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Calgary woman turns to TikTok to organize a successful friend meetup

Lauren Rutherglen says meeting people has been a challenge since she moved to the city

Lauren Rutherglen organized a friend meetup hoping to meet new people and make new connections in the city. // Submitted

A young Calgarian organized a friend meetup that brought over 100 people looking to make new friends.

Lauren Rutherglen is in her mid-20s and moved to Calgary about a year and a half ago.

She’s enjoyed exploring the city and attending events, but finding a friend group to do it with was a challenge.

This prompted her to take to TikTok and organize an afternoon in Prince’s Island Park on May 21 where young Calgarians could gather and meet each other.

The struggle of making friends

Rutherglen says that unless you have a crutch like school or a social job, it’s quite difficult to meet new people.

“I've lived in a lot of places for school and then I've moved around in gap years, and I find that being new to a new city is always intimidating, especially if you don't know at least one person,” she says.

In addition to the intimidation of meeting new people, Rutherglen says the impact of COVID made matters worse.

“After restrictions were lifted, it was kind of awkward to socialize with people. I was in my mid-20s and I just kind of forgot how to make friends and how to carry a normal conversation.”

She is not alone in feeling this way, as many young people have struggled with loneliness and anxiety in recent years.

In a Statistics Canada survey published in November 2021, more than one in 10 Canadians aged 15 and older said they always or often felt lonely.

Additionally, data published in February of 2023 from Mental Health Research Canada says 10 per cent of Canadians face high levels of anxiety and another 35 per cent say they experience medium levels.

A successful meetup

To her surprise, Rutherglen’s friend meetup attracted over 100 people to the park.

“I thought it might be like 15 or 20 people,” she says.

“A lot of them were saying that they moved here and that their social circle was only school, but school was coming to an end, or they just recently moved here and they don't have something like school or a social job.”

However, not everyone in attendance was new to the city.

“A lot of people said that they've lived in Calgary for forever and just really wanted an opportunity to expand their social circles and meet new people.”

Of everyone in attendance, about 60 people showed up solo.

Rutherglen says there were others who messaged her afterwards saying they came but were still too nervous to join due to anxiety. She encourages those people to try again.

“Everyone’s in the same boat of being nervous and wanting to meet new people, so just go for it and take the chance,” Rutherglen adds.

Calgary’s new Picnic Club

Rutherglen says the pressure is on for her to host another meetup in the future, which she hopes to do, but she also says there are other events like hers happening around the city.

Picnic Club YYC is a new group that plans to hold its first bi-weekly picnic on June 4 at Stanley Park. Picnic Club hopes to build community and foster friendships in a safe, inclusive environment.

The picnics will feature yard games and music to enjoy, and attendees are welcome to bring snacks and drinks for themselves or to share.

Morgan Gathercole, a founding member alongside Yuot Tut, says she hopes to see people feeling comfortable and connecting with each other while enjoying the summer.

“I really didn’t expect there to be so much interest this fast, but I think it really shows how much people are looking to connect with each other,” Gathercole says.

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