How 730DC readers meet and make friends in DC
How You Meet and Make Friends in DC
The secret sauce of coincidence and intention
Last year, the health insurer Cigna conducted a nationwide survey of 20,000 adults across the US and found that about half of Americans consider themselves to be lonely. Another 56 percent added that they sometimes or always felt like the people around them “are not necessarily with them.” And in a twist that should shock absolutely no one who regularly indulges in the let’s-psychoanalyze-millennials genre of contemporary writing, young people are even lonelier than the rest.
730DC conducted an equally rigorous poll of our readers to find out what their social landscape looks like. While some responses align with the hypothesis that we’re all a bit lonely, others remind us that we’re an intuitively social species and we aren’t so bad at finding our people after all.
We asked you two questions: 1) Where do you run into people you know in DC? and 2) Where do you meet new friends in DC?
Your answers were both comforting and creative.
When it comes to running into people you know, you’re on the move and see other people on the move, with the highest percentages of people seeing friends while doing that famous sidewalk dance or in transit. Maybe decreasing social isolation should be another talking point for advocating that WMATA reduce fares and increase service?
The other most common place to see friends? The grocery store. Some of you are ashamed (“Safeway, sadly”), others relish the experience (“Grocery mosh, anyone?”). Next up were the bars, which makes sense since DC has the highest percentage of heavy drinkers of any state, as we’ve written about on our blog. Also, a shocking (to me) number of you see people you know at Earth Treks climbing gym. Judging from your responses, people seem to be climbing not only the wall, but the social ladder as well. With the exception of encounters that take place while moving from point A to point B, most of the responses signaled a dearth of accessible “third places” in DC. Third places are spaces outside of home and work, and ideally they wouldn’t all require consumption (of booze, groceries or an exercise experience) to enter or enjoy. It’s a reminder that something is missing from our civic infrastructure when we have to pay to be in community. (Editor’s note: Malcolm X Park!!!)
As for where you meet new friends, that’s a whole different story. Sadly, not a single person said they met a new friend on the sidewalk. Meeting new people requires some structure, it seems.
The highest percentage of you meet new people at work, (commiserating over collective burnout, maybe?) or through mutual friends.
Our anonymous google form was a space for you to share a slice of your sadness too — a solid percentage of people used this opportunity to ask for inspiration or share their struggles making new friends.
The answers to this eternal quandary might be hidden in the other responses.
Many of you seek out and have success in more structured social spaces like sports teams, classes, meetups and book clubs. Bars make an appearance here too (Showtime!), but more often as regular hangout spots or venues for trivia or themed happy hours.
Beyond the percentages or trends, there are some real gems in here too. One of you meets new friends out birding (interspecies friends?) and a couple of you use the backseat of a rideshare to make a new social connection. A special few of you listed the same places in your responses to both questions, so the next time someone tries to make conversation with you in the Columbia Heights Target, ask them if they read 730DC (there is more than one of you out there!).
People are particular too: one person sees people they know on the 63 bus, but only makes new friends on the 70 bus. Another specifically makes friends while enjoying nachos at Mission in Dupont.
My conclusion? We’re a funky bunch, and it’s worth making eye contact the next time you’re standing next to someone at a house concert. You never know, they might be that person who said they only meet friends at events written up in 730DC.