How To Make IRL Friends Online If You’re New in Town

updated May 3, 2019
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Moving to a new city can be daunting, especially when you don’t know anyone. It’s stressful enough to pack up your entire life and settle into a new apartment, and knowing that once you’re done unpacking you’ll have to put yourself out there to meet new people doesn’t exactly help. Bar hopping, art classes and the like are all ways to make new friends, but what if you don’t feel comfortable approaching strangers?

It’s becoming more and more common to make friends and love connections on the World Wide Web, but if you’re nervous about befriending strangers on the internet, you’re not alone. The key is making sure you stay safe—be cautious about what kind of information you give out to your new online friends, and make sure that you meet up at public places where you feel comfortable.

Ready to put yourself out there—digitally speaking, at least? Here’s how to take advantage of your WiFi connection and turn the URL into the IRL by making friends in your area online first.

Join Meetup

Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups, according to its website. You can use the Meetup website or app, but either way, it’s pretty straightforward and simple to use. You fill out a profile about you, select your interests (you can find just about anything from pets to politics), and join groups that fit those interests. The groups you join organize events and activities that you can attend, so you can meet people who care about the same things you care about. Meetup is available in most cities and more than 150 countries around the world, so you can use it wherever you go.

Swipe right

Dating apps in general may not be the best place to make platonic acquaintances, but some apps, like Bumble, are here to help users find friends, too. If you’re not familiar with Bumble, it’s similar other popular dating apps in that you use it to swipe through people in your area. What sets it apart (aside from its women-message-first policy) is its “BFF” feature, which allows users to swipe through other users looking strictly for friends, not dates—perfect for finding a new concert buddy or someone to give you the scoop on the best restaurants in town.

If you’ve already got a friend or two in your new town, you also have the option of using Tinder Social—unfortunately, you can’t yet use this feature by yourself. Tinder Social is a new feature on Tinder that allows groups of friends who are going out somewhere to swipe through the app to match with other friend groups who might want to come with. You invite your friends to a group, then set the group’s status to say what you’re doing—like going to a bar, or to the beach—and then swipe through to connect with other groups. Once you match with a group, you’re able to group chat with the others and make plans.

Get social (media, that is)

Facebook may be mainly used for connecting with people you already know, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use social media to make new friends. More public platforms like Twitter and Instagram can actually help you connect with people in your area who share your interests. Most of the friends I made when I moved to New York, I made through Twitter—in fact, I wouldn’t even know my current roommates without it.

Networks like Twitter and Instagram allow you to learn a lot about someone because you can gauge their sense of humor and figure out what kinds of things they care about and are interested in, so it’s a great way to find like-minded people. Make sure your city is in your profile, and stay active by posting regularly, following people who seem to share your interests, and interacting with others. Eventually, you can form real friendships that you can take offline, too.

Find a forum

The Internet is home to billions of websites on every topic imaginable—you name it, there’s probably a forum about it somewhere. Seek out sites that cover your interests and have online communities attached where you can chat with other members, and see if you can connect with anyone else in your area. Many of these online communities have meet-up events, and even if they don’t plan them, that doesn’t have to stop you—invite members in your area to meet at a local coffee shop, and continue the conversation offline.