A few weeks ago, I spent four days in a cabin filled with girls I’d never met before. We laughed, mountain biked through mud puddles, and shared secrets and whiskey around the fire. It was like we’d been friends for much longer than just the weekend, and we’re already planning our next adventure. But my social life wasn’t always like this.
I’m not what you would call the most outgoing person in the world. I made only two lasting friends in college, and basically zilch in high school. My core group of girls are those I met before I turned ten. So when my flight landed after a work trip a couple of years ago, it suddenly hit me that I had no one to pick me up from the airport. Ever since I’d moved to Colorado, I had been repeating the same process of not seeking out friendships and not fostering the potential ones I’d found. Because I hadn’t tried, I hadn’t made a single girlfriend.
Photo by Whitney James
Cue the wonder of social media. It dawned on me that I actually knew dozens of friendly, inspiring girls on Instagram and Twitter. Ones that I would want to be friends with in person. Why couldn’t we be friends for real? I went out on a limb and asked them to hang out.
Fast forward two years. I’ve mountain biked with @dirtbagdarling, @alynicklas, and @kyliefly. I’ve picnicked on the beach with @ashleelangholz. I’ve sipped beer with @leslieschipper. The one that takes the cake? That time I went to @lillycristy’s wedding, and had to explain to her mom, “Yeah, I’m the girl from the Internet.” And while, no, none of these adventurous women can pick me up from the airport, I feel like I’ve found my people.
Photo by Whitney James.
We support each other in our projects, cheer each other on in our goals, and check in with each other just to see what’s up. The most important part? We make each other a priority when the other person is in town. It’s just like staying in touch with my childhood friends, except these newfound social media friends are tracking on the same life path. We’re growing together with time, instead of apart.
There can be fear in making that initial contact with someone you admire on the internet. How many messages like this do they get each day? Do I come across as a total creeper? Chances are, the answers are “very few” and “absolutely not.” Whoever you’ve reached out to as a potential friend will be flattered you made the effort.
Photo by Bryan Rowe.
So here’s how to get started…
1. Set Realistic Expectations
Make sure you know someone’s motive before meeting up with them. If you’re only looking for an friend, don’t bother getting together with someone you’ll have to friend-zone.
2. Tell a Real Friend
If you’ve opted to go for a hike or bike ride with someone you’ve never met, let someone else know where you’re going and how long you’ll be.
3. Don’t Do It for the Bragging Rights
Check out your own motives before meeting people from the internet. Are you doing it just so that you can name drop later? While it can be hard to resist bragging about shared experiences with Insta-famous individuals, you’re not going to accomplish anything other than turning people off.
While social media sometimes fosters competition and jealousy, platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook also create an unparalleled opportunity to connect with the friends we wish we’d had all along. Because hey, you never know when you’ll wind up in a cabin with a bunch of new best friends you met online.
Whitney James is writer for REI, Huckberry, Dirtbag Darling and beyond. She can probably also back up a truck better than your boyfriend.