I hear everyday from clients that they wish they had more friends. We all want (and need!) to have a community.
I also hear that it’s really hard to make friends in the Midwest, especially for transplants. “Everyone is still friends with the same people from high school.” “They’re leery of new people.” “They don’t follow through on plans.” Yes. A lot of friendship circles are pretty insular. I see that, too. And, there are plenty of folks also looking for friends! Don’t get discouraged. Either keep persisting or move on to the next.
It’s really hard to make friends as an adult. Friendship is built through consistent contact over time. That’s why it was easier to make friends when we were kids – most of us were held hostage in school buildings, forced to interact with each other for seven to nine hours every day! And, that’s why, as we get older, we might make friends through our jobs.
What if your coworkers aren’t geeks though? And you’re not in school?
It takes more effort, and it’s totally doable. Here are some ways to make geek friends that work.
Consider your fandoms, life, and circumstances, and seek out IRL contact. I know we’re still in a pandemic, and that makes some IRL contact more difficult. And, it’s possible to do it safely! A lot of these things have moved online, too, which might make it even more convenient and accessible!
Hang out at your local comic or gaming shop, and attend their events. A lot of places have regular gaming days, where you can drop in and meet folks. Show up more than twice, and start to recognize the familiar faces. Introduce yourself. Talk about something you have in common. Awkward conversations can be great! They get the anxiety out of the way, and the other person will probably be grateful that you pushed through, because they want friends, too.
Similarly, hang out at your local independent book seller and join a book club.
Look up causes or cultural interests that are important to you and find a local organization that offers volunteer opportunities. Sign up and show up!
Where do you like being? A local museum or gallery? A local nature center? Spend time there. Introduce yourself you people. Again, attend events and volunteer.
What do you like doing? Trivia nights? Start attending the same one. Sports? Join a local club or invite people to watch games. Crafting? Sign up for a class at your local quilting or yarn shop. Being creative and weird? Join GISH and get put on a team.
Take a class in something you enjoy. Community education classes and local community colleges usually have some great offerings. You can also check out something like EventBrite and search your area for upcoming presentations, trainings, or meet ups. Classes that meet more than once are preferred. Remember, consistency in contact over time is what builds the foundation for friendship. (This is how I’ve personally made some of my longest friendships!)
Go to conventions. Talk to people at conventions. Exchange info. Follow each other on social media. Find out the next time you’ll both be at a convention. Convention friends are awesome.
People with similar interests exist in your professional world. Check out the calendar for your local professional groups, and attend meetings or events. There are often niche professional organizations that attract like-minded people. Connect with your or a local/national/international union.
In the same vein, look for connection around your circumstances. Are you a parent? Attend parenting groups and events. Dealing with some health stuff? Join a support group.
Connect online. Online friendships can be just as strong and meaningful as local friend connections. Find your fandoms online, avoid the toxicity, and reach out to others you find cool or fun. Comment on their posts, be generous with the likes, and take the plunge to send an appropriate DM/PM. (Obviously, use common sense and internet safety precautions whenever you’re online.)
If you’re in the Twin Cities, we have an amazing resource in Twin Cities Geek. Check out their calendar and attend the things that look fun. You’ll start to recognize people and suss out the ones you think are extra cool. If you’re somewhere else, see if you have a similar resource in your area.
Here’s the secret:
Everyone wants friends. Everyone is also anxious. If you’re waiting for someone to reach out to you, reach out to them instead! The worst that will happen is they won’t respond or they’ll say no to an invitation. The best that will happen is you’ll instantly have a new BFF. And, the most likely is that you’ll make some plans and see where things go!
Fear is the potential friendship killer. We’re scared of being embarrassed and rejected. Our nervous system is telling us we literally might die if we put ourselves out there. Feelings are chemical and electrical reactions happening in our bodies, not a true reflection of reality. So here’s what to do:
Keep showing up at the same places, events, and opportunities over time. At least a few months.
People want to be friends with you. They are waiting for an invitation. They don’t know you’re interested in knowing them unless you tell them.
Assume people like you. I know it can be hard. If you just assume no one likes or will like you, you won’t make the effort in the first place. So set yourself up for success by recognizing you’re awesome! Calm your system and remind yourself, even if you feel awkward, feeling awkward is literally NOT going to kill you. You’ve got this!
Want to know more about geeky mental health topics? Check out my other blog posts.