The “right way” to make friends as an adult

Temi Giwa
Mingle Africa
Published in
5 min readMay 30, 2023

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Photo by Inatimi Nathus on Unsplash

Two years ago I wrote an article titled How does one make adult friends? It was a personal exposé into how I struggled to make friends as an adult without the routines and structures like school and work that help to form deep friendships. I wrote it in a vulnerable moment, posted it here and didn’t think much of it.

So of course, it blew up.

And when it did I found out three things all at once:

  1. I am not good with digital conversations
  2. I am waaaay more socially anxious in my DMs than I am in real life (sorry if I ghosted you)
  3. A LOT of people also feel this way

The first two are silly little things I kinda already knew, but the third one genuinely surprised me. I felt so isolated at that moment that it was surreal to have so many people say my article made them feel seen. And so I did what any good product manager does. I started researching.

And in my research, I found this isn’t just a me problem. It’s a global one and it’s getting worse. A recent study published by The BMJ, estimates that around a third of the population in industrialised countries experience loneliness, and one in 12 people experiences loneliness at a level that can lead to serious health problems. That’s a serious problem.

On a planet of 8 billion people, in an age where you can connect with anyone to date, chat, work or anything else you can think of at the tap of a button, no one should feel lonely. But we do.

It probably comes as no surprise to you that apps are part of the problem, but what you might not know is that another core real reason we feel so isolated as a species is that we are slowly losing what sociologist Ray Oldenburg calls “third spaces”.

Third spaces are locations where we exchange ideas, have a good time, and build relationships. Think religious centres, town halls, libraries, art galleries or small cozy diners and cafés that have a small but regular clientele. These places allowed you to curate friends that shared your interests. You would go and meet the same set of people over and over again and over time you make new friends. Friendships and Relationships created in these spaces happened organically.

But in the age of capitalism, those kinds of physical spaces are disappearing.

On one hand, physical venues like religious centres, cafés, libraries and bars are turning into mega spaces that hold hundreds, sometimes thousands of people. Public spaces are now optimised to get you to get in, get out, spend as much and take as many Instagrammable photos as possible in the shortest amount of time. But there’s a reason they say “The club isn’t the best place to find a lover”. It’s damn near impossible to form a connection with someone if you can’t hear what they’re saying and there are dozens of people around.

Then on the other hand, virtual spaces are heavily focused on trying to make human connection “easier and faster”, trying to solve the loneliness problem with machines and algorithms. But this doesn’t work because niching relationships into categories like dating, professional and social and optimising for 1–1 connections forces people to turn themselves into products, with profiles being the ad you use to sell yourself. It feels forced and inauthentic, which in turn makes it hard for the majority of people to form real human connections, especially when the next option is a single swipe away.

Everything in our lives is becoming bigger, faster and easier… but relationships by their very nature, are best made when they are small, hard and slow.

No wonder we’re feeling lonelier than ever. Researching about the loneliness epidemic is some of the most disquieting, saddening work I’ve ever done. And the more I researched the more I felt compelled to do something about it.

And with that thought, I decided to figure out a way to create more third spaces so people can connect in meaningful tangible ways. Armed with a dream, I went to one of my best friends Sheila Ojei, a wizard at networking and partnership building and we created:

Mingle: a movement to bring back third spaces

The idea behind Mingle™ is simple. Sheila and I will be hosting a series of “dinner parties” and events for new friends and strangers who also want to be intentional about creating deep and meaningful connections. These events will be structured in a way that encourages sharing and bonding. From fun games to deep dives, we’ll have an intentional agenda to make you feel included and connected.

And as we build our database of Minglers, we’ll create ways for everyone to connect on a regular basis, so you’ll always have someone to call if you want to go to the movies, chat or move to a new city.

My ultimate goal is for Mingle to become a sort of franchise, with hosts setting up chapters all over the world that become the place where people meet their forever friends and partners. But before we get there we have to have our VERY FIRST MINGLE EVENT

To launch Mingle, I’ll be hosting 12 people for a night of dinner, cocktails, drinks, bants, games, icebreakers and bonding. It’s going to be an extremely fun night (think house party with your potential new besties) and I’d like to invite you to join me!

But before you sign up … first there are some rules that each Mingler has to follow.

The rules

  1. It's a paid event: Making it a paid event helps us ensure that people are serious about this. It also helps offset the cost of food, drinks and venue 😉
  2. RSVP is mandatory: We want people who are at a point in their life where they are intentional about making connections. If you RSVP but don’t show you’ll have to take a 3-month break before you can be invited to the next one.
  3. It’s not a party: 12 people at most, we want you to have the opportunity to get to know every single person who comes and the chance to connect properly
  4. New blood preferred: All mingle events are made of at least 50% strangers and no you can’t bring a plus one. Step out of your comfort zone.
  5. No cell phones. At the start of the evening, everyone must put their phones on silent and place them in a bowl at the door. NO EXCEPTIONS.
  6. Singles* over 30 only (FOR NOW): This was the hardest rule for us because I know there are a lot of young and/or married people who are desperately lonely. But for now, we’re focusing on singles in our age bracket that’s where the data shows the biggest need is.
  7. Be intentional, be authentic & be kind: We want to foster relationships and in order to do that we need people to bring their true authentic selves. So leave your judgements at the door and let's create a safe space for every
  8. RELAX and enjoy yourself. Life is short and work is hard. Laugh, Play and forget you’re an adult

That’s it … those are the rules

So if you’re ready to take the first step in building more authentic friendships with new people, CLICK HERE to apply

PS: If you know someone who might be interested or just needs more community, Feel free to share this article with them 🙏🏾

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Temi Giwa
Mingle Africa

I write about starting and growing new things. Mostly around startups and how to build your own. I also have opinions … lots of them … come fight me 🤦🏾‍♀️