On Building Community + Making New Friends As An Introvert
As technology becomes more pervasive, Americans are citing more instances of loneliness. People are living more solitary lives, getting married later in life (or not at all), or living far from biological family (or close friends who feel like family). It's more important than ever to build up and rely on your community to enrich your life and help you through difficult times to stave off loneliness. Even introverts need community, socialization, close (and loose) networks. There is some research around people who place more importance on friendship and family tending to say they were happier, more satisfied, and healthier than those who didn’t (source).
Depending on your stage of life, you may have to build and re-build a network several times. For example, I've lived in DC for most of my adult life. I started off as a student at Howard at 18 years old, so I had the built-in network of my classmates. But folks move, get married, take jobs in other states. So it simply gets harder to see those good friends no matter how cherished they are beyond homecoming celebrations, graduations, and class reunions. If you can relate and need some inspiration to build (or rebuild) your friend group from scratch, read on.
I have many long standing friends I've made in a variety of settings while living in DC as an adult: from work (of course), to blogging networks, to events in and around the city, volunteering for local nonprofits, taking LSAT prep classes (and no I never did actually go to law school though I took the LSAT), among many other places.
Here are the steps I've taken in the past to engage in networks and communities in my current city.
1) Attend events and activities you enjoy with regularity. Establishing a routine where people become accustomed to seeing you makes it easier to become a part of a smaller community. For example, if you can make a habit out of going to 6:00am cycling class on weekdays, I'm sure you'd start seeing other regulars and it would be easy to make friends and build community around that activity.
2) Speak to people when you visit your your habitual hangout spots. If you too love going to the coffee shop/cafe near your home or office, next time you visit, engage more with the staff or other patrons at the communal tables or while in line to get your drink.
3) Take advantage of opportunities to spend IRL time with your local online networks. If you loosely participate in groups on Instagram or Meet.up.com, you could very easily start going to the real life events these groups regularly hold and network/befriend/build community with other members of these groups.
3) Consider coworkers for new friendships. Many full time employees will spend more hours on a regular basis with their coworkers than they will with family. So it only makes sense to see if you can make meaningful friendships off hours with colleagues. Be advised that every work colleague will not translate to a friend outside of work and that's ok! But if you do find someone you vibe/have common interests with, try to schedule plans with them and see if this person translate to an off-hours friend. Friendly warning: It's key to create clear boundaries when transitioning office-only friends to all-around friends. Your friendship should be limited to off hours so during office hours your new friend should be treated like any other colleague.
4) Let friends know you're looking to build make new friends and a local community. Your own network can easily help you to widen your social circle. People move so often for work and personal reasons that you may very well have 'friends of friends' that you could easily meet up with in person.
Making and maintaining friendships won't be as effortless as it was when you were a student living on campus. But even as an introvert, making new friends as an adult doesn't have to be that difficult. Positive meaningful friendships will be worth the effort!