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 FriendshipMillions of women already flock to "mommy sites" that create community between expectant and new mothers, and the many niche motherhood sites (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 OnlineIf you're skeptical of the idea of internet friendship sites, consider this. A 2008 Harris Interactive online survey found that out of 10,000 couples who married in the US during 2006-2007, more met on the internet (19%) than at work (17%) or through friends (17%). For those couples age 45-54, the number that met on the internet was significantly higher (31%).
If the internet has become a valuable tool in forming a sexual connection, couldn't it establish a social connection as well?
Matchmaking GirlfriendsThat'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" StageBlain 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 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 JumpOlder 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.