Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Sanchita Saha, founder of CitySocializer app. Citysocializer helps people connect IRL (in real life) with other locals and newcomers to a particular city. Local ambassadors organize events and group activities that can help connect you with likeminded people.
CitySocializer has been around for 11 years now. I wanted to ask Sanchita on what she learned all those years about friendship and socializing.
Note: We previously mentioned CitySocializer in our article on Apps For Meeting People and Making Friends.
Interview with Sanchita Saha, Founder of CitySocializer
Paul Sanders: Now that Citysocializer is 11 years old, can you tell us what you learned about adult friendship in general?
Sanchita Saha: Adult friendship is different from children’s or even university students’ friendship. When you’re growing up you become friends with the people you’re around, classmates, etc. As an adult your preferences change, you want friends who share the same interests, the more you discover what you like as a person the more important it becomes to find like-minded friends.
You may be into dancing or extreme sports or want to find friends to travel with. This is more important than just having someone to go to the pub with and so it takes a bit more time and effort. Services like citysocializer are helpful because you can find a range of different things to do, sports, music, art, etc so as you do activities you like, you meet people who are there because they also enjoy the same things as you.
Another issue adults need to consider, especially in big cities like London, is that it’s not as easy to go up to someone and ask them to be friends like you’d do as a kid. We try to navigate social situations in a way that distances us from others, to make sure we do not seem vulnerable but in the end we end up feeling lonely for the most part. When you meet people through a citysocializer social that barrier is already down, you know you are all there to make friends which makes it easier to skip that part and move right to getting to know each other better.
Paul: Are you of the opinion that we’re becoming more and more disconnected or isolated, and that loneliness is increasingly becoming an issue?
Sanchita: The desire to connect with people is still there, but it may not always be as easy. Work and family responsibilities can get in the way of meeting your existing friends as much as you would like and it’s important to be able to have a social life on your terms. We see a lot of members joining when their friends start settling down and can’t go out as much as before. Then the single friends end up out of the loop in a way and need to get out and meet more people to create a new social circle.
We also see a lot of members who work long hours or don’t have a steady schedule joining us, because they are always booking on socials last minute, as their schedule changes. We spend hours at work or commuting or taking care of responsibilities, and it’s easy to forget how important it is to find time for yourself, to go out have fun and enjoy life. In the end you end up alone on a Saturday night watching tv thinking you’d rather be out but you haven’t made any plans. That’s where we come in, because all you need to do is go online or open the app, check what socials are happening, and book on something to go out, sure that it’s going to be a good night.
Paul: Can you tell us about any significant experiences of successful friendships that got created through the Citysocializer app and platform?
Sanchita: Over the years we’ve seen a lot of people becoming friends on the site. We have seen members who met, fell in love and got married, We’ve had baby photos sent to us and tweets right from the church on their wedding day. We know a lot of our members who are friends now and travel together or go to festivals and people who have moved in together and are best friends.
Sometimes our members will write to us about it and let us know what difference citysocializer has made in their lives. Here’s an example from one of our members, Helen. It is one of our favourite times to get these messages and see the people whose lives we’ve impacted.
Paul: From your perspective, what are the key factors behind creating meaningful new friendships (inside and outside Citysocializer)?
Sanchita: Being yourself is very important. You want to find like minded people and the best way to do so is to let people know you. Talk about the things you’re passionate about, don’t be afraid to express your opinions and suggest doing things you love. Treat others with kindness; be respectful and listen to what people have to say. We recently went out in London and asked people for their advice on making friends and through the chats we had with them, everyone said how important it is to treat others the way you want to be treated.
In terms of more practical advice, when you meet someone it helps a lot to find out what their interests are and try to arrange doing an activity together in the near future. Going to a movie, dinner, seeing an exhibition; don’t be afraid to make an effort for the friendship. Good friends are precious so you need to work to build your friendship, show that you care and be there when your friends need you.
Paul: What should a new user expect when joining Citysocializer, in terms of improvements to their social life? Does it depend on where they live?
Sanchita: New members can get a lot of value from joining citysocializer, but in a lot of cases it depends on how much they want to use the website. if you wanted you could be out doing fun things every night, meeting 100s of new people and going from not knowing anyone to knowing everybody in just a couple of weeks. It really depends on your schedule. What is also important is the quality of the connections and the activities that you have. You could be going to the pub for drinks every time but you also have the opportunity to do so much more.
You can try new hobbies, we’ve had members do indoor climbing, musical theatre, painting. We have ongoing book clubs, picnics in summer and day trip to other cities. Our members visit museums and even get together to help others. We have charity runs and one of our hosts who is a nurse, helped gather second hand clothes for the local hospital through a social. Citysocializer changes your social life in terms of convenience of going out – always something going on -, the variety of activities – giving you the opportunity to try new things – and even helps you become a better person by meeting different kinds of people, learning about other cultures and have new experiences.
Regarding where they live, bigger cities will have more activities available, but even in our regional cities across the UK, there is always a good choice of activities to try out. However, for us it’s more important to connect with other people so whether you are indoor skydiving or just having a game of bowling and a walk in the park, the conversations with the other members you’ll meet and the friendships that will be created through them are what is going to make a social a success and that can be anywhere.