How to Make Friends During the COVID-19 Pandemic

how to make friends during the pandemic

Verywell / Laura Porter

While some folx may have always found it challenging to make friends, many found the task even more daunting during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to limited social interaction. Even as the world continues to reopen, increases in remote work mean that people's social lives look considerably different.

During times of stress and change, however, it's still possible to engage with others and build friendships—it just may look a bit different than you're used to.

Benefits of Making and Maintaining Friends

A 2018 journal article that measured patterns for how friendships are made and maintained defined friends as the folx with whom lives are shared beyond the casual meeting of strangers, who make an effort to maintain communication, and who feel an emotional bond with each other.

The article also states that friendships "are the single most important factor affecting our health and well-being." This bond can often include family members and romantic partners and folx often invest a great deal into their friendships.

Reconnecting With Old Friends

A 2011 research study of 224 participants in four executive MBA classes across the U.S. and Canada found that reconnecting with old contacts after at least three years provided responses that were considered favorable in terms of novelty, solidarity, comprehension, and efficiency.

Such findings may indicate that there is value in reconnecting with old friends that you've lost touch with. Doing so allows you to build on the connections you once shared.

Additionally, now that more people are using technology to stay connected, it's more likely that your old friends will be equipped with the tools needed to connect with others during this time.

Turning Other Connections into Friendships

A 2020 journal article detailed a qualitative study of folx at a Fortune 500 company (with a largely remote workforce), and noted how its employees were able to transition from coworkers to friends via virtual mediums.

These friendships were built with the following factors in mind:

  • Availability: Do you want to develop a friendship aside from work?
  • Chemistry: Do we actually get along?
  • Trust: Do I feel comfortable with you?
  • Instrumentality: Can this friendship benefit me?

Participants reflected on how they had to be more explicit about their interest in exploring a friendship as there were fewer opportunities for developing that connection when not working together in person.

Such research bodes well for how relationships with coworkers may develop into friendships outside of job responsibilities. It also supports the possibility of engaging in the process of getting to know folx while interacting online.

For example, you might try logging into a virtual arts and crafts event and make an effort to engage with the other attendees. You can also sign up for an online course that may require you to work with your classmates.

Online Community-Building in Activist Spaces

A 2016 journal article delved into a Guatemalan justice movement, Turkish migrants in Sweden, and an online creative space for youth to demonstrate how activist efforts "to uphold the rights of a displaced group within a larger majority that marginalizes them, and as such empowers group members as a space of identity security and collective camaraderie."

With this in mind, getting involved in social justice work may allow you to make friends with others who share your passion for creating and fostering change.

Disability justice activists have relied on online spaces for community building long before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, given that it can be more difficult for folx with disabilities to connect in person when meeting locations are often inaccessible based on their needs.

While you may have different interests, their work of connecting with others remotely can be beneficial to remember in terms of making friends at this time, as online platforms have provided a rare space of connection for some.

Perhaps you can meet other abolitionists attending a virtual event to write letters to incarcerated folx where that common ground can build a friendship.

Maybe you can connect with others in a book club that is devoted to social justice. Online events and spaces are increasingly common, so you may even be able to make friends by volunteering remotely.

Understanding the Role of Perception

A 2018 journal article chronicled how folx underestimated how much others liked them after engaging in conversations, a phenomenon called the "liking gap."

This was apparent among strangers who had connected in the laboratory, between first-year college students interacting with dorm mates, and folx engaging with each other during a personal development workshop.

What Is the Liking Gap?

The "liking gap" refers to how people tend to gauge themselves as being less well-liked following a conversation with others. This perception, however, is often skewed.

If you find that after having a conversation with someone else, you assume that the other person didn't like you, it might be worth remembering that it's possible that you were liked more than you had initially assumed.

Furthermore, the "liking gap" can be amplified when you speak to others through online mediums. For example, a 2014 research study found that communication delays of even 1.2 seconds made people believe that others were less friendly or not as focused on them.

When interacting online, it may help to remember such research because while you might assume that you're not well-liked after a conversation, your assumption might be inaccurate. So try to be gentle with yourself and others when trying to make friends while engaging online.

Factors to Consider When Making Friends

When making the effort to create new or rebuild older friendships, it's worth taking the time to think about what you need out of a friendship. For instance, if you believe that you need shared equity values with others to develop a bond of friendship, then that may be easier to find in an activist space.

If you find that you like to have shared interests and hobbies it might be helpful to meet others who are already involved in the things you enjoy. It is important to note that friendships require consent from all parties and it often takes time to develop trust with new folx.

A Word From Verywell

Changes brought on by world events have created many unique challenges which are bound to impact your life in a variety of ways. That includes how you navigate making friends.

Although it may feel like a lot more work to try to make friends during times of stress, the benefits of feeling connected with others cannot be overstated. When engaging in this process, it may help to consider the ways in which you have already been resilient in the past, as they may provide insights into how you can better navigate making friends remotely.

Even if you never quite got the hang of making friends, it is never too late to explore that, especially considering how friendship positively impacts your mental well-being.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Krystal Jagoo
 Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice.