We were at a local restaurant for dinner with our closest couple friends, enjoying a rare evening of adult conversation while the kids stayed home. As we compared notes on our jobs, kids and sex lives (like I said, close friends), I found myself looking wistfully at the table next to hours, where four women made up a Sex and the City quartet huddled in an intimate conversation. How long had it been since I went out with a gang of women myself?
Friendship isn't one thing. Even if you have satisfying one-on-one visits with your BFF, or a few great couples with whom you and your sweetie socialize, you may be missing group friendships. Or you may have friends who are great for a wild night out but miss that trusted confidante. Know the balance of friendship types and friendship time that makes you happy, and you'll be better able to create that social life by cultivating current or new relationships online.
It's Saturday night, and as my husband and I banter across Twitter, we're joined online by friends who weigh in on our latest debate and tease us for our geekiness. If we had found a sitter, we'd be at a party across town, but once again we're confined to quarters, where socializing via Twitter serves as the next best thing. For those times when you know what kind of social life you want, but budget, time or logistics make it impossible, the Web can be a great pinch hitter. Maybe your ideal night out is a hockey game and a trip to a bar—but you know you'll still have to wake up at 6 with your toddler. Watch the game at home on HD while you commiserate over that rotten play via chat or Skype™. Maybe you'd like to spend more time with your BFF, but your husband finds her husband dead boring. Invite them over for a night of Wii gaming, and let the guys play Guitar Hero while you and your pal catch up.
If these tips sound like they're more about emotional intelligence than tech know-how, you're catching on. The secret to a satisfying social life online doesn't lie in which network you join or how cool your profile page looks—it's about using social networks to reflect and amplify the way you connect with your friends.
And as your BFF can already tell you, you've got that down cold.
Alexandra Samuel, PhD, is the director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University and the principal of Social Signal, a social media agency that has launched more than 30 online communities. The mother of two young kids, Samuel blogs about how to make technology a meaningful part of your life, work and world. Follow her on Twitter.