Is It Possible To Make Meaningful Friendships On Instagram?

Research shows that friendships are the number one life factor contributing to optimal health and longevity. But, unlike other health fads and supplements, you can't purchase friendships at the pharmacy. You have to build them. But how exactly does one do that in adulthood and the digital age?


As an adult, you're no longer forced to attend classes with the same people every day, and often your friend groups from school scatter due to life changes. Creating a new social circle in adulthood can be difficult. Many turn to social media to fill the void, but this also has its pitfalls as many of us have found that social media makes us feel lonelier rather than more connected. 

However, in a study published by Current Opinion in Psychology (via ScienceDirect), psychologists at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research found that this is most prevalent in users who passively engage with their feeds. In contrast, users who actively comment and respond to other users are shown to feel more connected to others. 


Social media apps like Instagram can be an excellent tool for meeting new people, but can you really make meaningful friendships on the app? Yes, but it will take some work.

The friend hunt

So, where does one even start? Like you would in real life, scope out who seems like-minded. With Instagram, this is easier to figure out than ever. People have curated their feeds to give you a little sample of exactly what they're about, or at the very least, what they want to be about.


Harvard Business Review's Ascend recommends that you search for groups that you are genuinely interested in. Whether you're obsessed with ceramics, pilates, or dog walking, there are pages dedicated to almost anything you could be passionate about. Use hashtags and location searches to discover communities of people who care about the same things as you do.

Perhaps you follow someone you barely know due to mutual friends and just have a feeling you'll get along. You could share a similar passion or style. Or maybe you find their comments and captions relatable. Whoever they are, if you believe you could be a good platonic match, there's no harm in following that instinct.

Reaching out

So you've done your research, and there's an Instagram user you'd want to get to know better. Perfect, it's time to reach out. If you've never interacted with them, start off slowly by commenting on their posts or responding to their stories. This is a great way to show some interest and get an idea of whether or not the interest is mutual.


Once you've built up a bit of familiarity, shoot them a direct message if you're comfortable with it. Remember to put yourself in their shoes; you're an internet stranger. Try your best to come across as warm and avoid anything pushy sounding. If you are true to yourself, this will hopefully come easily. Comment on something you have things to say about and ask questions you're curious about, but don't try to rush things. "Avoid trying to create a close friendship too quickly. Respect the natural rhythm of getting to know someone," says relationship coach Claudia Cox told Mic.

Nonetheless, don't overthink it. Anxiety around messaging is super real. You'd rather say something a bit dorky than nothing at all. And again, remember these people are human with anxieties of their own. As the old platitude goes, you're usually your worst critic.


Meeting IRL

If you've been messaging back and forth, you and your Insta bestie could be a great fit off the gram. Bustle disclosed a great tip they got from Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., a psychologist specializing in friendship: Once you've reached this friendship stage, you should exchange phone numbers and begin texting instead. A simple "Hey, want to text instead of dm?" is a great way to inch your friendship towards something that branches out of the app. When it makes sense, ask them if they'd want to do something in person. If they seem enthusiastic and on board, propose a plan. So that you both feel safe, choose something to do in a public space, like grabbing a coffee.


It's also a great idea to think of something that aligns with your shared interests. Maybe there's a new yoga studio you want to try or an anime film you want to see. If you know they'd be interested, invite them to join you. This is a great, subtle way to show you want to meet in person. And if you have an activity to do, it can alleviate some of the awkwardness you might feel with someone unfamiliar. If awkward moments do arise, let them roll off your back. Again try to remember you're human, and so are they.

Be picky with your friends

Once you've spent some time with this person, you'll get a sense of whether or not they are someone you want to continue to build a friendship with. You can be critical as you think about scheduling another friend date. There are tons of people out there, and many of them would make great companions for you. Check that you're not settling for someone who isn't a great fit. Otherwise, you might be forging a friendship for the wrong reasons.


In an interview with Nylon, Shasta Nelson, author of "Friendships just Don't Happen!," explains that "the relationship needs to feel enjoyable. You need to feel more good than bad after we hang out with each other."

So ask yourself, did this person make you feel comfortable? Did you find the conversation stimulating? If not, it might not be a good match, and that's 100% okay. What isn't super okay is making room for someone in your life just because you're afraid to let them down. Remember, your time is valuable, and you want to ensure you fill it with people and activities that lift you up.

Making a lasting friendship

If you got along great and enjoyed your time, make sure to continue putting effort into the friendship. One of the main reasons it's hard to make friends as an adult is that we're all busy. Between work, family, and self-care — making friendship a priority is no easy task. But showing someone you care and that they can trust you is vital to making a meaningful friendship. According to social psychologist Serena Chen in a conversation with The New York Times, "a key to close friendship is intimacy, and a big part of intimacy is being able to be fully yourself and be seen and understood by others."


Psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Amir Levine revealed five things any good relationship needs. In evaluating your new friendship, you should ask yourself if they provide the following: "Consistency (Do these friends drift in and out of my life on a whim?); Availability (How available are they to spend time together?); Reliability (Can I count on them if I need something?); Responsiveness (Do they reply to my emails and texts? Do I hear from them on a consistent basis?); and Predictability (Can I count on them to act in a certain way?)."

Finding a friend who meets most or all of these elements is essential. And you should hold yourself to the same standards if you feel like you've found a good friend. It can take extra work, but there is nothing better than a healthy, loving friendship. Who knows, your newest bestie could just be one Insta DM away.