Forgoing phones for friendship.
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New York City is often depicted as a place of close female friendships, as seen in shows like Sex and the City, Girls, and Broad City. However, the reality of moving to a big city can be isolating, especially in an age of remote work, increased screen time, and disappearing social spaces.

In recent times, there has been a trend of feeling lonely, avoiding socializing, and lacking close friendships, making the challenge of relocating to a new city even more daunting.

When Sarah Mcgonigle moved to the city last summer, she found herself with few acquaintances and working remotely, missing the support of colleagues. Like many others seeking connection, traditional meeting spots like community centers, parks, malls, or places of worship were not meeting her needs to build a community.


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With dwindling investment in physical social spaces, people have turned to the internet as an alternative, which some argue worsens feelings of isolation. This reliance on online platforms for socializing has contributed to a sense of “learned loneliness,” where we have adapted to living with unmet social needs.

About a month after moving, Sarah, a 23-year-old, stumbled upon a TikTok advertising an event by The Cinema Sorority, a social club for female movie enthusiasts. Despite not intending to make friends online, she decided to attend as the event aligned with her interest in Wes Anderson films.

Following the event, Sarah connected with attendees for further plans. “I was hesitant at first, but then I realized we were all in the same situation – seeking similar connections and friendships,” shared Sarah about her experience.

TikTok isn’t just a digital space; it facilitates creating real-world connections

Social groups like The Cinema Sorority have leveraged TikTok to transition from a digital platform to a tool for discovering offline meeting spots. By organizing in-person gatherings, these groups avoid the pitfalls that online-only communities often face, such as lack of accountability and genuine closeness due to geographical distance.

After the lockdown in Australia was lifted, Nikol Moses, a 23-year-old, moved from Melbourne to Brisbane. Despite trying various online avenues like Bumble BFF and Meet Up to meet people, she couldn’t find like-minded individuals. Frustrated, she took to TikTok, resulting in an overwhelming response from others seeking companionship.

Realizing the demand for in-person events, Nikol organized a successful speed-friending event in a Brisbane bar, kickstarting a series of gatherings under the banner of Friends on Purpose. From weekly trivia sessions to cost-free walks, the group focuses on fostering connections. More elaborate events are ticketed to cover expenses, following the principle of accessible entry for third spaces.

Diverse opportunities in urban settings

TikTok’s widespread appeal not only cultivates novel communal spaces but also offers inclusive alternatives to existing groups. For instance, Isabel and Isabella initiated the Village Fairy Book Club, which blossomed from a small gathering into a dynamic event series, featuring discussions and activities.

Inspired by her marathon training, 26-year-old Isabel began Slow Girl Run Club to provide a laid-back running environment. The club garnered significant interest through TikTok, drawing a diverse crowd every week.

These grassroots movements, led by ordinary individuals rather than influencers, emphasize community building over personal fame. With humble social media followings, groups like Friends on Purpose and Slow Girl Run Club have become pivotal hubs for socializing.

The success of these initiatives lies in their authentic engagement with audiences, presenting forthcoming events in a relatable manner rather than relying on superficial popularity. By fostering genuine connections, these groups have tapped into a fundamental desire for meaningful human interactions.

Seeing The Cinema Sorority’s founder, Kaite Hubler, promoting events in a personal TikTok video reassured Sarah of the club’s authenticity. “Knowing she is a real person living in New York and posting about local events made me trust the group,” reflected Sarah.

Unlike several NYC run clubs reliant on prominent creators, Slow Girl Run Club thrives without a central influencer. Decentralizing the club’s identity, Isabel emphasizes community cohesion over individual prominence.

A growing demand for face-to-face connections

Some organizers unintentionally stumbled upon a need for communal spaces. Emma Oyomba, for instance, garnered a large following on TikTok after sharing stories about loneliness and friendship struggles. In response, she hosted her first gathering, attracting over 130 attendees keen on forging new connections.

Lauren Wolfen and Mady Mai, creators of Camber app, transitioned from a digital mapping tool to organizing physical events in Los Angeles. Their unexpected success underscores the profound yearning for in-person interactions, prompting varied activities to facilitate community building.

While TikTok champions virtual expansion, these grassroots movements prioritize localized gatherings, such as Slow Girl Run Club’s weekly runs, as a means to alleviate loneliness and form genuine relationships.

Advocating for a shift in the social landscape, Isabel expressed hope in reshaping New York’s friendship dynamics through accessible community events. By leveraging social media to discover and engage with local gatherings, individuals now have easier access to meaningful connections and engaging conversations.


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Elena Cavender

Elena is a tech reporter and the resident Gen Z expert at Mashable. She covers TikTok and digital trends. She recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in American History. Email her at[email protected]or follow her@ecaviar_.


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