It's OK to Risk Awkwardness to Make Friends

Isn't it natural to want to socialize after more than a year where it wasn't safe to? And if posting a video is the wrong way to look for friends, what's the right way?

Why be alone when the internet is full of people waiting to be your friends?

A couple of Canadian guys on TikTok were tired of hanging out as a twosome and, knew that behind their screens was a pool of potential new pals ready to hang. So they posted a TikTok all-call.

"We're pretty cool guys, we like hanging out here at this park...we're really into movies, Jeffrey's into video games, I'm into books and comics books and stuff. We're actually pretty cool, so if you want you can send us a comment here," Canadian TikToker @brentlyg says in the video with over 1.4 million plays.

But, they forgot one thing: The people of the internet can kinda suck and the positive and inoffensive post became the butt of jokes.

"This is the most depressing **** I've ever seen," one user tweeted. An indignant pile-on followed.

To be sure, this piece is going to take the opposite view. Someone needs to - as the Western world opens up with many people getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, we've been under siege with takes about what to do with our social lives.

Some writers have celebrated "winnowing our portfolio of friends" like they're financial assets, and others want us to let some past friendships wither. A lot of these takes seem to come from buzzy extroverts who are so relieved not to maintain dozens of acquaintance relationships anymore!

But this leaves out are the people who didn't have the biggest social circle even before COVID made hanging out with your bros unsafe.

That's why I love this critique of the negativity that was sent Brently's way: "This guy literally did what I've been too awkward to do for so long and just ask if people want to be friends."

I can relate and maybe I'll have the guts to do just what Brently and his buddy did.

Look, it's hard out there for introverts, OK? Especially for introverts who had a big need to expand their social circle in 2020 know. One of my good friends moved 12 hours away for a new job, a lot of my college friends have dropped off the face of the Earth, and some of my early 2020 attempts to meet new folks (like joining a bowling league and going to casual Magic the Gathering nights) didn't really pan out.

Isn't it natural to want to socialize after more than a year where it wasn't safe to? And if posting a video is the wrong way to look for friends, what's the right way?

But rather than pile on critics or say all the defenses of Brently that have already been said, I talked to relationships expert Dr. Kathleen Bogle at La Salle University to hear more.

Bogle says we often meet friends through school, work, or interest-based groups and activities - things that have been on hold during the pandemic.

But often we grow up in one place, go away to college in another and work in another. We might look for new friends in each place and turn to an online platform for that - most often, to find a date, A new friend might be waiting for us in a group organized around a common interest like hiking or card games.

"I do think you find online ways [to meet new people] whether it's informally through social media or pre-pandemic, more formal groups that organize around an activity. Rather than thinking you're always just going to naturally meet people through school or work or your neighborhood," Bogle said.

While dating apps largely came first and dominate the conversation about how we socialize online, there are apps to find friends too. Bumble's "BFF" feature helps you find pals instead of love, and there's even an app that can connect dog owners for a friendly get-together.

Sort of a natural continuation of that is posting on the TL and looking for like-minded folks. And despite some of the negative feedback, plenty of social media users have reached to Brent with positive messages or offers of friendship, he said in a recent video.

"It'll be interesting to see how things evolve with friendships," says Bogle. "We expect people to meet people through school, through groups, through sports. But a lot of those things have been on the past year."

If you're looking for friends and worried about feeling awkward or getting negative feedback when you post about it, I support you.

What Makes a Good Friend?

As those of us looking to expand our social circles start to emerge, Bogle has some good reminders for what makes a good friend. It's not just someone who likes the same video games and movies you do - make sure they will be there for you, and it'll be great.

"Do you ask the person all about how they are doing, but they don't ask you how you're doing? Do they ask about your family and ask about things going on in your life? Do they care what happens?

"Fundamentally we want people that care about us...if we have a good family situation, that's what we start out with. We have these people in the world that care about us. ... We're always looking for those kinds of connections of people we can count on, people who can care about us, people who will step up when we need it, when we go through bad times."