn’t be silent while talking to each other. I will never let her go as a friend.