‘It’s really hard to make friends as an adult’ – unless you’re in GirlCrew

Online dating is a normal part of life, so why is the stigma around making platonic friends online? A women-only social network has become a starting point for real-life friendships

Elva Carri from Girl Crew Ireland explains why many people found themselves matched with Mary Robinson on the dating application Tinder. Video: Darragh Bambrick

 

‘Online dating is much more normal now. Everyone has Tinder and doesn’t bat an eyelid. But it is really, really hard to make friends as an adult,” Elva Carri, founder of GirlCrew, says.

Frustrated that none of her friends was free to go out dancing with her one night, Carri changed her gender on Tinder, the dating smartphone app, to male and changed her profile to explain that she was looking for friends to head out with. Within 24 hours she had 100 new girl friends.

Carri then set up a Facebook group, GirlCrew (Dublin), which now has more than 3,500 members – and is only one of more than 40 GirlCrew groups spread across the world. Cork’s has 750 members, London’s more than 1,000 and newer groups in New York, Toronto and Sydney anything up to 500 – and growing.

The new groups that pop up regularly seem to be filling a gap where people are finding it difficult to make friends as adults. But despite GirlCrew’s success, Carri says there’s more of a stigma around meeting friends online than there in around meeting men online. That’s “because you think, Is it kind of desperate that you need to make friends online? You’re like, ‘Why don’t I have friends?’ I felt like a total loser at some points, because I didn’t have anyone to go out dancing with that night.”

GirlCrew is now just over a year old. But making friends online is nothing new. The beauty blogger Sue Jordan began by looking for new friends online when her friends became busy with newborn babies.

“Because I had the lads, my two boys, very young, it got to a point four years ago where all my good friends started having babies, so really it was the social outreach to chat online: it was an outlet. I was a huge fan of Beaut.ie at the time when Kirstie McDermott was at the helm, and there was great craic to be had in the comments. It was a community in and of itself,” she says.

She then set up her blog, Cherry Sue Doin’ The Do, and in the four years since then she has met some of her closest friends through their shared interest in beauty.

“I’ve made some lifelong friends through the blog, with the other girls who are blogging. We socialise, we go for drinks, and I see them at events.”

Jordan and her sons are going to Brazil in September with a friend she met through blogging whom she now considers her best friend. “It’s an equaliser. You get to meet people you’d never meet. I’d never have met her in my day-to-day life.”

The common interest that usually ties people together in blogging communities shows up elsewhere, too. For Claire Hennessy, who set up a Grown Ups Read Young Adult Fiction book club, the internet was the perfect place to find others with what could be considered a niche interest.

“With young-adult fiction, so often the discussion is centred on what the teenage readers would think of it, and is it suitable for them, with almost a teacherly tone about it. It felt there needed to be a place just for people to talk about them as books rather than as a teaching tool,” she says.

Social media

Social media has played a big part in developing all three communities. While GirlCrew and the book club are hosted through Facebook groups, Jordan says bloggers get a huge amount of interaction on Twitter. Hennessy can’t understand, given how central social media is to so many people’s everyday lives, how there can still be a stigma around making friends online.

“The idea that the internet is not the real world is bizarre. So much of our communication is done online. People send Facebook messages to people in the same house as themselves,” she says.

Carri also says that, with the amount of time we spend online, it’s inevitable that more and more online friendships will be struck. But she adds that the more people want those friendships to include real-life interaction, the more comfortable people will become with the idea that meeting people online doesn’t have to just be for dating.

“Social media went one way, and it’s swinging back the other way. It made us stare at our screens loads, look at people’s photos and be jealous, and stop talking to our neighbours. We had access to the people we already know, and it feels like a community. But now people do feel the loss of real-life interactions,” she says.

“I think it’s swinging back in becoming more localised, more human again. The internet is great so long as it converts over to real life. You don’t want to live off a computer. You can’t dance with the computer. Well, you can a little bit, but it’s less fun.”

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