It must be that I’ve been binging on one too many Broad City reruns, but I recently felt like Ilana without an Abbi. Or maybe it was the Sex & The City anger-watching session I had the other day: While horrified by Carrie mocking Berger for the scrunchie appearance in his novel, I was also jealous of the unwavering camaraderie between her and her three gal pals. Noticing all these unwelcome and unanticipated emotions, I couldn’t help but wonder… Do I need more friends?
First thing’s first: I do have friends. Real human ones. But being born and bred in LA and still living here at the age of 32, I’ve never really exerted much energy making new pals outside of those I’ve known since the age of 8. For reasons mainly having to do with people trying to force me into love triangles, I’ve lost touch with all my college friends, which I know is wildly uncharacteristic for people who’ve attended four-year universities and lived in dorm rooms. On top of that, after a stint at a corporate newswire as a newly degree-minted graduate, I’ve ventured off on my own as a freelance editor (a.k.a. daytime loner). Throw in the fact that I’m a major introvert and a creature of routine who likes comfort zones and you get Sarah with the same social circle since high school.
So remains my childhood friends. We’re all still very close at heart, but we’ve diverged. No one is in the same life phase, at least not in the way that parents of children at the same daycare hang out to exchange tips and grievances. Somewhat recently, I was crying on the streets after a certain person got elected president, and nobody seemed to share an ounce of rage. It hurt.
It was made clear to me that you can retain your “OG” friends for life, but you need to constantly evolve your network to interact with those who are like-minded. By no means do you need to have the exact same interests, but at the most basic level we all need someone who can get outraged with you on the streets from time to time.
But since I’ve missed out the two top opportunities to find friends as a young adult (college and work), I sought out new avenues, starting with attending networking events for young professionals. But then one day, I stumbled upon a fun article on xoJane about a site called GirlfriendSocial.com. I signed up with burning curiosity.
It’s easy–all you need to is add a profile photo and fill out a few fields about yourself. Your name, interests, favorite books and movies, how shy (i.e. willing) you are to actually meet other people. Standard stuff. If you’ve ever online dated, it’s not too much different except you don’t have to worry as much about dick pics and/or catfishing. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
You might not be looking for love, but you still make snap judgments based on the bullet lists in people’s profiles.
Let’s keep it real. While I would totally become BFFs with a witty 21-year-old in real life if it happened organically and sparks were flying everywhere, I’m not going to message a 21-year-old online. I also avoided people whose activity interests were only snowboarding, mountain climbing, sky diving and bird watching. I prefer the Bachelor-watching, British contemporary fiction-reading, brunch-eating type of friend.
Looks don’t matter.
I’ve heard that women actually do choose their friends based on how they look (I have no idea what their criteria are… I mean who actively looks for, in the words of Elle Woods, “unfortunate-looking” friends?). But I didn’t pay attention to appearance. You could have serial killer vibes and I would still message you if you “love discussing the latest self-help books over a glass of rosé”.
You still got to put in some effort.
I naively thought finding girlfriends online would be as easy as sending 15 form messages per day. (Now I know why guys do it on dating sites! Kind of.) But you should really tailor your messages based on their interests, sort of like how you’re supposed to customize your cover letters to employers. I, too, was more likely to respond to a girl if she got specific, or at the very least: “I love your braids!”
You may be contacted by women who kind of act like the guys your single online-dating girlfriends gripe about.
A girl messaged me and she seemed like a real cool intelligent human being based on her profile. We ended up chatting in-app for a bit, mainly about what we were cooking that night for dinner. We moved our conversation to text, and that’s when I noticed: Her texts were epically long. I’m talking, so long that her phone broke up her message into three message bubbles and I needed to scroll to read. That’s fine, but she wouldn’t stop texting me exact details of her schedule for the next three months. Then she called me. When I didn’t pick up, she called me from an unknown number. I picked up thinking it was a client, then hung up quickly because I felt weird about the unknown-number ruse. She then proceeded to text novellas for a few weeks reiterating we need to set up a time to meet up. She eventually got ornery and sent me her final words: “GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR FRIENDSHIP SEARCH.” (I admit, I was wrong for not blatantly telling her I wasn’t interested but it felt really mean and foreign saying that to another woman so I chose the cowardly option of neglect.)
Another girl was normal and sweet, so we decided to meet for happy hour on a Friday. Something came up early that morning so I texted her asking to postpone. She responded: “Actually I’m not available either! I was waiting for you to text me to cancel, lol.” What?
You will eventually succeed at finding a friend.
So far, I’ve connected with two other girls who’ve been fun to chat with: A and D. I’ve been exchanging texts with them and it almost feels like they’ve been my friends, not strangers I met on the internet. Isn’t that a good sign? I’m pretty sure I had the same feeling when I met my fiancee on Match.com. Plus, these potential friends are 50% of the people I’ve chatted with (the two others are mentioned above). That’s a solid statistic.
Since these two gals, I’ve been dormant on the site for about three months and eventually canceled. But I did end up meeting D. She invited me to her birthday party at a local bar and I decided to go because, well, that was the whole point right? Granted the bar was verging on becoming a club so it was hard to have a substantial conversation, but she turned out to be chill and friendly. But here’s the interesting part: The three other party-goers were also people she met on GirlfriendSocial.com!
This is proof that even though online “friend” dating is the new online “romantic/fling/hookup” dating (i.e. people don’t want to admit they’re doing it), there are fun, fabulous females who are down with it.
As of now, although I can’t say I’ve found my Abbi (anybody would only be so lucky), I have to say that I feel more connected already knowing there are always options, for me and for the over 40,000 other women on the site who are just like me: not loners, but seeking someone new who “isn’t overly attached to your significant other,” “knows the value of a genuine friendship,” and “likes to have a fun time, drama-free.”
If you have time to invest in a new friend, give your Internet neighbors a chance. You never know who will come clicking their way into your life.