It's not everyday that you meet people that are worth getting to know. Since I've been in NYC, the number of lasting friendships I've made are few and hard to come by.
Making friends is difficult. As a kid, it was as easy as sharing a desk or cubbie hole in school. BAM! Instant best friends. You both love PB&Js and you hate cleaning your rooms-- it's that simple. Even in college, it was slightly easier than it is now. I spent my freshman year really struggling to find my place, and it took me a solid 2 years to find a wonderful group of friends and an organization that gave me something to be proud of and be a part of. College was full of opportunities to hang out and meet people that were just like you and in the same place. Now, I belong to an undefined and infinite group of 20-somethings in NYC trying to make life happen after going to school for the last 16 years. How can I make friends when I don't even really know what the hell I'M doing? Apparently there is life beyond exams and parties.
Furthermore, I don't feel like many people give "finding friends" a lot of thought. When flipping through magazines and watching TV, it seems that all everyone really cares about is finding a boyfriend or girlfriend. Honestly, I find dating a little less daunting than making friends. This sounds strange, but there are thousands of dating services, advice columns, websites, books, and events dedicated to finding your true love, but fewer for just meeting and connecting with people on a friendship level (and don't try to tell me craigslist's "strictly platonic" section counts, Really.) Dating is straight forward (or it should be at least). "I like you and you seem interesting and really cute. Let's go out on our own and eat." Ever try asking someone out on a platonic friend date (masculine translation: Man date. Still having trouble figuring out the feminine equivilant...)? It's awkward and often creepy. "So would you, um, want to hang out with me later?" "...Why?" "Well, I don't know, you seem nice and you're wearing a Radiohead t-shirt... I think we would get along." This is usually met with a "Who are you again?" and "I'm not gay." or "I have a girl/boyfriend."
In fact, last year, a friend of mine convinced me to do the unthinkable. Join OkCupid. You can wipe that look of disgust and shock off your face now. Did you know that it's considered socially acceptable to meet people online now? I didn't. So out of curiousity and as some sort of social experiment, I joined, filled out a profile, posted pictures, and waited. The results were pretty horrible. You get messages from creepy people that think comments like "U hot" are effective. Then when you read someone's profile that you think might be cool, send them a harmless message, they never reply. (To make things worse, you can see who has been looking at your profile so when you don't get a message back, it's a whole new level of rejection.) On top of that, I had to answer HUNDREDS of questions in order to make my "matches" more "accurate" (note: pardon my excessively use quotations...) Questions like, How often do you shower? Is it important to you? What do you think about monogymous relationships? How important is it to you? How important is religion to you? I understand that these are questions that should be answered in a relationship, but I wouldn't stop dating someone because they had a different religion or one of their favorite movies is 2012 (well, maybe I would...). There are always exceptions because it's a relationship-- you make compromises and you shouldn't care about petty shit like whether they like cats or whether they read the same authors. Also, the "how important is it to you?" question is completely arbitrary-- Are people so unlikely to change their opinions and preferences that you answer these questions before even meeting the person?
After I deleted my account shortly after joining, I realized that I wasn't really looking for something all that romantic after all. I was simply looking for friendship and, sadly, OKcupid doesn't really offer a non-creepy/awkward alternative. There are so many ways to make friends, but, in my opinion, it can't be as simple as joining a website. I'm a huge fan of what technology has done for our generation and the way we communicate, however, having direct contact with someone is something that can never really be replaced. By being physcially present for a date, mandate, hang out, or whatever is saying that you are willing to put in the same effort as the other person to get to know them and like them for reasons besides interests in The Beatles or Indian food.
When I say this, I'm telling myself and anyone else that's willing to listen: Stop being a wuss and just ask. Be prepared to meet some really not so cool people as well, because there are a lot of those. But honestly, it seems worth it to dig through all the dirt and mud to find gold. You really learn so much from just talking to people-- especially people that aren't like you. A part from the possible awkward conversation and nervous tension, having someone to depend on and talk to as a friend is priceless. Don't make romantic relationships out to be the most important thing in your life, because that's bullshit. It's your family and friends that are going to be around for the long run and you're never going to meet wonderful and interesting people if you don't just ask. And for those being asked, don't be weirded out-- if anything, you should feel incredibly flattered that this person just wants to talk and hang out.
Dating is lovely and fun, but it's even more exciting to truly and honestly get to know someone for who they are and appreciate just that.