Dominic Williamson, 23, never had trouble making friends. “I’ve never been in a situation where I didn’t have a girlfriend, at least to hang out with,” she said.
But Ms Williamson, who is a vegetarian chef and sells cookbooks, moved from New York City to Atlanta just before the pandemic. When things were still open, she dined alone and introduced herself to someone else sitting alone at the bar.
But once Covid-19 hit, that option dried up. Some of her friends who grew up in Atlanta have moved away from jobs, graduate school, or because of the pandemic. “I’m a creative. I work from home, how do I make friends?” he said.
For most of the past year, no one was doing anything fun. But now that cities are reopening and vaccines are widespread, she wanted to regain a social life. So three weeks ago she Googled “making friends in Atlanta”.
The search led her to a Facebook group named friends in atlanta With over 13,000 members. It operates similarly to a dating app: participants, all women, post pictures of themselves with details about what they like to do, and other members can message them privately. If they are interested in meeting.
Courtney Billups, 23, a nurse, reached out, and they agreed to meet for Sunday brunch in early May. “I’m also on dating apps, so I saw it as the same sort of thing,” Ms. Billups said. “We bonded immediately. We have the exact same chart as it pertains to astrology.”
When the two realized they wanted to spend Memorial Day weekend in Miami, they booked a trip—flights, hotel, restaurant reservations—on the spot.
Across America, many people are emerging from the pandemic lack of social life. Some left when meeting places were closed and did not have the opportunity to form or nurture new friendships. Others stayed only to watch their network run.
Now they are available in online Facebook groups, meetups, and apps like . turning to bumblebee bff, where they can connect with potential friends just as they can date partners. Some of the more established clubs and groups, such as Soho House, are helping their members, who are desperate for human connection, to meet each other more easily.
“Who knew it would be so hard to navigate making friends as an adult during a pandemic?” Ms Williamson said.
Looking for friends can seem like a full-time job.
“I had a system in place for this,” said Stephanie Stein, 35, a single attorney who moved to Manhattan in March 2020 after living in Florida for 10 years. “I needed a brunch friend, an outgoing friend, a fancy friend to shop, a worker bee friend. I had buckets I wanted to fill.”
So she got to work swiping on Bumble BFFs. His matches were supposed to be female, single and he looked like he was having a blast in all his pictures.
Ms Stein found the process more liberating than dating. He didn’t care what their job was, where they lived or if they were hot. The dates of the “friend” did not have the same expectations. “Even if you go on a date, and you don’t like him but he never texts you, your ego takes a hit,” she said. “With a girl it’s like we’re having a bite to eat, it’s okay if I never talk to her again.”
Now she has five or six friends she sees regularly, as New York City reopens. “We go to dinner, we go to brunch, we all go to the Kentucky Derby party,” she said. “It’s just like you do with regular friends. These are my real friends now.”
Some people are turning to Meetup or Facebook.
Nick Yakutilov, 29, a consultant living in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, started a meetup in April called New York In-Person Hangout For group dinners and comedy shows. “People seemed eager to come out and meet each other, so I thought why not start a group?” he said. It has 500 members and each event (for example, a dinner reservation for 10 people) is sold out within two or three days.
Michael Wilson, 36, works as an industrial engineer at Boeing in the Seattle area, and runs a Facebook group called Making Friends in Seattle!, where people post things they want to do with new friends, like hiking. It had 700 members before the pandemic. Now it has 8,000.
“Every day we have maybe a few dozen requests to get involved,” said Mr. Wilson. “We’re talking about taking a lazy river trip for everyone or maybe go karts.”
Members’ clubs that were once considered a standoff are now helping to connect socially curious members. Soho House recently added a feature to its app called House Connect that matches members based on mutual interests, professional activities and answers questions like “keeps me busy”.
Others are finding friends in less structured ways.
Chevron’s content creator Molly Britt, 38, lives outside of Seattle. She had moved there with her husband just before the pandemic, but now they are separated. With few friends, she felt lonely. “The pandemic hit, and I was like, ‘What am I going to do here? he said. “I’m as extroverted as they come.”
Then a new friend came to his real door.
Michelle McKinney, 46, quit her job during the pandemic, and was delivering groceries for Safeway. He rang Ms. Britt’s door and the two started talking. Soon it turned into a conversation about their kids and their lives… and how they both wanted to meet new friends.
“She stood at my door for 30 minutes,” said Ms Britt. “At some point he was like, ‘I think I might be better off delivering groceries, but before I leave, can I have your number.’ We immediately started sending each other GIFs that were like, ‘Have we just become best friends?'”
Now that both of them have been vaccinated, the friendship has gone indoors. “Last week she showed up at my house with pizza and sangria,” Ms Britt said. “We couldn’t stop talking to each other. I’m never going to let him go as a friend.”