This article originally appeared on VICE US
There comes a time in nearly every young person's life when it becomes necessary to shake off the shackles of your hometown and carve out a new life for yourself someplace faraway and unfamiliar. Or maybe you're the one stuck in your hometown while everyone you know has moved onto bigger and better things. Either way, it's a hallmark of young adulthood to suddenly find yourself in a situation where you don't know anyone, and you don't have any money.
Before you resign yourself to a life of isolation—or worse, mistake your parents or coworkers as substitutes for real friends—take a deep breath. It may seem like a herculean task, but making friends only gets harder as you grow older, when things like spouses, children, and your fast-approaching mortality get in the way of your quest to meet new people. So now, while you're young, is actually the best time to expand your social circle.
First, there's the internet. It's not exactly rocket science that you can meet people online. Plenty of people have used dating apps as a means of finding friends in new cities, and there are actually some apps designed for non-sexual matches, like Wiith, the "Tinder for friends." Sure, you're mostly going to find other people who are lonely and desperate, but beggars can't be choosers.
If you want to weed out the weirdos trawling for sex, meetup.com is a surprisingly decent resource for connecting with local people who share similar interests. With the mission of "using the internet to get people off the internet," the site has been successfully connecting people around the globe since 2002. Whether you want to bond with fellow Dallas Cowboys or Cowboy Bebop fans, there are groups in nearly every major city that can put you in the proximity of likeminded individuals. Meetup also organizes group events, which can take some of the pressure off meeting new people. The events scheduled by Meetup organizers are usually free or very low-cost, so your broke ass won't have to worry about joining a new group only to be hit up for dues.
Kristen Hodgson, Meetup's communication director, told VICE there are already 15,000 site-orchestrated meetups happening every day, spanning from hiking groups to cannabis entrepreneurs. She also pointed out that "when you start with that shared interest, and you bond while doing whatever you love to do, that's a great catalyst for friendship."
On the other end of the online friend-sourcing spectrum is RentAFriend.com, a website that basically works like a friend escort service. It's reasonable to worry the site is a front for actual escorts, and the janky, domain-squatter appearance of the homepage doesn't do much to assuage those fears. But RentAFriend explicitly states that they are "strictly a platonic Friendship website... not a dating website, and not an escort agency."
I've personally offered my friendship services through RentAFriend.com, which resulted in an awkward but ultimately harmless older gentleman paying me $90 to have some drinks and shoot the shit for a couple hours. I wouldn't exactly call that dude my new best friend, but he made for decent company and I earned $90. Even if you don't wind up making a friend, you'll walk away a little less broke.
But let's say you want to get off the internet and meet some friends the old-fashioned way. One of the best ways to do this without spending a ton of money is to volunteer. There are approximately 200 charitable causes for every human on Earth, so finding one that suits you should be a breeze.
Whether you're passionate about a socio-political movement and ready to help organize marches or you just want to just play with puppies at the local animal shelter, there's a place for you to volunteer your time and energy. You might walk away smelling like cat piss, sure, but a few shifts should provide you with ample opportunity to meet other people, and getting to know each other by cleaning animal cages is a hell of a lot cheaper than getting to know each other over drinks every weekend.
For those who lack the moral fortitude to volunteer, there's always improv. There's no better way to make friends than getting thrown into a circle of strangers and acting out what Bernie Sanders would be like in caveman times. Improv is great for the broke and friendless, because the craft is predicated on anyone being able to do it anywhere, and you'll quickly break down those walls of awkwardness that come with meeting strangers. And while improv schools like Upright Citizens Brigade, Second City, and Groundlings are all expensive as fuck, there are scores of free improv workshops and classes in most large cities.
Paul Storiale, who's been running a weekly free improv class in Los Angeles for the past two years, said making friends was one of the main reasons he started the group.
"I've seen a lot of friendships form over the years in these classes. A couple that met in my class is now expecting a child, even," Storiale told me. "If you're coming into a town and don't know anyone, it's a great way to expand your social circle."
If all else fails and you find yourself broke and alone, you can find other lonely people on Pokémon GO. The internet is rife with stories of would-be Pokémon trainers spotting each other wandering aimlessly around public parks, 7-Elevens, and graveyards, only to buddy up in the shared task of hunting down the wily Dratini hiding somewhere in the vicinity.
A little dorky, sure, but as one Redditor put it: "I've made friends online before, but never something as tangible as this. This is nuts. It's dawning on me how this is a long time coming for us who grew up with these games and always wanted to be like Ash or Red. It's really a dream come true. Can't wait to meet way more people through this game."
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