An Open Letter to Britain’s Loneliest Woman

Emily Fox, 32, describes herself as Britain's Loneliest Woman. (c) Caters

Emily Fox, 32, describes herself as Britain’s Loneliest Woman. (c) Caters

Yesterday I read about Emily Fox, a 32 year old single mum who has dubbed herself Britain’s Loneliest Woman.  The message that it is not just the elderly that suffer from loneliness resonated with many people across the world.  My heart broke when I read her story, so I wanted to write an open letter to her, and anyone else who may feel exactly the same.

Dear Emily.

It takes great courage to admit that you are lonely, and to reach out to people in order to make friends.

I know this, because I have been there too.

Just over 10 years ago, my marriage broke down and I moved halfway across the world from Australia to the UK.  A  father of two and in my thirties,  I didn’t know a single soul in Manchester. 

I could have easily isolated myself and simply gone about my routine.  

Get up, work, watch TV, have a drink, go to bed. Repeat.

Emily says shopping is the only chance she gets to interact with others. But it need not be that way  (c) Caters.

Emily says shopping is the only chance she gets to interact with others. But it need not be that way (c) Caters.

I know many people that shut out their loneliness by doing the same thing.

But I didn’t.  Instead I decided that I was being given a clean slate to find myself and build a dream life.

I know it can be difficult socialising when you have children.

Family comes first in my book. You have three beautiful children, and dedicate your time to them, but there are still lots of things you can do.

You are not the first parent to crave adult conversation, and you will not be the last.

 Family fun days, inviting other parents out for a coffee, or organising a walk in the park with dogs and children will enhance your life and theirs. Even when you are doing the weekly shop, go with someone and chat over the groceries.

Reaching out is the first step.

I know since sharing your story, lots of people have reached out to connect with you.  So your courage in speaking up is already leading you down the path to fulfilling friendships.

Social Media is great for finding like-minded individuals.  Personally, I find that fulfilling friendships are formed from meeting in person. There is something really special when you find a connection with someone who laughs with you and shares your passion in life.

I found great friends  (and my dream career) by reaching out to others.

I found great friends (and my dream career) by reaching out to others.

I put an advert up inviting other professionals to join me for a drink.

“What if no one showed up?”  But they did.  Men. Women. Every single one of them just like you and I.  Craving connection and friendship with others.

My new friends and I went from our weekly Friday night at the pub, to going abseiling in wales to going on holiday together.  I loved every minute.

It was how I founded Social Circle.  Now I have my dream career helping people, just like you, meet new people and find new friends.  I even found the love of my life this way.

Finding friends need not be difficult.  You just have to know where to look.

Finding friends need not be difficult. You just have to know where to look.

It is important to carve out time in your diary for you.

I know you say you don’t have much support, but it is out there. Whether it is an hour or two, use your family, willing friends or a childminder to give you a much-needed couple of hours break from the kids.  Use that time to try out new activities and do the things you have always wanted to do. Don’t feel guilty (or let anyone make you feel that way). Taking time for you is important and benefits the whole family.

Always wanted to paint? Look for art workshops and PopUp painting in your area.

Want to travel?  Learn a language of a country you want to visit.

I promise you will inevitably start making friends with people who share your passion.   

Do you fancy letting your hair down and going out for a drink with a few adults?   There are plenty of ways you can achieve. Start looking for groups like Social Circle – or do what I did. Start your own.

I wish you the best of luck Emily, now is the time for a glorious new beginning filled with friendship and fun.

Lots of Love.

Steve x

Cuffing Season: The Survival Guide for Singles.

Brace yourselves. Its cuffing season and annoying couples are everywhere.

Brace yourselves. Its cuffing season and annoying couples are everywhere.

I love autumn.  Out come the chunky knits, long boots and I can kick at the fallen leaves whilst drinking my pumpkin spice latte.  But it also brings another horror alongside Halloween; Loved up couples are f*cking everywhere. Its cuffing season and if you are Single AF like me then you need a survival guide to get through it.

To the uninitiated, cuffing season is a phrase used to describe that time of year where our biological hardwiring makes us want to settle down and find a significant other.

It’s really is a thing.

Everywhere, newly ‘cuffed’ couples are changing their relationship status on Facebook and looking at each other with that dewy eyed look of love, and taking cute couple-y pictures.

 Why am I so bitter?  

Because I am uncuffed, and the person I want to be cuffed to, after telling me he did not want anything serious  is  now cuffed to someone else. Facebook status and all.  FML.

I am perfectly prepared to accept the fact that my laments as a singleton are borne out of a deep desire to be with my one true love.  But hey, I deal with my pain with humour m’kay.

The reality is that despite the thousands of apps and dating sites,  it can be difficult to find the right person. Just before Halloween my friend, Natalie, called me in floods of tears having been unceremoniously dumped by a man I was convinced was going to propose to her.

I took my resentment out on cuffed up couples on the dance floor at Ultimate Power. Everytime they got in our way with their kissing and squeezing of each others butts  I walloped them over the head with an inflatable microphone.  Fortunately, they were so into each other no one hit me back.

Cuffing season also brings the desperate and needy to your door.

 I have been online dating for a while and recent weeks saw me hit record numbers of messages and likes from various men.  I chatted to a few but the desperation was evident. It got creepy. From the guy photo-shopping pictures of me to the one talking about meeting his family and going on holiday before we had even met.  I decided that being single is better than cosying up to the insides of a body bag.

So I was left with one option.  I had to choose to be happy and in love with life.

Whether I was cuffed or not.

So I needed a plan.

Be grateful for everything you do have.

Be grateful for everything you do have.

Cuffing Season Survival Tip #1: Take stock of what you DO have.

If you are reluctantly single, it can be easy to focus on the one thing you lack: A relationship.   Law of attraction principles state what you focus on brings more of the same. So if you focus on your lack of a relationship you will forever remain single. It figures.  Even if you don’t buy into The Secret and all that.  Focusing on what you lack rather than what you have makes you miserable.

So I decided I needed to shift my focus from being single to all the areas where things are going extraordinary well.

If you live in Manchester, with its relatively low cost of living and have a good job, you can have a great life.  For example, I live in a stunning apartment in media city, enjoy my work as a lawyer, have a side hustle as a blogger and novelist, travel when I want and enjoy a hosting a variety of activities with Social Circle.  I look better than I have ever done and I am fit and healthy. Any of those things could be taken from me at a moments notice.

So its wise to look at your life with gratitude and not focus on the things you don’t have.

Because really, being single does not prevent me from the privilege of having a good quality life.  

Word from the wise.  If you are not happy with any aspect of your life- apart from being single – then it makes sense to deal with that area.

Work on giving yourself a rich and fulfilling life and indulge your interests.  Start that fitness regime, start writing that book, learn cake decorating, plan your travels. You don’t need to wait to share your interests with your perfect someone. In fact being single is the perfect time to try all those things you always wanted to try.

Spending time with friends & family in nature is good for the soul.

Spending time with friends & family in nature is good for the soul.

Cuffing Season Survival Tip #2: Focus on Friends and Family.

One of the reasons being single can be hard at times is that we are social creatures by nature.  There is a wealth of evidence to suggest those with strong social networks live longer.

But you don’t need a romantic relationship to enjoy the health benefits.  

The great thing about autumn and winter is the opportunity to connect with friends and family. 

Football season has brought with it the opportunity to spend time with my dad and go to my first football match. I am not a football fan, but I love my dad and will relish the time spent with him. Hey I may even enjoy it!    I met up with new friends to go walking in Heaton Park and enjoyed a vegan picnic. Both allowed me to take part in important parts of my friends and families lives and expand my own horizons.

FYI spending time in nature is great for the soul. Why not join me for a jaunt in Styal Woods?

So go out with friends to a film or even join your fellow single social circlers in laughing at how  awful dating can by joining us for True Dating Stories.  If you are watching the pennies ahead of Christmas check out last weeks blog for Socialising on a Shoestring.

But if all that activity is not beating the Singletons blues, then you need the ultimate antidote to loneliness.

Single? You got to Love yourself baby.

Single? You got to Love yourself baby.

Cuffing Season Survival Tip # 3: Love Yourself.

I am perfectly aware that you have just rolled your eyes at this bit.

I do too every time I see this advice.

Why ?

Because what does that actually f*cking mean? 

I wasn’t sure myself. Not really.  

Which is why I was chasing after love externally.  I didn’t know how it felt to love yourself.

I have been breaking through some bad habits with hypnosis and came across a download called ‘How to love Yourself’ .   It is amazing!

In essence, loving yourself involves having a relationship with yourself that you would envisage with another.  One that is fulfilling and playful where you are loyal and kind to yourself.  Be compassionate if you do fall back into bad habits. Apologise if you do criticise yourself too harshly. You are whole and unique regardless of whether you are in a relationship or not.

It’s amazing how such a simple shift in mindset has a profound effect on my mood and the way I go about my life.   I am now starting the day with the thought;

What is the most loving thing I can do for myself today?

Here is what that looks like in practice.

  • I went to the gym, and I have had my hair done,  because those things felt good.
  • De-cluttering my apartment.  Not because anyone may drop around – although they do! – but because I value how good I feel when everything is tidy.
  • Saying ‘No’ to needless expenditure because I am now focused on my long term financial security.
  • Dealing with the pile of paperwork regarding taxes I have been ignoring for months.
  • I gave myself a genuine compliment when I looked in the mirror.
  • Buying books on politics  because I am interested in the subject.

Now previously, I may have forced myself to do those things because it looks good on my relationship CV, but not really immersed myself in them.  My motivation to find a relationship was so strong, I was ignoring how much I enjoyed those activities.  I have started to recognise little acts of self-love – such as buying myself flowers or having a lazy lie in – rather than feel guilty about it. 

In short, I was putting the prospect of a relationship before myself.

Not healthy.  

This was also the real source of my pain and angst at being single.

So trust me on this. Regardless of your age, gender, ethnicity or current relationship status.

Learn to Love yourself.  It is the only way to survive and thrive if you are single.

25 Thrifty Ways to Socialise on a Shoestring

There are very thrifty ways to Socialise on a Shoestring.

There are very thrifty ways to Socialise on a Shoestring.

 

As Christmas approaches, it is natural to be feeling the pressure to both socialise and watch our pockets so we can afford presents for our friends and family.  We have to admit that we are no strangers to putting a round on the credit cards at times. But given we all need to watch the pennies, we came up with 25 Thrifty Ways to Socialise on a Shoestring.

Debt at Christmas time is a serious issue.  One third of british households put Christmas on Credit, with many falling behind on essential household bills. The problem we found is that much of the advice out there says ‘ cut down on socialising’.  Well Okay maybe you want to spend the Christmas season watching old movies in your pyjamas. But for those of us who like to get social, the current advice on being frugal is frustrating.

Follow our handy guide and enjoy time with friends without the fear of those awkward phone calls to your credit card company. Psst – We even have a little bonus tip right at the end.

Love cinema? Skip the popcorn for a pocket friendly trip.

Love cinema? Skip the popcorn for a pocket friendly trip.

Thrifty Theatre & Film Lovers

  1. Invite your friends round to watch a classic film at yours. Do what we do and get everyone to vote on what film they want to watch.
  2. Skip the popcorn and drinks bought at the cinema and take your own.
  3. Take advantage of discounted cinema tickets such as Meerkat Movies or look out for price drops earlier in the week.  If you really want to see the latest blockbusters then click here.
  4. Go to a film festival.  You get to see new and independent films and often the tickets are much cheaper than your standard blockbuster movies.  
  5. Sign up for the mailing list at your favourite theatres and get notified when there is discounted tickets to big shows.  The Lowry offers £5 tickets to locals, but you have to grab them whilst you can!
You can save money when out for drinks.

You can save money when out for drinks.

The Drinks are on Us.

  1. Have a wine and cheese party at home where people bring their own.  Set the maximum expenditure as £10 and vote on your favourite wine.
  2. Head to a bar that offers a deal on your favourite tipples, look out for extended happy hours or bottles.
  3. Have a Cheap Challenge on any bar crawl.   You set a budget for the evening and see how many drinks you can have within your budget.  Winner gets any spare change, or a drink bought by the others. You would be surprised how competitive it gets!
  4. Have a mix and match party, get everyone to bring a spirit and mixer (again set a budget) and have fun making your own cocktails.
  5. Limit how much you have.  It sounds simple, but just a one or two drinks followed by soft drinks means you get to socialise, keep a clear head and money in your pocket.
Be a frugal foodie by hosting dinner parties.

Be a frugal foodie by hosting dinner parties.

Frugal Food Lovers.

  1. Order water for the table.  Drinking water helps curb your appetite and will save you pounds and calories from overeating.
  2. Share!  Again another simple tip but ordering shareable dishes splits the costs.  Alternatively, choose mini desserts alongside coffee to reduce the bill.
  3.  Have a potluck supper.  Winter is great for having an at home dinner party.  Jazz it up and make it themed, or simply choose who brings what and relax and enjoy yourself.
  4. Dine out midweek when restaurants are offering low cost set menus.
  5. Host a murder mystery party at home.  You can download kits and set the menu. It is good fun.
Take friends to an art exhibition for free!

Take friends to an art exhibition for free!

Culture without the credit cards.

  1. Art Galleries and Museums are generally free admission.  Enough said.
  2. Look out for free events such as those offered by Quays Culture.
  3.  Start a thrift book club.  Set a theme, head to a second hand book store or download free titles from Kindle, and get discussing!
  4. Join in a PopUp Painting Event and give the artwork as a gift.
  5. Indulge your inner History Geek by joining a guided walk around the area.

Spend a thrifty afternoon crafting with friends.

Spend a thrifty afternoon crafting with friends.

Daylight Savings Time:

  1. Meet with friends for coffee and Grab a freebie using perks from apps and mobile phone providers such as O2
  2. Go thrift shopping.  Set a budget and hit your local charity shops.  
  3. Put together a picnic and head out to the countryside or park for a walk.

24.Grab your friends and head out for a day trip to another City to explore its culture.

  1. Get crafty.  We love making decorations and cards with friends over snacks at home.

While these are simple ideas, they can have a big effect on your finances and happiness overall.  The trick is to set a realistic budget for socialising and prioritise events accordingly.

In this way, saving money is a lot like trying to lose weight.  You can absolutely have that pizza but it may mean you eat lightly for the rest of the day to ensure you stay within calories.

While you might not want  to say you’re saving money, your more astute friends might notice that you’ve become a bit more resourceful. If anything, that’s a pretty awesome quality to have in a friend.

Want to socialise for less than 65 pence per day?

Want to socialise for less than 65 pence per day?

Bonus Tip

If you still like to go out and meet new people, then you could consider joining a social group like Social Circle.  We offer hundreds of free events every, such as cinema outings and walks, every month from 65p per day. That’s less than a chocolate bar! You can even try an event for free!

So what money saving tips do you have for socialising?

5 embarrassing stories so awful you will be glad it wasn’t you.

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Here at Social Circle, we know how socialising can make you nervous. You can be kept awake at night at all the awkward moments that could possibly happen  The truth is everyone has an embarrassing story to tell, whether it be spinach in your teeth or forgetting someone’s name moments after you have just met them.  Even President Trump got loo roll stuck to his feet. We asked some of our social circle hosts and members for their most terrifying tales of red-faced woe and boy did they deliver the goods.  Get ready to read our top five most embarrassing stories, that are so embarrassing, you will be glad it wasn’t you. (Number #5 is our cringe-worthy favourite)

Warning. These stories are not for the faint of heart or sensitive dispositions.

#1 Head over Heels.

It was one of those fateful evenings where Murphy’s law was going to take away any shred of dignity I owned.

It was a cold night in November. Me and the lads had organised to go into town and have a few drinks and onto a club.  Full of bravado, we approached a table of attractive girls and invited them to join us at the club. They accepted. I strode ahead of the group and opened the door for bashful young ladies who were now nervously shuffling behind me.

Except the step outside had turned to ice and I slipped and fell, banging the back of my head on the step.

I woke up hours later in hospital, bandage round my head and severely bruised ego.

At my bedside was my best mate, and a pretty brown eyed girl who was apparently very concerned.

I told this story at part of my best man’s speech at their wedding.

Jez, 46.

 

#2 Awkward Introductions.

I remember one of my first events as a Social Circle Host. It was a swanky affair at Eperhay Champagne Bar so I was keen to impress and dressed up in the classic little black dress. I saw a group of three guys look at me as I arrived so I flashed them my brightest smile and introduced myself.

I felt the heat rush to my cheeks when there was an uproar of laughter from the group stood behind them. Turns out I had just introduced myself to three complete strangers to the amusement of my group that evening.

It was a memorable introduction to say the least.

I shudder to think what they I think I meant when I asked whether they were ready to have a great time.

*facepalm*

Heather, 38

 

#3 Foul Line

I was going bowling, quite a few people including a few attractive ladies. So, keen to make a good impression I was determined to win.  As I bent to throw the ball there was a loud rip as my pants split down the seams and suddenly my blue boxers were on show to all.

Got a strike through.

Nigel, 51

 

#4 Party in my Pants

There was a party at the Ritz, bubbles,  glow in the dark tubes, and power ballads.  I wolfed down a greasy burger from one of the Oxford Road takeaways and took my place with my friend in the (very long) queue.  Twenty minutes in, and I feel a sharp pain in my gut and that rumbling pressure in my bowel that suggested I needed to make a quick exit.  I told my mates I needed the loo and made a sharp exit, heading to the bar across the road.

I pushed revellers out of the way, back braced and bum clenched hard.

It was too late though.

The remains of the burger made its way to the outside.  The tell-tale warm and heavy mass filled my boxers as I rushed into the first available cubicle.

Fortunately my jeans were unharmed so I stripped and threw them over the top of the cubicle door and sat on the loo, unleashing the beast within.  It was only then did I notice that the stall was out of loo roll. The only thing I could use was my socks.   I dumped my boxers in the bin (RIP) along with the now-soiled socks and scarpered out of there.

The janitors screams could be heard throughout Manchester.

I headed back to my place in the Queue and my mates were none the wiser. Kinda spoiled my the evening though.

Jon, 34

 

#5 Nightmare at the Cinema

I met a guy online and we arranged a  date to see the horror flick ‘Hereditary’. Not particularly romantic I know.  It was during the heatwave so I wore a pale pink dress. He was gorgeous so I was very nervous and my stomach was churning. We quickly settled down to watch the film with the obligatory bags of chocolate and popcorn.   I was on the edge of my seat throughout the film. I didn’t notice my date gently reaching for my hand.  Feeling something brush against my fingers, I  screamed and  jumped out of my seat,  letting out the loudest ripper of a fart. To make matters worse, I clearly had sat on some chocolate prompting the teens behind me to point and laugh saying I must have sharted.

My date just looked at me in utter horror.  I excused myself to go to the bathroom and fled the cinema.

Bless him, he did try to call to see if I was alright.  But I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him again after that.

Still single.  Julie, 31

Yikes!! Is it safe to come out yet?  

Never fear, all our storytellers went on to enjoy socialising with Social Circle (even if they did insist on their names being changed).  

So tell us, if you dare, what are your most embarrassing stories?

How a Digital Detox let me connect with Loved Ones.

We rely on our phones for so much. But is it time you took a digital detox?

We rely on our phones for so much. But is it time you took a digital detox?

Have you ever felt so tired and cranky that you are just completely joyless?  I used to think it was the time of year or that business was getting on top of me. It was only when I read more about the effects of being glued to my phone did I realise that I really needed to switch off from the world and take a digital detox.   I found it was the best way to reconnect with my loved ones, and myself.

Believe me it was a tough call.

After all I run a business and need to be able to answer emails and calls from members.  My business is based on connecting people after all.

But I found myself scrolling through my emails instead of watching my favourite TV programme.

I found myself checking my phone, even briefly, whilst at dinner with friends and family which annoyed them intensely.

That all too familiar feeling of guilt and annoyance when the messenger bubble pops up.  ‘Can’t you all just leave me alone’ I wonder.

A quick scroll through social media late at night when I couldn’t sleep doesn’t seem too bad, yet I kept waking up cranky and not looking forward to my day.

Sound familiar?

I was shocked to find that smartphone addiction is a thing. We rely on our smartphones for everything, from paying bills to connecting with family and even booking social circle events.  I know people who liken misplacing their phone to losing a limb.

Yet, if we are not careful we can find ourselves hunched over our screens, taking in all the drama of other people’s lives and disconnecting from our own. It is damaging to our relationships and our emotional and physical health.

So I took action.

I vowed to take a digital detox.

Ironically, I used my phone to book a holiday for me and Louise to Malaga. 

Me and Louise relaxing away from our phones!

Me and Louise relaxing away from our phones!

I delegated any Social Circle stuff to Cathy and my team of amazing hosts.  I confess at times I did cave in and I did send a few emails only to get told forcibly ‘ thought you were on holiday’.

Whilst it was hard not reaching for my phone, after 24 hours I felt less stressed and got the best nights sleep in a long time.  I found myself looking up as I explored the old towns with my wife, hand in hand. We got some good quality time together and found ourselves laughing and talking over our evening meals rather than looking at our phones. 

It is the best thing I have done in a long time.

If you needed convincing as to why a digital detox may be good for you, then read this article for inspiration.

In the meantime, I have had some ideas of my own as to how I can maintain this sense of calm and not let my phone rule my life.

Switch off notifications.

Your phone constantly pinging causes you to reach for it constantly.  We touch our phones a minimum of 80 times per day. Half of the notifications are not even important and cause you to lose focus.  Change your phone settings so you only get notifications from certain apps.

Switch off an hour before bed.

The blue light in phones and laptops can have a disruptive effect on our brains, interfering with our sleep patterns.  Further, energy and happiness can be quickly zapped by getting yourself embroiled in social media drama meaning the last thing we think about before we hit the sack is Julies latest brawl with the in-laws or Pete’s political standpoints.  

Use your phones flight or do not disturb mode so no one calls. Leave it in another room and buy an old fashioned alarm clock.  If you must have your phone near you at least use ‘night mode’.

Have a phone free day a week.

Easier said than done but if you have a day off from your laptop and phone then you will really feel that you are getting a break. You will boost memory, creativity and concentration for switching off so put your emails on auto respond and peel yourself away from facebook.

Imagine what you can do with all that free time?  Perhaps read a book, have a lie in or connect with nature by going walking or cycling.  

Put your phone on flight mode when you are with friends.

The saddest thing I saw recently was a family at a restaurant all glued to their phones. There is no excuse really. You only need one photo (if any) of your food and when everyone has arrived then put your phone onto flight mode and put it away.

 If you are attending one of our events, then vow to put your phone onto flight mode and put it away so you can connect with like-minded people through good old fashioned conversation.

So no excuses. Switch off when you can so you can connect with those around you.

25 Thoughts you have when you attend a Mingle Party.

 

Ever wondered what a Mingle Party is like?

Ever wondered what a Mingle Party is like?

 Thanks to the huge number of singles nights in Manchester, people have mixed thoughts about what a ‘Meet and Mingle’ may entail.  Given last night Social Circle hosted its annual Mingle party at the Portland Bar & Grill, I thought I would share the thoughts and conversations you have when you attend a Mingle party so you know what to expect when attending an event to meet new people in Manchester.

On deciding whether to turn up

  1. Do I want to go?  I feel terrible, I don’t feel sociable,  drinking is only going to make matters worse.

2. Maybe I will just cancel.

3. Moping won’t help.  Perhaps I should go out?

4. Ok I will go out, but I am not drinking.  A hangover will only make matters worse.

5. Oh god what if I see my ex and his new girl on the tram on the way there. I will arrive an emotional wreck.

6. I will stay for an hour, two hours tops.  I have stuff to do tomorrow. Plus self care and all that.

7. *Spends an hour getting ready*  Glad I only had salad for lunch this dress is unforgiving.  Definitely no drinking though.

Social Circle Members Pete and Angela discuss travels with Host Ruth

Social Circle Members Pete and Angela discuss travels with Host Ruth.

On Arrival

8. Do not trip up the stairs. Do not trip up the stairs.

I am greeted by Steve at the top.  Who tells me to go get a drink from the bar downstairs.  I tell him I am not drinking and not staying long.

9.  Do not fall down the stairs. Do not fall down the stairs.

10. She looks familiar.  Is she from social circle too?

11. “I will have a double Gin and Tonic please”

12. There are lots of people here.  Who do I know.? * Makes bee line for Matt who has been on a few events with me.*

Aida, Pauline and Vanessa were only too happy to talk friendship and getting the most out of life.

Aida, Pauline and Vanessa were only too happy to talk friendship and getting the most out of life.

 

Doing the Mingle Thing

Peter comes over to me. “Are you my honey?”  Before I get creeped out he shows me his Moshi monster card.  We all have them.  There is a bottle of champagne up for grabs for the team that find each other.  I have jeepers. “Sorry Peter, I am not your honey.

Harvey comes over and shakes my hand warmly.  I ask what interests him. He reels off a number of exciting sounding interests from dancing to rock climbing.  He asks me the same. “errr….I like the meals out??” God I sound boring.

13. Where did that Prosecco appear from?

I am talking to a couple of people who are recent joiners.  Turns out they are also lawyers. How do we find each other.  Lawyers always manage to find each other in a room. Start talking shop.  “I am an employment law specialist” escapes my lips. No. No I am not talking shop.

14. My Prosecco somehow refilled itself.

I go to talk to man with epic tash.   He is called Dave and loves the walking retreats. Dave tells me “ I love  the fact you can just turn up to a walk or a weekend away and it’s all organised. So many great memories.”   I ask for a photo. He negotiates a selfie.

Mingle Party Selfie!

Steve comes over.  Tells everyone about that time I went to a whisky tasting festival and was ill for about a week afterwards.

15. I am not drinking the whisky.

16. *drinks the whisky*

Pauline, Nicola, Aida and Heather discuss life, love and everything over a glass (or three) of bubbly.

Pauline, Nicola, Aida and Heather discuss life, love and everything over a glass (or three) of bubbly.

On Friendship and Dating

I head over to Pauline, another familiar face, and tell her about the blog.  “Oh Social Circle has given me so much”  She gives Aida a big hug “I found my best friends here”.

I gatecrash their conversation.  Aida is approaching a major birthday and Pauline wants to throw her a party.  Aida has some sage advice for me “Don’t wait for some birthday or event to live your life.  Material things are not important. Live your life. Spend time with good people.” #truthbomb

17. Ohh chocolate.

I get talking to some new faces, including Alex.  Turns out me and Alex cancelled the exact same Pilates class which was run by Nicola.   Must be fate.

Three ladies who should have met at a Pilates class, but instead met at the Mingle Party. Must be Fate.

Three ladies who should have met at a Pilates class, but instead met at the Mingle Party. Must be Fate.

Alex tells me that she was in two minds about coming, and almost cancelled but decided to give it a shot.  I completely understand how she feels and I have been a host for 3 years. I decide to introduce her to some other people.

We enter the conversation at the moment where Robert  is saying “And that’s how I ended my Friday evening covered in chocolate”.  Oh god what is this.

18. *Opens another bottle of prosecco*

Founder Steve with Social Circle Member Vanessa.

Founder Steve swoops in for a photo.

19. I must go soon it’s already 10:40.

Steve hands me the camera and tells me to take a selfie.  He actually meant to take a photo of him and Vanessa Now feel like a double chinned muppet.  *Takes pictures*

Chat to Robert about Social Circle.  He has been a member for a couple of months but talks himself out of events. “I like to go out with someone I have met before” I tell him he has to come out first so he gets to know people.   He resolved to come out to this one and is enjoying himself. He gives us permission to nag him into attending more events. #challengeaccepted.

 

20. No more Whiskey Steve you know I can’t handle it.   *Drinks more whisky.*

21. Talk to Pete and Nigel about blogging. Pete confesses to enjoying them. It does give me a little boost. Get talking about last weeks blog and how people are really shy when socialising if they have gained a bit of weight.  Tell everyone it really does not make a difference. 

22. What time is the last tram?  12:34. Ok it’s 11:15 I best head off soon.

23. “Have you taken some good photos?”

*I try to take more photos as Steve also decides he will take photos and gets in my way*

The group at my table start talking about dating and my recent heartbreak.   Turns out most people have a similar story of falling for someone only for them to ghost you and move onto their next ‘true love.’

24. We all agree dating is sh*t regardless of your age or gender.

 Maybe it’s the prosecco or maybe it’s just because Albert Schloss does the *best* Sunday lunches I ended up telling all about how much I am looking forward to hosting next week’s event.

Continue talking to Alex and Robert.  We decide that given we have been talking all night and want to go to the same events we should keep in touch and exchange numbers.

25. It’s now 12:15.  I really must go but by this point I don’t want to.

These three lucky ladies won a bottle of Champagne in the Moshi Monster Meet Up challenge.

These three lucky ladies won a bottle of Champagne in the Moshi Monster Meet Up challenge.

 

 

The Morning After. 

It was a fantastic event as usual, with a good mix of new faces and regular Social Circle members.  Whilst the majority of members are single, most have not joined with dating in mind and just want to meet and socialise with people who are at a similar stage in life.  Far from the awkward and forced conversations you get at ‘singles’ events, or the tense ‘networking event’ it was a relaxed and fun party where I was able to let my hair down and forget my troubles for a few hours. The Mingle party proved great way to chat to new people about life, love and everything over some free flowing Prosecco.    

 

 

Too Fat to Fit in? Why size shouldn’t stop you socialising.

When it comes to Socialising, some us feel too fat to fit in. It need not be that way.

When it comes to Socialising, some us feel too fat to fit in. It need not be that way.

Slimming World has recently come under fire for suggesting you should drop your fat friends if you want to lose weight. Well Thanks. What if you ARE the fat friend?  Are we are too fat to fit in?    The reality is that those of us carrying excess weight  are already put off  socialising and exercising out of fear of judgement and ridicule.   Yet it need not be that way. 

Having dropped 5 dress sizes (60lbs) and kept it off, I can confidently say that size has no influence on my friendships or social life.  At all.

Even today, my fellow social circle members have said how they want to introduce close friends to our events, but their friends put joining us to meet new people as ‘they had put on a few pounds.’

Its not a surprise that if we are reluctant to socialise given the daily fat-shaming we get from the media.

I was the same.

I used to proudly show my before and after pictures until one of my friends stopped me in my tracks. She called me out for body shaming myself.   I remember her words clearly:

“That girl was and is a friend of mine. I thought she was funny, brilliant and beautiful.”

Damn.  That hit home.

My size did not matter to my friends at all.

Some of my best friends are overweight. It does not detract from how I feel about them as friends, or the relationship we have.  In fact, my fat friends are often the ones who have been cheerleading the fact I am making healthier life choices,  encourage me to get out and socialise or ask the hottie out on a date. (“what have you got to lose?!)

Our true friends are those that share similar values and support you in this journey called life.  

Size is f**king irrelevant to that principle.

Being fat  does not mean you are a bad person, or any less worthy of love and respect and a life you love.

You are still more than your body and are perfectly entitled to pursue the life, career and relationships that you dream of.  

Love does not happen exclusively to thin people.  People of all sizes are making their dreams happen. Go anywhere and you will see a mix of people enjoying themselves.  

 

 Its true you know, and not dependant on what the scales say.

Its true you know, and not dependant on what the scales say.

I found that as I took steps to enrich my life,  I lost weight naturally.

 Instead of gorging on takeaways when I had a tough week, I went out to a restaurant with friends. Eating food with friends means you take longer and can share dessert.  I made healthier choices when deciding what to eat too. 

My trigger was emotional eating and I felt the need to reward myself with food.  I replaced comfort food with treats such as theatre tickets or would take myself to a movie.  Of course, I made space to reach out to new friends for coffee, as well as taking time to pursue other hobbies such as writing and blogging. 

I started going on walks and to classes with friends so I could increase my physical activity without feeling like the only fat person at the gym. You are never the only one at the gym who has to lose weight but I appreciate its nerve wracking.

You know what happened when I tried those things as a size 20?  

I had fun.  I felt great.  I made friends.

No one laughed at me.  No one shamed me for my size.  

Of course they didn’t.

 Because to mock my body size would be an extraordinarily sh*tty thing to do.  

There is a sliver of truth in the slimming world research though.

To keep the weight off you have to keep away from toxic habits and people who keep you in the mindset that would let you believe you are not worthy of a happy healthy life.

When I realised that;  I slammed the door in a few peoples faces, and cancelled my slimming world membership.

So, don’t put off what you want to do because you are packing a few pounds.   

You can decide to be accepting of where you are at the moment and pursue your a life you love. Right now.

If  you don’t, you may be missing out on spending people who love you for exactly who you are.

 

 

‘My Bff is a serial killer.’ The Dark Side of Social Apps

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The last few years has seen a rise in social apps, where you can meet new people at the click of a button. It seems a great idea to make socialising easy. But are they really the best way to make new friends?  Will swiping right lead you to meeting your soul sister or will your new BFF be a serial killer or crazy stalker. We give you the good, the bad and the ugly so you can reach your own conclusions. Our research makes one thing clear:Using Social Apps has a dark side.

The need for friendship.

Research suggests quality relationships with friends are correlated to increased wellbeing. Friendship is a major predictor of happiness, says Meliksah Demir, a psychology professor at Northern Arizona University who edited Friendship and Happiness, Across the Life-Span and Cultures. “In every age group, friendship quality, friendship satisfaction, intimacy and support are all positively correlated with individual happiness,”

Lets face it, whilst our cry-for-help facebook status may get a number of sympathetic likes, it can be increasingly difficult to find new friends as we get older.

 Changing jobs, locations and breakdowns in relationships can all cost us friendships.

In a digital age, it is not a surprise that we would reach for our phones and Ipads when we want to connect with people.  Apps like Bumble BFF and MeetUp.com have become go-to sources to people seeking friendship.

The Good: I met my Best Friend Through an App.

Bumble t launched Bumble BFF where people can connect for platonic friendship. One success story is  tells of how several women connected and now do everything from 5k’s to champagne tasting together. #SquadGoals indeed.  Now other apps are following suit, using algorithms and location to bring potential buddies together.

One thing that became apparent on many of these apps is you can only create platonic friendships with members of the same sex.

We get that this is a safety feature.

It seems such as shame that these apps perpetuate the view that the opposite sex is just for that…sex.  It rules out any meaningful friendships you could have had, that started out by meeting in person

Plus, how can you know who makes a good friend from a picture?

We find our friends in unlikely places and people. Only looking for people of the same gender, same age with similar interests would rule out the friendships we have.  That would seem a shame. Judging people on a short bio and a photo seems somewhat fickle and has an air of Mean Girls about it.

Swiping on potential friends makes us feel like Regina George

Swiping on potential friends makes us feel like Regina George

The Bad.  When Its Not just Friendship they Want 

Where there are people, there are also the creeps.

You only need to turn to Reddit, Trustpilot and SiteJabber to see the horror stories for yourselves.

One user on Trust Pilot tells of a MeetUp group that was advertised as a language group for expats. Instead of focusing on language, the organisor would creep on the girls.  Henri describes the organisor as offering free drinks to girls who would dance with him.

Of course it is not just women who are falling prey to unwanted advances.

 

Some of the Reviews of MeetUp tell a cautionary tale...

Some of the Reviews of MeetUp tell a cautionary tale…

A Reddit user tells of going to a writers group. He found himself  stalked on facebook by a group member who would constantly message him.  Whilst this may not be the worst tale of woe, it is disturbing behaviour and not what you would expect of someone seeking friendship.

How did this creep get their contact details?

Easy, when you connect via these platforms your social media is fair game to everyone in the group, including the organisors.

These groups, on MeetUp.com and similar, can be run by Anyone.

Let us repeat.

Anyone.

 

The Ugly.  The Best things in life are (Not) Free.

MeetUp advertises itself as free to join and to socialise.  Just download the Social App and get started.  Disturbingly, there are a surprising number of horror stories from people have been fleeced of their hard-earned cash.

Let us explain how this happens.

If you cannot find a group that caters to your needs it is very easy to start your own group.  Just name your group, write a description of who you want to meet and then…

What?  You have to pay $9.99 and $14.99 per month to run a group?!

A trend we see in reviews is that there is little support for organisers and delays in events appearing on the website have resulted in people feeling fleeced of their cash.   This is a real shame, as there are plenty of opportunities for people who love socialising and are great at organising events that sees them rewarded for their efforts.

Reddit is littered with stories from attendees who think they are going to a free event but then find themselves having to pay hidden costs or subjected to marketing spiel from those who are using MeetUp as a low cost way to network. .

Whilst there are good people running quality groups.

There will also be people who just want to take your money and run.

It can be difficult to tell which is which.

Hillary Buck  left a 1 star review for a MeetUp group called Travel Buddies which organises short and long haul trips abroad. Her review says it all.

Buyer beware. It sounds as if these peeps didn't get what they paid for.

Buyer beware. It sounds as if these peeps didn’t get what they paid for.

These people paid to stay in Krakow.  The organiser did not deliver. They had to pay extra. Yet they  have absolutely no recourse?!  Disgraceful. Especially considering there are there are professional companies like Flashpack offering fully-insured singles holidays abroad.   

This is not an isolated incident either, we have first hand experience of a Social Circle member joining us after his MeetUP walking group left him stranded on Ben Nevis.  It was an unfortunate time to find that the leader had no first aid training, no insurance and little experience in leading these types of walks.

If you want to use social apps to meet new people who share similar interests; stay safe. Make sure you meet in public places. Let people where you are going and follow your instincts.  

Likewise, make sure any group activities are organised by a reputable organiser or company  If you are going on holidays or taking part in activities that involve risk – ask to see their insurance, their qualifications and check out other members testimonials before a cheap holiday costs you more than you bargained for.

What are your experiences of meeting friends on social media?