Online dating is totally cool now — but would you use the Internet to find new friends? A slew of new sites–like SocialJane and GirlFriendCircles–have launched to help women make platonic connections with other women.
Why do women use these sites? Sometimes it’s that they’ve moved to a new city and are craving new friends. Other times, it’s that they’re simply hoping to widen their friendship circle. Writer Rachel Bertsche told The New York Times that she used the site GirlFriendCircles after relocating to Chicago to be with her husband. Bertsche says she definitely felt a stigma searching for new friends online. “This is horribly embarrassing. You say, ‘I’m looking for new friends,’ and people hear, ‘I have no friends.’ ”
But the reality is, it can be difficult to make new connections with other women when you’ve either moved someplace new or moved on from a static social group. Even without the tool of websites, making same-sex friends can feel awkward and forced, especially if one person has a busier life or more demanding social schedule than the other. In some ways, formalizing the process via a website where everyone is looking for the same thing, and the parameters of contact are clearly laid out, could help.
And in fact, they function similarly to dating sites, where users can set up profiles and tell one another exactly what they’re looking for — whether it’s a movie-watching pal or a museum-hopping companion. Explains Girlfriend Social‘s homepage, “This website is for Ladies only, who just like you, are looking to make platonic women friendships. Inside women can make new friends with fabulous ladies in a safe and friendly environment.” As the site explains, it caters primarily to women who are “in a ‘M4′ category — Moved, Married, Motherhood — or you simply are looking for More Friends to be part of your girlfriend circles of friendship.”
But does it take some of the “romance” out of nursing organic friendships? Says sociologist Arlie Hochschild, the sites are a “double edged” sword, allowing people to make less effort in their non-online lives than they might otherwise. Why bother going out to meet new people if you can do it all online, she asks?
Tell us: Would you ever use a friendship website to meet new friends? [NYTimes]