I am fortunate enough to have a great group of friends that love activities as well. When I moved to NYC, I had one good NYC friend and I was able to expand my network of buddies by bringing in friends of friends. I attribute our ability to grow as a tight-knit group of friends in a hustling city where it can be difficult to forge new, meaningful connections to two things:
- E-mail Chains
Beer (and other alcohol) is the obvious one. Alcohol does wonders for loosening people up and getting them to bond with each other. Even your drunken mistakes, as long as they are relatively benign, are helpful. You mess up and then you have a door to apologize and make up for it. At the end of the process, you are closer with the group. Of course, it also creates shared memories (or sometimes shared lack of memory).
The factor that surprised me the most was the use of e-mail chains. I believe that e-mails are even more important than beer. Before every activity, we start an e-mail chain. After the activity we go back to that e-mail chain to reminisce. We talk about details of the plan and hype each other up for it. We crack jokes and send ridiculous animated gifs. We make fun of each other. It is a conversation we can have with a group of 10-20 people at once that keeps the group bond, even when we aren’t hanging out face to face.
On some days I may get up to 100 e-mails from friends. These are not fully thought out long-form compositions, but rather knee-jerk reactions. Again, this is a conversation. Thanks to Gmail and its storage capacity, this interaction is easy.
But what if you don’t have that first friend? Or what if your small group of friends doesn’t have any other connections in the area? What can you do to expand your group initially. Well, work is always a good place to start, but sometimes you have to be careful about how you present yourself in front of your work colleagues.
The solution I have found is grownup sports leagues. Many cities across the country have them and if yours doesn’t why not start up an unofficial (you can recruit people through Meetup.com, your city’s subreddit, or even craigslist)? I found a good one with New York Social Sports Club. Now, if you are serious about sports, then I imagine it is possible to create new friendships with others who share your passion for the sport. For you I would suggest playing:
- Volleyball (West Coast)
However, for those of you who are mainly looking to be social, I would suggest sports that nobody could have possibly played as a high school sport and are not overly serious about:
- Volleyball (East Coast)
Contact the company that you find online and ask them which league is know for being the most social post-games. More often than not, teams will get through their 45-minute game and then immediately run to the bar to get started on drinking and socializing. Now, the game is still important because it gives you a way to start conversations with your teammates (plus it is fun), but the real magic happens once the final whistle blows.
If the league is indeed as social as advertised, a great bar scene will arise. There should be specials on drinks (pitchers) as well. Now, the drinking process can be fun in a number of ways. If sitting and talking works for you, then great. I was recently on a kickball team and we did it a little differently. If you want to try our method, follow these easy steps:
- Step 1: Suggest a game of flipcup
- Step 2: Buy a couple of pitchers and have some teammates buy a couple more
- Step 3: Take over a table
- Step 4: Pick two captains and have them play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” for first pick
- Step 5: Pick teams, just as you would in elementary school (being first picked, last, picked etc, gives you even more topics of conversation for the e-mail thread the next day)
- Step 6: Play Flipcup
- Step 7: Repeat the Process - pick new teams, come up with new wrinkles to the game (survivor flipcup, two or three rounds in a row without stopping, etc)
Note: Don’t fill the beer up very high for each round. You want to be able to play this for a long time and you want everyone to be able to keep up. Believe me, if you go quickly, just a half and inch/an inch of beer in your cup will do the trick nicely.
Then, people will start peeling off and heading home. The next day is the most important part. Get the post-game e-mail chain going. Talk about the game, the night, the silly things that happened. Trash talk the teammates that picked you last for flipcup. Throughout the season, you will build real friendships. The next step is to create an event outside of the league (invite them to a housewarming, Saturday get-together, etc) and take it from there!
I have two buddies, Nick and Mitch, who I met through a kickball league. If we had just played kickball and gone home without heading to the bar, I never would have become friends with them and probably wouldn’t keep in touch. Likewise if we didn’t have the team e-mail chains constantly active, we would have lost touch after the season.
My example is one of many methods you can use, but be sure to employ the two great factors:
Beer and E-mail - the way to make and maintain friendships in the city in today’s day and age.