Friendships can be one of the toughest relationships to start, especially with mental illness gumming up the works. And the COVID-19 pandemic has created another level of difficulty for this.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can make friends during the pandemic even with your mental illness. Here’s how.
Join a Discord Server
In order to make friends, you need to go where the people are, and the people are online.
During the pandemic, meeting online has become crucial to our success, and online relationships have lost some of their stigma–which I believe is a good thing.
If you’re seeking an online relationship, you can try joining a Discord server.
Discord.com, a chatting service originally intended for gamers, has a variety of “servers”–or groups of people surrounding a theme with defined “channels” to speak in–of all types of interests.
There are over 300 million people around the world on Discord chatting about everything under the sun. If you have an internet connection, you can browse their server guides to find whatever topic interests you. There’s even an app for your phone!
The best part of Discord in my opinion is that relationships happen on your terms. You can choose to engage people or not as frequently as you wish, and you can chat with them on servers to get a bead on them before coming into their DMs, or direct messages.
This is especially helpful for people with social anxiety. I myself very much enjoy being able to think through my messages before I hit the “Enter” key to send them in the chat.
Once you enjoy talking to people on a server, you can make group DMs, too, with up to 10 specific people. If you have more friends than that that you want to chat with all at once, setting up a server of your own is easy.
I love Miraculous Fanworks, a Discord server of over 2300 people focused on producing fanart and fanfiction for the show Miraculous Ladybug. I loved the server so much, I even served as a moderator for almost two years.
And through it I met one of my best friends, whose wedding reception I’ll soon be flying across the country for along with several of our mutual friends that we also met on the server.
As a United States resident on an international Discord server, I’ve met people from:
- New Zealand
- and the Philippines.
The server members speak hundreds of different languages and have taught me something new everyday about their various cultures.
A server is only as good as its people, though, and that goes double for moderators. If the server is disorganized, poorly-run, and/or the moderation team lets toxic behavior go unchecked, leave as soon as you can.
You can always take the friends you’ve made there and make group DMs or servers for yourselves before you leave. Chances are, one of your new friends will have a server made already.
So if you’re ready to make new friends during the pandemic, consider making a Discord account and joining a server based on a show you watch, a sport you like, an activity you enjoy, a mental illness you have, or even a school you attend.
Talk to Your Neighbors
One of the most interesting parts of the pandemic for me has been that my family has been more friendly with our neighbors, and our neighbors have embraced us.
Because of the pandemic, our neighbors spent more time at home outside doing yard work or walking their dogs, and we were able to connect. Going on walks around the neighborhood and opening conversations while standing six feet apart (with smiles!) has paid great dividends.
This past Thanksgiving, on the very hour I had raw bacon straws–puff pastry stripes with cheese wrapped in bacon and coated in thyme and brown sugar–sitting on their cookie sheets on my counters, ready to go, my oven broke.
Because I had an hour and a half until I was supposed to bring the bacon straws to my sister’s house, I ran over to a neighbor, whom I’d only had a casual relationship with, and begged to use his oven to bake my appetizers.
He readily agreed, and graciously and happily spent the next hour entertaining my young daughter with his granddaughter’s toys. I am deeply in his debt, and I hope that he’ll call on me with a favor next time he needs one and I can provide!
So try to overcome your social anxiety if you have it and say hello to your neighbors once in a while. There’s a large chance you can make a friend with the people who live around you, which will help if you ever need to borrow a cup of sugar–or even an oven.
Reconnect with Old Friends
Sometimes, friendships fade.
This is especially true for people who suffer from depression and other self-isolating mental illnesses. We often withdraw from all social contact when we’re feeling rotten, which is the opposite of what we should do.
If you have old friends that you have let fall by the wayside, send one of them a text today. Check up on them and see how they’re doing.
If they want to rekindle the friendship, they’ll let you know by their enthusiastic responses. If they don’t, they’ll likely be awkward and possibly ghost you. Try not to take that personally; like I said, sometimes friendships fade.
Reconnecting with old friends is a great way to reinvigorate a friendship, and though this isn’t making a new friend, not exactly, it can be a shot in the arm for you and hopefully for them, too.
Join a Support Group
This mostly applies to those of us who suffer from mental illnesses, but support groups are a fantastic resource to use when looking for new friends.
Common troubles breed closeness, and inherent in support groups is support. You could find people going through some of the same struggles you are, or people who have conquered those struggles and can help you do the same.
For some tips and resources for online support groups, click here.
Making friends during a pandemic may seem daunting, but if you put yourself out there, you will find people to call your own.
If you’re looking for friends during the pandemic, consider joining a Discord server, reaching out to your neighbors, reconnecting with old friends, and joining an online support group.
Making friends isn’t as difficult as it seems, even with a mental illness. In the future, I will post how to keep those friends, which may be of value to you.
Best of luck making new friends!
I wish you well on your journey.