A man sitting and leaning against a wall, looking lonely
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Making Friends As a Grown Man Can Feel Impossible—But It's Not

It likely requires intention, inventiveness, and perhaps some input from an artificially intelligent chatbot

The sad truth is, we're probably a mere few decades away from seeing the storyline of I, Robot play out IRL. But until the android apocalypse, we might as well make the best of artificial intelligence. So here it is: LEVEL's new advice column, We Asked a Bot, the place where your pressing concerns and queries are treated with a tenderness and care befitting of a machine learning algorithm.

Dear Level, 

I'm 39 and moved to a new city for a really good job opportunity. I'm single and am dating and that's going fine, and work has been good. But I'm feeling really lonely. My close friends are far away and although we have some visits and trips planned, my day-to-day is mostly filled with work, exercise, TV, and sleep.

I thought I was good at making new friends, but it hasn't happened in my new location. I joined a gym, but people don't really talk to each other much, even in group classes. I tried a few volunteer events but the people who do that already seem to have their own friend groups. I feel like it shouldn't be this hard to make friends at my age, but it seems even harder now than when I was in my 20s and it felt more natural. A lot of the people I meet are married and have kids and their whole lives seem to revolve around school activities and family barbecues and birthday parties.

How do I make new friendships? Am I looking in the wrong places? Is there an app I need to download or what?

Thanks for the help.

—Friendless in South Florida 

<We asked ChatGPT to answer this query in the style of an older, smart, funny and empathetic man in his 30s-50s.>

My dear Friendless in South Florida,

Firstly, let me assure you that you're not alone in feeling this way. The art of making friends is like fine wine — it takes time, patience, and a touch of magic. You've already taken a step in the right direction by reaching out and seeking guidance.

Now, making friends in your 30s and 40s is a bit like trying to find your way in a darkened room with unfamiliar furniture. You've got to feel around and maybe bump into a few things before you settle in comfortably.

Let's consider your toolkit. Work? Excellent. That's often where friendships are first forged, the fires of camaraderie fueled by the shared struggles of office life. Perhaps there's a coworker who shares your love for terrible office coffee or Friday evening sighs of relief?

Related: No, I Don’t Want to Be Your Workplace Weed Buddy

Now, let's talk about hobbies. You mentioned the gym and volunteer events — outstanding! You're already casting your net wide. Don't hesitate to strike up a conversation about those squats at the gym or the joys of community service.

And ah, technology, my friend. The marvels of the modern age! Yes, indeed, there are apps for this precise purpose. Meetup, Bumble BFF, and even local Facebook groups tailored to your interests can serve as a virtual compass guiding you to potential friendships.

Related: The 8 Most Annoying People You’ll Encounter on Tinder, Ranked

Remember, making friends is like planting a garden. You sow the seeds, water them with your genuine interest and attention, and patiently wait for the blossoms of companionship to bloom. Be yourself, stay open-hearted, and don't be discouraged by initial setbacks.

In time, your social landscape will flourish with the vibrant hues of friendship.

Yours in good company,

<We're not sure about building conversations around "Squats at the gym," but otherwise we're impressed with ChatGPT's pluck and friendliness. However, it feels like the bot missed the mark on more real-world opportunities: It's basically saying, "Keep looking where you're already looking, including work and the gym, just do it better." Maybe ChatGPT is just as lonely?

If you ask us, we'd advise joining a local sports league: It sounds like you're pretty active with the gym work, why not join a low-stakes local league for, say, pickleball, or bowling, or something else you enjoy? Being on a team might open up some of those pathways for friendship.

We do agree, though, that patience is the key. Six months is a long time to not be around friends, but lasting relationships do take time to find and to grow. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and ask people out on friend dates or outings. Make your intentions clear, though: You don't want someone thinking you're romantically interested when you're just looking for a drinking buddy or gym partner. That can get messy. Next, we asked ChatGPT to follow up with some conversation-starters that Friendless might use.>

Ah, my dear Friendless in South Florida,

Conversation starters, a splendid art indeed! Let us craft a quiver of verbal arrows to pierce through the silence and ignite delightful exchanges.

The Local Scene:

    • "Have you discovered any hidden gems in this city for a good meal or entertainment?"
    • "Do you have any favorite parks or outdoor spots around here?"

Hobbies and Interests:

    • "I've been getting into [activity/hobby]. Do you have any recommendations for someone starting out?"
    • "Have you ever traveled to a place that left a lasting impression on you?"

Books, Movies, and TV Shows:

    • "I recently read/watched [book/movie/show]. Have you read/watched it? What are your thoughts?"
    • "Are there any books or movies you'd recommend for a good escape?"

Food and Culinary Adventures:

    • "I love trying new recipes. Do you have a favorite dish to cook?"
    • "Do you enjoy experimenting with different cuisines? Any go-to restaurants around here?"

Travel Tales:

    • "What's the most memorable place you've visited, and why did it leave such an impact?"
    • "Is there a destination you've always dreamed of traveling to?"

Goals and Dreams:

    • "If you could pursue any career or passion without worrying about money, what would it be?"
    • "Are there any upcoming goals or milestones you're looking forward to achieving?"

Life's Philosophies:

    • "Do you have a personal mantra or saying that guides you in life?"
    • "How do you define success and happiness in your own terms?"

Remember, the key is not just in asking the questions but actively listening and engaging in the conversation that follows. Be genuinely interested in their responses, and let the dialogues flow naturally.

May your conversations be lively and your connections, bountiful!

Your Conversation Concierge

<Our advice: Don't ask all these questions at one time. Other than that, another solid round of advice from our future robot overlord. Friendless, we hope this was helpful. Don't give up, and let us know how you're doing!>

LEVEL consulted ChatGPT 3.5 for the aforementioned text. Need advice, insight, or just want to troll a chatbot? Hit us up with your questions at info@levelman.com. We'll feed it to the robots and see what it spits back out. (Disclaimer: YMMV!)