When Amanda Blain, now 29, graduated and moved from Toronto to Ottawa, Canada, she began working in a series of male-dominated technical IT careers. Although she considers herself outgoing, she found it difficult to find and make new friends with each new situation or life change. So three years ago, she decided to tackle the problem head-on---for herself and other women. She created a new start-up, Girlfriend Social, to harness the power of the internet to help women make new girlfriends. Since its official launch about one year ago, more than 1800 women have signed up for the site from all over Canada, the USA, the UK and even Australia.
"I saw a need for a place where women could go and connect, and knew that I had the ability to create it," says Blain, who has a background in web design and internet marketing. Women pair up with new friends based on the information they post. "With a few simple clicks, you can match with other women in your local area who have kids the same age as yours or who love the twilight book series as much as you do," she says. After women connect online, Girlfriend Social creates opportunities for them to meet face-to-face in safe, friendly event settings that are designed to bridge the connection from online to the real world.
According to Blain, the primary target audience for the new social media site is women who fall in the "M3" category. They include women who have Moved, Married, or are Mothers---but the site attracts women of all different backgrounds and situations who, for whatever reason, feel like they want to have more friends or want to find a new best gal pal. The sponsored monthly events held so far have included pub nights, dog walks, scrapbooking get-togethers, bowling nights, rock climbing, movie nights, and a lobster dinner. "This makes meeting several people at once easier and more relaxed if you're a little shy," she says.
"Although there are many social networks online, most are designed to deal with business networking, dating, or connecting with people you already know," says Blain. "There are very few sites that connect new friends or that are for trying out new hobbies." Use of the site is free, with the costs underwritten by event and webpage sponsors. Blain recently moved to southern California from Canada and is working on expanding the site to major cities in the U.S.
P.S. In addition to GirlfriendSocial.com, several other social media sites that encourage and facilitate platonic friendships among women include GirlfriendCelebrations.com, Girlfriendology.com, GirlfriendCircles.com, GirlfriendsCafe.com and SocialJane.com. Each site has different features.
Caveat: Always check out any site on the internet before you sign up and be cautious in providing personal information to people whom you don't know.
Have a question about female friendships? Send it to The Friendship Doctor.
Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Her new book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, was recently published by Overlook Press. She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog and at PsychologyToday.com.