Creating connections in a digital age is not an easy feat. This past weekend at Her Conference, I had the chance to hear from the founder of Dinner With Friends, Anita Michaud, as she moderated a panel discussion with the founder of No More Lonely Friends, Marissa Meizz, and Miss New York 2022, Taryn Delanie Smith.
After a TikTok about Meizz went viral — with over 14 million views — because her friends had been talking about her behind her back, she wanted to find a way to bring people together after a time of isolation, which turned out to unite over 200 complete strangers all looking for connection.
No More Lonely Friends and Dinner With Friends are bridging the gap of connection and friendships in people of all ages by taking the time to join people together, listen to what they have to say, and accept them for who they are with intimately curated dinners and worldwide meet-ups with people from all walks of life.
Most people have heard of Bumble BFF and every other digital attempt to make connections online and IRL. But Meizz reminded the audience that community is such a different and deeper feeling than it was a few years ago, and that’s OK. Not that long ago, we were confined to our homes, stuck in remote classes, and doing anything and everything to find ways to connect with others. It wasn’t until we couldn’t experience a community that we realized how much we relied on it. Depression and anxiety were at an all-time high and social apps and digital communication skyrocketed. Cue the birth of the digital age and the beginning of a new era.
During that time, all of us craved connection, conversation, and authentic relationships. Personally, I felt so disconnected to the point that I felt as though I wasn’t being seen, heard, or understood. Michaud mentioned that “community means you can show up the way that you want to and show up as your true authentic self.”
“People want to feel seen, heard, and valued just as they are,” Delanie added.
These women are also expanding the definition of community to include care for others beyond personal friendships. The one quote that stuck with me the most during the panel was from Delanie who stated, “The thing about digital communities and the digital age is about giving people access to make a difference.”
When people fall into a cycle of online communities and digital fatigue, they can lose sight of why they are doing something and who they are helping in building community. “Investigate your agenda and your why for taking action,” Delanie advised. “Is someone out there who can do it better or have more resources than you do that you can commit to supporting?” With 393k followers on Instagram and 1.3 million followers on TikTok, Delanie has found ways to use her social media platforms for supporting local shelters, like using TikTok to support a backpack drive for a shelter in the Bronx.
“Your platform is a place where you showcase yourself and have the ability to make a change,” Meizz said, and that’s exactly what these women are doing.
As Michaud said, “Everyone is looking for friendships at every stage of their lives.” It’s hard not to feel the pressure to be perfect or always on your game in hopes of easily making those connections, but we have the power to use our online platforms to show up for ourselves and our communities.