Friendship Reboot

How To Build A Friend Group, Or Find One

Unfortunately, you really do need to "put yourself out there."

Originally Published: 
Here's how to find friends through apps, book clubs, and meetups.

Whether you’ve just moved to a new city or need to surround yourself with new people after a bestie breakup, building a friend group from scratch can seem like an impossible task. Finding local events in your neighborhood is hard enough as it is, and attending one solo just to spark a conversation with a stranger is a whole other obstacle. Although there’s no manual on how to make friends as an adult, meeting new people outside of school and work is possible. Ahead, five people share how they made friends in their twenties and thirties, plus tips for building your own social circle.

Don’t expect their advice to be easy, though, because if there’s one thing these stories all have in common, it’s that making friends as an adult requires more effort than it did on the playground.

Be A Joiner

The platform may feel outdated, but Facebook is still good for two things: keeping tabs on which high school classmates just got engaged… and bringing people together. But to find your squad, you’re gonna need to do more than send a friend request. Luckily, there are region-specific groups centered around hobbies, activities, and even fandoms. This is exactly how Libby Harrington, 26, found her people.

In 2021, Libby was part of a now-defunct Facebook group for Denver-based listeners of a pop culture podcast, where she saw a post about starting a book club. Her nerves got the best of her ahead of the first meeting, but she forced herself to attend the next one, held at a local park. She was uncomfortable and quiet until she realized she wasn’t the only one flying solo. In fact, everyone came by themselves.

As the women opened up about relationship drama and funny stories from their pasts, they began to bond. “We just hung out and had fun, and then we had something to laugh about because somebody [in the group] kissed their ex-boyfriend [at the bar],” Libby tells Bustle. “I thought, ‘Wait, these people don't have to just be my book club friends. They could be my actual friends,’” Libby says. “Now they're the people who I text first about certain things.”

Open Up

There are plenty of event-based organizations that use Instagram to build their communities, and @girlswhogather, the account behind [gather] is just one of them. It’s a non-profit founded by Lauren Franco, 26, that provides women with a safe space through quarterly discussion-based events in six cities — New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Osaka, Japan — themed around topics including building and freedom. When Lauren moved from California to New York for college, she realized just how many women were struggling to find friends. Craving “solid friendships” herself, she decided to create a space where folks could assemble and discuss the challenges of navigating the city as a woman.

When she decided to host the first gathering out of her NYU dorm in December 2017, she didn’t expect nearly 40 attendees would show up — all of whom heard about the event through word of mouth. “It was the day of SantaCon and there was a blizzard,” Lauren recalls. “I was like, ‘Nobody is going to come to this.’” She turned out to be wrong. The open and honest conversation topics from that first night have remained the cornerstone for [gather], and the organization now also hosts picnic hangs and walk and talks. Even Lauren met some of her closest friends through [gather] – her bestie Betty helped arrange the dorm gathering that started it all, and she met her pal Laura during the early stages of the org about a year later. They’ve been BFFs ever since.

Find Friends On Your FYP

TikTok isn’t just a place for recipes and trends anymore. You can also use the FYP as a tool to make friends. Just ask Jackson Moehler, 23, who inadvertently created a local friend group just by posting a TikTok after moving back home after graduation. In the 2022 video, she wrote, “If you currently live in the Atlanta area, love dogs, shopping, going out to eat, getting margaritas, and going to workout classes PLEASE be my friend. I’m currently going to the mall alone and I’m in desperate need of friends.”

Despite using a sound that was viral at the time and relevant hashtags (#someonebemyfriend), Jackson didn’t expect much to come from the video. Though she hardly had a following at the time, soon she had roughly 30 girls from the Atlanta area in her DMs. It took her a week to build up the courage to create the group chat. “[But then I thought] ‘I don't have any other option for making friends, and there's a group of girls just sitting right in front of me that could potentially be my really good friends,’" she says.

From the initial group, six girls consistently expressed interest in actually meeting up. To make the first meet-up a little less daunting, Jackson asked a high school acquaintance to join the outdoor bar hang. “We were like, ‘How do we even find these girls?” she recalls. “‘Unless they looked at our Instagram and stalked us, they don't know what we look like.’" When they found one another, they went around in a circle asking each other about college, sororities, and more. “It honestly was just first date vibes,” Jackson says.

After that, Jackson says it was tricky finding an activity for everyone to enjoy. “The next couple of times, we tried to do just dinner because not everybody drinks, not everybody wants to go out, not everybody wants to just go on a walk,” she says. It took a few hangouts for them to be comfortable with one another, but consistently meeting up a few times a month helped break down their “barriers.” In March, the group took their first trip together to a cabin in north Georgia, and now, they’re actually close. In a follow-up video, Jackson wrote, “Last year I made a TikTok about how I didn’t have any friends post-college… Almost a year later and I have 6 new best friends.”

Swipe Right On Your New BFF

Though you might have swiped through a fair share of dating matches on Bumble, you can also use the app to find forever friendships. If there’s any success story that can convince you to make a profile, it’s Laura Bolt and Ellie Medhi’s.

After moving back to her hometown region of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Laura, 31, was eager to find friends for her and her husband. Similarly, Ellie, 32, was on the lookout after she and her husband had relocated from Seattle. They swiped right on one another in hopes that their partners would be friends, too, before discovering their own shared love of crafts and reading.

The future BFFs met at a coffee shop in 2022 and hit it off instantly. Ellie had been on a few friend dates before, but it was Laura’s first foray into Bumble’s pool. Before the meet-up, the duo came up with the code word “teacup” they could use with no hard feelings in case one of them felt like it wasn’t a match, but the conversation never stalled. It went so well that Laura didn’t even remember the word when recounting the meet-up. “That's how you know I didn't need it,” she says.

Less than a year later, Laura and Ellie have merged their individual friend groups, created a book club, and now coordinate a trivia group that meets every Wednesday. Ellie threw a “really wonderful” daisy-themed party for Laura’s most recent birthday, filled with hand-painted candles, delicious food, and a balloon arch. For Ellie, the effort was worth it.“She just gets all of the things that make me me in a way that friends I’ve had for years don't,” Ellie says. “It's a really special connection.”

Sure, it can be tough to put yourself out there, but as Laura puts it, “A lot of good things in life are worth work and putting yourself outside of your comfort zone.” So go ahead and shoot your shot.

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