If you’re feeling a lot more isolated since the pandemic, you’re not alone. It’s almost a cliché these days to point out that the internet has simultaneously made communication easier while discouraging authentic connection. This was true well before a global health crisis pushed us closer to our screens … but finally, it looks like the current generation might be showing us how to put the “social” back in social media.
The most current example is The Washington Post’s profile on twenty-something Holly Cooke. As a new resident in London, Cooke attempted something a lot of people would call naive: She tried to find genuine friends online. Cooke created a Facebook group called the “London Lonely Girls Club,” and invited members to join her for brunch.
She was so worried that no one would show up, though, that she invited a friend from out of town.
“It was so vulnerable,” she told The Washington Post. “Saying that you’re lonely and you don’t have people around, admitting to that was really scary.”
According to The Washington Post, that humble goal brought out five women, but the Girls Club didn’t stay a cozy clique for long. The group now boasts more than 35,000 members and holds up to seven in-person events a month.
Clearly, those face-to-face meetings are key. The Washington Post story also spotlights New York City resident Marissa Meizz, who reached out for Facebook friendship via her own “No More Lonely Friends” (NMLF) group. The group was a direct response to a heartbreaking viral moment when a TikTok user caught Meizz’s so-called “friends” rescheduling a birthday party so she wouldn’t be able to attend. After more than 200 strangers showed up at an impromptu meetup in Central Park, Meizz says her group kept “spreading through word of mouth.” Now that NMLF hosts live gatherings around the country, that trend should continue.
As people continue to put their lives online through Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, users like Cooke and Meizz are showing us how life online can be a gateway to live interaction. It’s a method that may seem novel to many of us because we’ve forgotten how to do it, even though psychologists are probably saying “I told you so.” These examples show how maybe we could all stand to learn how to make friends the old-fashioned way.