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How to Meet New People, Even at a Distance

Marissa Verson Harrison, a mother and advocate for more humane technology who lives in Oakland, Calif., similarly craved person-to-person conversation. After learning about Living Room Conversations, Ms. Harrison joined a discussion on what it means to be “alone,” and found it a refreshing break from social media and broadcast news. “A lot of what’s happening right now is you’re either screaming into the void, or you’re responding to other people screaming into the void,” she said.

Determined to help her family and friends experience deeper connections, Ms. Harrison hosted a Living Room Conversation on “Technology and Relationships” and called the experience “magical.” “Everyone left saying, ‘OMG, I have not been able to have these kinds of conversations’,” she said. They appreciate having found a place “where people can express themselves and listen to others without any agenda.”

There’s a science to that “magic,” Dr. Aron said. “When you have questions that encourage responsiveness, it creates an opportunity to show you care, and lots of research shows that feeling you’re being heard is key to creating closeness.”

Of course, there are also ways to connect without baring your soul. Some outgoing types don’t hesitate to post fliers around their neighborhoods to organize creative, socially distant ways to meet up with neighbors the old-fashioned way — in person — such as a dog parade, curbside cocktails, a garden tour. But not everyone is inclined to be an organizer.

That might explain the popularity of a New York-based MeetUp group called “I wanted to do that … just not alone!” Through the group’s online portal, organizers plan bike rides, park outings and other events for anyone seeking both adventure and company.

Shawn Jobe, a Queens resident and the group’s main organizer, says his involvement began 10 years ago with a revelation. “I was in school and working, and one of my bosses recommended MeetUp because he saw that I had no life,” Mr. Jobe said with a chuckle. “So by overtaking the planning of this group, it’s held me accountable to dedicate a chunk of my time to socializing.”

Mr. Jobe, who has helped the group grow from roughly 400 members to nearly 24,000, says most members are not originally from the area, or have otherwise lost their network. “Everyone is there to meet new friends, so it kind of puts everyone on equal footing,” said Mr. Jobe, who has met many of his own close friends, including a current roommate, through the group.

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