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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Forming Friendships As an Adult Woman - By Janis Ferer

Building a Social Circle from Scratch

Ever heard the saying "you've got to have money to make money"? Of course you have; everyone has. Well, there is a lesser known sister saying to this one that goes something like "you've got to have friends to make friends". And while I don't necessarily agree with the former (although it can certainly help), I whole-heartedly believe the latter, or at least that it makes the process a lot easier.

The truth is that when you already have a circle of friends, it is much easier to invite others to join or meet "new members" through these established friendships. You are out and involved in doing things socially, and that is where the majority of other folks are too - out and about. However, when you are starting from scratch in building a circle of friends, it can be a bit difficult to even get your foot in the proverbial "social" door. The reality is that you aren't out and about simply because you don't have anyone else with whom to be out and about there. Personally, many of my favorite activities involve more than one participant or are simply more fun when shared with another- playing tennis, attending concerts, dining out, catching up over a glass of wine, or enjoying the requisite weekend BBQ. Of course you can be happy doing your own thing, but when shouting "who wants another burger", it is nice to hear a reply other than the sound of your dog licking his chops!
All the Lonely People, Where do they all Come From
A report came out in 2004 -- the General Social Survey -- which stated that the average American's circle of confidants, the number of people with whom they discuss important topics, is just two. While two was the average number, the study emphasized that the modal respondent claimed to have no (zero) confidants -- that is, the majority of respondents said that they have no one with whom they discuss significant topics. The report concluded that folks in the U.S. are socially isolated and basically lonely.
Unfortunately, a host of other reports on similar topics agree that Americans as a lot are a fairly lonely bunch, and are so for a bunch of reasons:
We spend a significant amount of time alone in our cars commuting to work: our commutes are longer than they've ever been
We work much longer hours than what Americans used to work
We aren't as involved in our communities as we used to be:

we don't attend church
we don't volunteer, and
we don't hang out with our neighbors, or even borrow sugar anymore

We move fairly frequently and to places farther away than we used to
We divorce more often
They had the Best of Intentions
So how does an adult go about making new friends and forming a social community in a new town, or under new circumstances (such as after a divorce or relationship change)? Well if you turn to the internet and search for terms such as" adult friends, women friendships, make new friends"; you'll either find a slew of "adult" websites or another slew of social networking sites designed for high school and college-aged kids. Additionally, you'll find tons of articles providing identical suggestions on how to make friends in a new town. These always include:
Joining a church or synagogue
Talking to people in the grocery store, coffee shop, or post office
Taking up a new sport
Signing-up for a continuing education course
These are all great suggestions, so I'll ask you to try any of them and let me know how they work out. What? Oh, you aren't religious you say. Okay, so scratch that one from your list. Don't have time to feed your children, let alone volunteer. I completely understand. Let's wipe that one from the list as well. Tried talking to the woman in line in front of you while waiting for your extra-foam-double-mocha-espresso and got no reply? Well, some folks just aren't social before their fifth latte.
You get the idea - while these lists and suggestions are certainly well-intended, rarely do they actually pan out in the fast access to "New Friend Town" for which you are hoping. Don't get me wrong, these avenues can be very successful over time. But if you'd like to move a bit faster, than perhaps we'd better return to the wonderful world of the web.
Move over Sonny, Auntie is Coming Through
Our children have grown up with access to the internet, and therefore have never questioned that it could provide information, products and services to answer absolutely every need they could ever think that they might possibly have, today or at any point in the future. I think you get my point - the internet is a powerful and successful tool, the ability and strength of which our children have great confidence in.
Therefore it is no wonder that they might be the first of us (demographically speaking) to use the internet in new and somewhat more successful ways. Meeting people online is a perfect example of this. When a couple of college kids wanted to know who else was attending their school, they didn't turn to a tried and true paper catalogue of students to check out profiles, they developed an internet-based catalogue and let every student put their own profile on it. The result is one of the most successful concepts of our time: it is current, and dynamic, and still a great way for these boys to check out all the "hot chicks" in their classes!
Once we saw all the fun that our kids were having online, the adult demographic finally got the point and started developing site for themselves. Because, honestly, meeting people online is smart and convenient. It overcomes all of the hurdles from which traditional methods suffer and offers some unique benefits:
It removes the element of chance. Yes, you could meet a great friend in line at a coffee shop, but if you happen to be running late on a particular morning, well then, there goes that opportunity.
It removes the necessity of proximity. You don't have to be running in the same park, at the same time, in the same direction in order to meet a gal who would be a great running partner for you
It removes the necessity on reliance. New friends are met online without the necessity to rely on chance encounters, common interests performed at the same place and time, or with mutual friends. Perusing profiles online allows you to meet someone whom you otherwise would never have run into, happened upon, or come across at the neighbor's cocktail party.
It works on your time. Regardless of whether that time is during your lunch-break, at midnight when everything else is done, or leisurely on a weekend. The internet and its websites are open for business at anytime, and the time most convenient for you.
It expands your possibilities. You live in Scottsdale and love to travel and your husband doesn't. You have a group that you like to travel with, but none of them are interested in the safari of which you've been dreaming. But Rhonda in Roswell is, and she is retired and can go anytime. Meeting people online means that your "marketplace" for new travel buddies is unlimited.
The list of benefits goes on and on, but this article doesn't have to. The net-net of this story is that meeting people online is a very smart thing to do, an easy thing to do, and a great way to expand, create or revive your social circle. Everyone is doing it, because it works, and works well.*
So if you are a woman who is looking to meet other women for friendship and for sharing hobbies and other interest, check out websites online targeted at you - especially the only website (that I know of) designed specifically for women-only for the purpose of facilitating friendship between women.
*Of course, whenever meeting anyone online, even if just two women seeking platonic friendships and a cup of joe, precautions should be taken, like meeting in a public place, exchanging personal information only when confidences have been established, etc.