How to make friends online

When you make friends online it doesn’t necessarily mean things are going to be rainbows and sunshines. Virtual relationships can get just as complicated as the offline ones, if not more. There’s a whole host of things that could go wrong, as well as right, when interacting online. The Mix explains good netiquette.

A young woman is staring at her phone. She is making friends online. This is a wide-angle image.

Do your research before you dive in

It is often worth browsing on the boards for a while before you make friends online, to get a feel for the place and see what’s the best way to act. This helps avoid being at the receiving end of abuse after just one post! It can also help you to decide if you really want to be a part of it in the first place.

Introduce yourself

Rule number 1 for how to make friends online? Let people get to know you. When joining a new community to make friends online, it’s normal to say hello before getting knee deep in responding and posting. Some boards have ‘Introductions forums’, like The Mix’s, where you can say a little about yourself to whet the appetite of potential friends. 

Say roughly where you are from, how old you are, and share your interests. For example:

cymruangel: “Hi all. My name’s Hannah and I’m from South Wales (Swansea). I’m 18, a well-balanced [if often indecisive] Libran. I’ve just finished 6th form coll so off to uni in the autumn, provided I get my grades of course – not looking forward to August 15th!

Interests – well it all depends on my mood! but seriously – I’m a musician and singer. I’m also part of a few book clubs. Ummmmmm… well if you want to know anything else just ask!! love Hannah.”

Play nice when you make friends online

Make yourself at home. Chat to people as you would in real life. This means that you shouldn’t type with the CAPS LOCK ON as it looks like you are SHOUTING. Also try not to flood the board by posting loads of new threads at once, just hop into a convo every now and again. But if these tidbits get you stressed out, throw ‘em out the window. The main thing is that you be yourself and don’t overthink things – you’re great just the way you are and people will recognise that. 

Be friendly and polite and you should get the same response back (from most people). Being arrogant, rude or abusive will only lead to alienation and possibly being banned from using the boards. If unsure whether you’re acting in line, ask yourself whether you would say it to the person’s face. If the answer’s no, either rephrase it or don’t post it at all.

What should I talk about?

Thinking about how to make friends online can be overwhelming, but really it’s only slightly different than in person interactions. Especially when it comes to starting a conversation. You can basically talk about anything and everything! But don’t ask anything too personal of others unless you are willing to offer up your own personal information/reasons first. Respect people’s boundaries as well. If someone doesn’t want to share, don’t pressure them. Build a foundation of trust and in time they’ll open up.

Don’t rush

Finding friends online is odd in that you get complete strangers telling you intimate details of their lives immediately. If you were in the street and this happened, you’d feel uncomfortable, but somehow sitting behind a laptop screen makes it seem like a regular Tuesday. Only give out things like your handles on social media platforms when YOU feel ready. In the meantime you can just share your interests with them!

By their very nature, online friendships tend to develop at an accelerated pace, so try not to get too attached too quickly. This way you can avoid a nasty fall if your new mate suddenly goes AWOL. But if that does end up happening, there’s no shame in it – it simply wasn’t meant to be. For more support when a friendship ends, read this

Using different platforms 

Nowadays there’s precisely 2,056,889 (give or take a few) social media platforms that you have an active account for. Problem is, each of these platforms have different ways of communication as well as a specific culture surrounding them. Here are a few examples:

Instagram: It’s all about the comments and DMs on here. Keep things pretty simple with a fire and heart emoji on your new friend’s post. Sliding into DMs is slightly trickier but if you keep things casual, likelihood is they’ll reciprocate with some chill replies. Also, don’t be afraid to like a couple of their messages!

Snapchat: Back when snapchat was first invented around 2000BC  it was just used for the odd picture and keeping streaks but nowadays it’s a legit form of communication. It’s a great option if you’re just starting to chat because they can’t see who your friends are or basically anything about your life. Just remember to change the chat settings to last for 24hours, otherwise you’re just gonna have a convo about what the other person wrote.

Twitter: If you talk about social media culture, you HAVE to talk about twitter. This platform is a beast of its own with a world full of subtweets, replies and screenshotted DMs. Tweeting your opinions about your favourite shows can be a great way to make some new mates! But you should also be prepared for some STRONG opinions, possibly going against your pov.

Meeting IRL?

It’s one thing learning how to make friends online, but don’t rush into meeting up IRL. Get to know each other over the web, email each other a few times or instant chat, and eventually start talking over the phone before you meet. If you still want to meet them after some time has passed, then go for it! Just make sure to follow the guidelines below.

Make sure you meet new people in a public place during daylight hours, e.g. afternoon coffee or a quick lunchtime drink and try to take someone with you, arrange a signal beforehand so that if you don’t want to stay, you can make your excuses and leave safely. Be careful of dangers like date rape, and don’t leave your stuff unattended.

So, stay safe, connect with people and have fun. Why not start right here on our discussion boards?

Next Steps

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 07-Nov-2021

Photo of young people on laptop by Shutterstock.