Online Friendship Sites Help Women Make New Friends

Online Friendship Sites Help Women Make New Friends

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Since online dating services are a proven way for women (and men) to find romance, why not apply the same matchmaking principles to friendship? Opportunities for women to make new friends are now just a mouse click away. Following in the footsteps of internet dating, websites designed to foster real-world female friendships are on the rise.

Mommy Sites and Friendship

Millions of women already flock to "mommy sites" that create community between expectant and new mothers, and the many niche motherhood sites for working moms, stay-at-home moms, even entrepreneurial moms attest to their success at establishing meaningful online relationships.

But what if you want to meet other women face-to-face and form friendships in your own community? What if moving or marriage has changed your circumstances, and you're looking for new connections and new girlfriends? Wouldn't it be nice if a website facilitated those meetings the same way dating sites do?

More Meet Online

If you're skeptical of the idea of internet friendship sites, consider this. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll online survey found that 15 percent of American adults have used an online dating site. Twenty-seven percent of young adults (18-24 years old) and 12% of adults aged 55-64 years old report that they have used online dating. Nearly 60% of college students say they know someone who uses online dating, and 46 percent say they know someone who has entered into a long-time relationship.

If the internet has become a valuable tool in forming a sexual connection, couldn't it establish a social connection as well?

Matchmaking Girlfriends

That's the concept Canadian entrepreneur Amanda Blain banked on when she launched the website Girlfriend Social, a place where women of all ages and backgrounds can go to talk, share and find new female friends. One of the largest social networking sites exclusively for females 18 and older, Girlfriend Social (GFS) enables users to seek out and connect with like-minded women in hundreds of cities and communities across the US, Canada, the UK and Australia.

Although existing sites such as Girlfriendology and Meetup also offer opportunities for women to get together based on geographic location, Blain explained in an interview what makes GFS distinctly different: "Other social networks are designed to deal with business, dating, or connecting with people you already know. Very few specialize in connecting new friends or helping you locate other people with similar hobbies. Girlfriend Social is designed purely for women to socially meet new friends and is the only free social network that allows women to create complete profiles, match with friends, chat with others, discuss hot topics, and to meet other women at live events, face-to-face."

The "M" Stage

Blain came up with the idea following a move to a new city; at her new job, her co-workers were mostly male. She soon realized the obstacles to a friendship that women face today are vastly different from those our mothers encountered. "Many things have changed including the expectations women put on themselves. Many are working, have children, and find themselves trying to juggle work and family life. This isn't as easy as it was a generation ago."

She's noticed that many women seek out new friends once they enter the "M" stage-moving, marriage, or motherhood-because those life transitions can alter, strain and even sever existing friendships. "Many women who go through these experiences find that their circle of friends change. Sometimes the friends you have aren't calling you anymore, you're not calling them, or you find your priorities have changed. Adding some new people to your life can help you through these transitions."

Making the Jump

Older women, in particular, find it hard to meet new people after spending years in the same social circle. The demands of family life and career leave little time to step outside the ordinary routine, meet new people, and then go from there. As Blaine notes, "Even if you take new classes, go for gym workouts, or start new hobbies, it's still difficult to make that jump from acquaintance to friendship with the people you meet."

Women who do not have a 'significant other' in their lives encounter additional friendship challenges. Whether they are alone by choice, divorce, or death of a spouse, single women often find themselves out of sync with married friends who socialize as couples. Like re-entering the dating scene, trying to establish new friendships at this stage can be intimidating.

All these women "would just like to connect with new women," Girlfriend Social's founder Amanda Blain says, "but they aren't sure how to go about it."

"Meeting the Old Fashioned Way"

Some have gone the Craigslist route, using the popular non-commercial community bulletin board as a way to find new friends. They post in the Personals section under the heading "Strictly Platonic"; the w4w (women for women) listings include requests for workout/running buddies, movie buddies, travel companions and females to go clubbing with. Judging from the number of entries posted in one week in Chicago (33), Seattle (27), Boston (3) and New York City (105), women all over the U.S. are finding it difficult to make the kind of steady, reliable friendships they've enjoyed in the past. As one woman wrote, "Posting on Craig's List is not something I'd normally do, but it can be difficult meeting people the old-fashioned way."

But Craiglist is not foolproof. Some who have used it to seek out goods or services have been scammed or even robbed; many of the listings despite being in the "strictly platonic" section are not. Without any controls or means of regulating its users, Craigslist and other online community-based bulletin boards are a hit-or-miss option.

Easy and Safe

In comparison, a membership-based internet friendship site makes it easy and safe for women to reach out to each other and search for friends who would be most compatible. Safety is a major concern for Blain and Girlfriend Social. Although her site gives women opportunities to share personal details (helpful in matching new friends), she leaves it up to each participant to decide how much to reveal about herself. "Members fill out a profile where they provide as much information about themselves as they are comfortable with. It's detailed application that matches women based on everything from sports to hobbies to movies, music, and books. With a few simple clicks, you can match with other women in your local area who have kids the same age as yours or read the same authors as you do. The match feature is a quick way to find women who have similar interests."

"A Friend Who 'Gets' Her"

Whereas mommy sites cater to women with young children, GFS includes women of all ages and stages of life. Blain counts among GFS members "75-year-old grandmothers looking to play cards with others and 22-year-old students looking to get out for a night of dancing," along with new moms. Some women are looking for specific friendships based on mutual interests. Blain tells the story of a woman who loved Broadway shows, an interest her husband didn't share. "Through GFS she found another woman to attend Broadway shows with. Her husband is delighted and she's happy because now she has a friend who 'gets' her hobby.

Blain feels that GFS and other girlfriend sites are not only long overdue but necessary because of the way women bond-a process that's a bit more complex in females than in males. "The friendship instinct can be found in both genders," Blain says, "but to a certain extent, I think men find themselves in situations where it's easier to make new friends. A man can go to a local sports bar, find another guy cheering for the same team, and the next thing you know he's sitting next to the other guy, having a drink and getting invited to a barbecue. Sometimes a man is invited to go golfing with a new group and by the time he's done playing he's friends with every guy in the group. With women, I find getting into similar situations, or into other women's social circles isn't quite as easy."

Where Women are Nurtured

In the end, it's not rocket science-it's about making new friends. Blain explains, "My goal was simple: build a safe, fun and drama-free network where women of all ages and backgrounds are able to connect, participate in some new events, and come together to learn and share their unique life experiences. I built a community where the true nature of what it means to be a woman is nurtured."