Dear Pink Hair Girl,
I spend a lot of my time playing MMOs and I’ve got lots of people on there I consider good friends. But I don’t really have any real life friends to hang out with in person. I go home after work and hang out online, so going out and meeting new people (let alone girls) just doesn’t happen. Also, I kinda live in the middle of nowhere, so that makes meeting new people even harder. I’m kinda getting lonely but every time someone suggest I join a club or something, I hate the idea. Is there any other way to meet people? How do I get out of this rut?
Secluded in Stormwind
What are you, Alliance? There’s your problem. FOR THE HORDE!!!
Sorry, I’m pretty sure I’m obligated to do that. But now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk a little bit about IRL troubles. These days it’s pretty easy to go online and find a niche community to get along with, no matter what you’re into! If you have obscure interests, or even if you just feel more comfortable relating to people anonymously via the Internet, the information age has made it possible to communicate with countless others like yourself, anywhere in the world. The trouble is, of course, the “anywhere in the world” part. Maybe you’re living in California and you really connect with someone you chat with, who lives in Norway. That’s great! Except for the fact that unless you’ve got money for a plane ticket and a chunk of free time, you may never shake their hand, or see them laugh and smile in a way that isn’t first broken into packets of data to be reassembled in your machine.
What’s worse is that only 7% of communication between people is based on the words we use. According to one UCLA study, 93% of how we interact with our fellow man is all about things like facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc. So if most of your friends are only talking to you via text chat, you’re losing a lot of information that’s important understanding someone, and of course, getting to know them. This may help explain why, even though you’ve got these great friends online and have a great time with them, you’re still feeling lonely. You’re like a baby monkey who would rather cling to the soft fuzzy towel just for the feel of it, than the wiry machine that will feed you the monkey milk that sustains you. Or something similar, I’m sure.
I’m not gonna lie, this kind of rut will take some work to get out of, and you have to be the one to motivate yourself to do it. Yup, I bet you know that I’m about to spin some rainbow-chasing, hippy-happy, hug-the-world advice. Well hang on, because its all true:
- Do something different. First you gotta admit that in terms of making new friends, what you’re doing right now is not working. You gotta try new things if you have any hope of it changing. Here are some things you could do that are different, some are scarier than others.
- Move, or go to school somewhere less isolated.
- Make room in your budget/schedule to drive longer distances in order to meet folks.
- Go to meetup.com and join a local group doing something you aren’t sure you’ll like.
- Dating sites like OkCupid (free) or PlentyOfFish (also free) have options for people just looking to make friends! Message people with common interests, including men and women you have no romantic interest in, who just seem like they’ve got stuff in common with you. This is actually a REALLY good way to see who lives nearest to you with similar interests as you. Just be clear when reaching out that you just want to chat or grab coffee to talk about common interests, not date.
- Go to local events like football games, bake sales, fairs etc…
- “Yes” is your friend. When I’ve giving this advice to others in a similar predicament as yours, here’s how they usually respond:
- I can’t.
- That sounds awful.
- Hell no.
- What for?
- If this sounds at all like you’re reaction, guess what! Now’s the time to think about saying “yes” to those things. Remember the first tip? Do something different? That includes trying things you’ve never done before, things you’re not sure will work, and things you don’t think you like. It’s time to push your boundaries and get used to situations that you’re not 100% comfortable in. That’s how we have new experiences, and meet new people. Say “yes” to everything that comes your way in terms of getting off your butt or trying something new. Stop making excuses and JUST DO THINGS. And yeah, of course you won’t like some of the stuff you try, but new experiences will at least open doors to new things and give you interesting things to talk about, and hey, might even be fun!
- Actually *like* people. You spend much of your time online, talking to people who have common interests and common goals. They’re easier to get along with and easier to relate to because you already click on those levels. But an important key to meeting new people, and making new friends, is just liking all kinds of people in general. If this is a new idea for you, try going into an experience believing that everyone you meet has something interesting about them. You enjoy talking about personal interests and things you like, right? Apply that to others. When you meet someone, ask them what they’re into. And even if you’re a sarcastic mean old grumpy man, suspend your disgust for just one minute and pretend that whatever they’re talking about has meaning to them, makes them happy, and makes life more interesting. Because it does! It’s true that you probably won’t hit it off with most people you meet, but talking to everyone gives you a better chance at meeting the people you will like!
- Continue to cherish your online friendships. You’ll hear a lot of people try to tell you that the friends you make online aren’t “real” friends. Well screw those guys! Companionship in any form you can find it is valuable. You should always appreciate it when there are people in your life who make you comfortable and happy, even if its just over a computer screen. I have online friends that I’ve driven across the country to spend a little time with, or friends that have moved away that I can keep in touch with/play with thanks to video games and online chats. I know people who’ve gotten married after meeting their sweethearts in MMOs and having long distance relationships. If you follow only one piece of advice in this column, pick this one; make it a point, or set a goal with your online friends to try and meet in person, even if its just for a day. Seal the deal and spend some time face to face with the people who matter most to you right now, and let them know you appreciate them.
If you’re really serious about moving past your solitary confinement, then take these suggestions seriously. The easiest thing in the world to do is to shrug, blow it off, and go back to raiding. But remember, you can’t start IRL friendships if you do that. Get up some courage, make up your mind to try lots of new things, and get excited about a new chapter in your life. Put some energy and enthusiasm behind this goal. It’s up to you to make it happen!
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to go chase some rainbows and hug the world!
If you don’t get this reference, then you need to Watch The Guild.
If you’ve got a snag in your social life, cramping your g33k style, feel free to ask me for some advice!
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.