The Internet allows us to connect with people around the world more easily than ever before. In previous decades, your friend group was limited to people who lived near you or people you worked with at the office. Today, you can make new friends in different countries or on different continents through social media and online games.
That said, finding online friends with similar interests is one thing. Keeping them and staying connected for months and years is another. Even though it can be tricky, there are ways to make friends online and stay connected consistently to enjoy your new friendships for a long time to come.
What Are Some Strategies To Make Friends Online?
Making friends online is ostensibly easier than ever. After all, there are lots of apps, games, and digital tools intended to help facilitate new online connections and allow you to meet people!
That doesn’t change the fact that lots of people find it hard to express themselves online or connect with others, even if they have common interests with people in online communities.
With that in mind, here are some strategies you can use to make friends online a little more consistently. Plus, these strategies will help you make the right friends rather than make friends with anyone who happens to be on the same game or in the same forum as you.
Be Picky About Where You Spend Time Online
We all have a limited amount of time and limited emotional energy. If you’re interested in finding friends online, be wise about where you spend your time and energy. To find people who have the same interests and values as you, you should be picky about where you spend your time and who you meet up with.
This is a good strategy for making potential friends in real life, as well. For example, if you’re a member of several online communities and want to make friends, pick which of those communities you want to spend more of your time in and which community is likely to have people with the same interests as you.
Are you part of a Facebook group? In that case, post on the Facebook group more regularly and reply to people who mention your posts or who seem to like your ideas.
Do you play an online game? Try to find a group of fellow players to spend time with every week in-game.
Are you using Bumble BFF? Make sure the people you are swiping on are really worth your energy.
At the same time, don’t hesitate to back out of a space if it has a culture that runs contrary to your values. The great thing about the Internet is it’s easy to engage or disengage from people and groups when needed.
Always Be Kind
Of course, this rule of thumb can help you make new friends online just like it can help you make friends in three-dimensional space. Specifically, if you want to make friends online:
- Don’t mock the ideas or posts of other people
- Always reply with support or optimism, especially if you are chatting with people over social media or a game.
- Try not to use language that seems condescending or overly complex. The more approachable your text seems, the kinder you’ll seem in the minds of people interacting with you.
The last tip is particularly relevant. Most online communication is text-based, which means a lot of nuance and context can be lost from time to time. Be clear yet approachable in your text messages, whether it’s in a game or posting on an online forum, and you’ll seem friendly to others with the same interests as you.
Want to know the best way to get people to open up to you? Ask them questions about themselves! Everyone, likely yourself included, loves to talk about themselves and their worries, desires, and interests.
Lots of psychological studies have shown that asking questions is the best way to get people to open up and be friends. By asking questions, you’ll also know who you want to be friends with and who has the potential to be “ride or die” buds in the future.
You can ask acquaintances online:
- How work is going or what they do for a living
- Where they went to high school
- What they appreciate about the last TV episode from a series you both like
- Whether they have any shared interests with you, like video games or book clubs
Make Plans To Spend Time Together Online
The last and most important strategy to “friend dating” online is to make plans to spend time with those people. It’s that simple, but it feels elusive and difficult for many folks because most people don’t schedule their online time the same way they schedule in-person appointments.
If you want your online friendships to succeed, you have to treat them with the same importance as in-person friendships. Say that you want to make friends with a new buddy you found on the same game you both enjoy. Ask them if they want to game with you tomorrow or over the weekend.
Your friendships in the digital space will never evolve if you don’t carve out time to let them flourish. If you do let them flourish, you could end up with a few new best friends.
How Can I Keep Online Friends for Good?
Lots of people also have trouble keeping online friendships, even if they can make friends with other folks easily enough. Here are some quality tips to keep in mind as you navigate friendships over the Internet.
Respond to Messages
For starters, don’t treat messages as optional. When someone sends you a message, whether it’s over a social media platform or in an online game, respond! Responding shows that you value their time and want to keep hanging out with them.
This rule is even more important in the modern era when “ghosting” or simply not replying to messages as a way of breaking social ties has become more common than ever.
Responding to messages shows a subtle but important signal that you still want to be friends with the message sender, which is doubly important given the text-based nature of most online communication described above.
Don’t Act Like Online Friends Aren’t As Important as In-Person Friends
Similarly, don’t treat any online friendships as subpar or secondary to in-person (also known as IRL, or in real life) friendships unless you want them to feel like it. Online friendships made through social networking or apps like Snapchat and Tinder can be just as deep and important emotionally as in-person friendships. So act like it!
If you already made plans to hang out with an online friend, for example, don’t blow them off to go to a party you don’t care about in the real world.
Keep Making Plans
Speaking of plans, keep making them if you want your online friendships to thrive. Plans can include:
- Spending time on an online game or even planning to meet for the first time in a public place
- Hanging out on a chat server, sending memes back and forth
- Direct messaging each other while watching the same TV show or simply surfing the web
For friendships in the real world to survive, the people involved have to spend time together beyond the initial few meetings. The same is true if you want to keep your friends online and stay connected to them over the long term.
Take Advantage of Digital Communication Tools and “Styles”
Lastly, don’t treat all online messaging and communication as the exact same process as in-person communication. In fact, digital communication tools and conversational styles are unique, quirky, and fun to engage with. Take advantage of this and let your online relationships and friendships be unique compared to your in-person friendships.
For example, you can use digital tools like message services or chat rooms to send quick messages or pictures to your friends. You can do that nearly as easily in person. Most in-person communication has to happen at a predetermined date and time.
Online friendships can be a little more flexible, more humor-based, and lead to lots of laughs on both sides. You don’t have to treat your online friendships as direct counterparts to in-person friendships. If you don’t have time to hang out in a chat room with a friend one week, for example, shoot them a few messages throughout that week over text or social media to keep the friendship alive. It’s easy, but it can help you stay connected to the people you care for over the web.
As you can see, making friends online – and keeping them! – is pretty similar to making friends in person. The more online friends you cultivate, the happier you’ll be and the better your mental wellness will remain as digital communication continues to evolve in the years to come.
Of course, social health is just one element of holistic health. For more information and tips about how you can learn to communicate better or pursue holistic wellness, check out 1AND1 Life today.