Making friends as an adult can feel all but impossible, especially if you live in a small town where you struggle to find anyone on your wavelength. Because of this, many of us head online and join sites and communities in the hopes of coming across some like-minded people who are into the same things as you. The benefits of online friendships are well-documented, with studies showing that they’re just as important to our emotional and mental well-being as face-to-face ones. But how do we form those connections to begin with? Turns out, it’s more of a numbers game than anything else.
Researchers at Rice University studied six online social networks to discover how users were forming friendships. In the end, what worked was somewhat obvious and pretty simple for almost anyone to follow: it’s not what groups you join, it’s how many. Want to make friends? Get involved as much as possible to up your chances.
As study co-author and assistant professor of computer science Anshumali Shrivastava explained, “If a person is looking for friends, they should basically be active in as many communities as possible. And if they want to become friends with a specific person, they should try to be a part of all the groups that person is a part of.”
In other words, the idea that “birds of a feather flock together” holds strong, Shrivastava says, “and that idea—that people who are more similar are more likely to become friends—is embodied in a principal called homophily, which is a widely studied concept in friendship formation.”
While obviously you shouldn’t pretend to be someone you’re not or have interests that you really don’t, it may be worthwhile to get hyper-involved in your hobbies and truly immerse yourself in communities that focus on them if you want to increase your chances of meeting other, similar people. You never know, you might just meet your new BFF.