Making friends with Marissa from TikTok
How Marissa Meizz turned a viral moment into a multi-city celebration of friendship.
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Went to my first post-pandemic TikTok meetup and it was ... heartwarming? —Kate
Marissa Meizz’s TikTok meetup is not, it turns out, hard to find. When I enter Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park on Sunday, I figure the 100-something people taking one big group photo is probably where the party is at. Meizz greets me with a hug. Another attendee offers me a slice of pizza. Within 30 seconds, I'm sitting on a blanket talking with five strangers.
Meizz, who lives in New York City, has held meetups in Washington D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, and NYC (twice) since she went viral back in May. The user @drewbdoobdoo made a video about overhearing two friends of Meizz's planning a party specifically for when she was out of town, and enlisted the rest of TikTok to track her down and let her know that her friends were ducking her. It worked, and Meizz, 23, became an overnight sort of folk hero for people struggling with some of the less-talked-about issues that plague platonic relationships.
The outpouring of support Meizz received after the public disintegration of her friendships made her realize just how much people need connection, especially after this past year. The meetups, which she documents on the Instagram account No More Lonely Friends, aren’t about her, she stresses. Instead, anyone looking to meet and talk to new people can show up and not just be accepted, but welcomed.
“Me and my best friend of 16 years just had a big falling out, and now I have no friends at all. I'm back to square one,” Alicia, a mother from Yonkers, tells me across the picnic blanket when I ask about why she came out. “But I figured I'll try it out and hopefully meet somebody.”
Another attendee, Nancy, has lived in New York for five years, but hasn’t found anyone she’s clicked with. Daniel, on the other hand, was visiting NYC from Germany for the month, and was having a hard time finding people to do things with on apps like Bumble BFF.
“Since it’s part of a dating app, people go there with assumptions,” he says. “Even if I say on my profile I’m looking for friends, it doesn’t work. It’s still awkward.”
We all want friends as much as we want romantic partners—well, many of us do—but it’s still uncomfortable, even taboo, to explicitly seek them out. The proliferation of dating apps has done nothing to change that. It was freeing to have that judgment tossed aside at the meetup, where it was totally normal to have a stranger join your conversation, or be interrupted by someone who liked your tattoos and was looking for artist recommendations in the city. In other words, it was like the internet.
I chatted with Meizz ahead of the meetup over Zoom, and she told me about how she turned her internet fame into an IRL mission and where she’s taking it next.
You’re now known as Marissa from TikTok. What was it like going viral and being written about?
It was really weird just because I didn't know that it was going to go that way. I was just responding to a TikTok. I just was like, “This could be me.” I saw other Marissas responding to it. It could [have been] anyone. And then right when I posted it, it just went berserk-o and got millions of views.
It was this online viral moment but it was about your actual life. Did it have any IRL effect?
It affected my life completely. I still have a full-time job, but I travel to these new cities every single weekend and have all these people on the internet who reached out to me. It's really, really cool being able to just make somebody's day by responding to their messages. I've reached out to so many people; I've met so many new people. They just care to be friends. Since everybody knows about all this stuff that's happened, no one's not going to be straightforward with me. I know who's around me now and who's there for a real reason. I never heard from those girls [who planned the party] ever. I have yet to run into them. I've never gotten an apology. But I know that they've seen [the video].
Are you still in contact with Drew?
Actually, he just texted me today. He's super cool. We talk all the time.
How did the idea for these meetups come about?
When I first posted all those videos people were like, "Oh my gosh, I live in New York, too. I want new friends. I can't find new friends." Everyone was reaching out to me being like, "Hey, do you want to go get dinner tomorrow? Hey, do you want to hang out this weekend?" I just couldn't meet up with every single person. So I posted a TikTok like, “Maybe like let's all meet up for a picnic. Let's just meet up in the park or something.” Everyone was like, “I'm coming, I'll be there. I'll send it to my friend.” We met up and a hundred and some people [were there].
Are there any structured activities during the meetup or is it mostly a hangout?
They're kind of structured in their own way. People make them in their own way. Like some picnics, people will be like, "Hey, let's do a game." Other picnics everyone's just chilling, having a good time. Like the last one, these people ordered pizza for everyone. I was really nervous in the beginning because I didn't know if people would be cliquey or if people would not get along with each other or whatever. But then I realized, people are coming trying to meet people and meet friends.
So do people mostly show up alone?
90 percent of people show up alone. A lot of people are like, “I'm really nervous to show up alone.” I just respond like, “Hey, almost every single person shows up alone.” I think also the fact that I try to respond to every single person they're like, “Oh, okay, cool. She'll make sure I'm good to go.”
Some people are just like, “I'm here 'cause I saw the TikTok.” And then the other people are like, “I've lived here for years and I have no friends.” And it also depends—like, in Boston, almost every single person was like, “No one wants to talk to anybody in this city. Everyone just goes clubbing.” But if I go to DC, everyone's like, “Oh yeah, I have tons of friends, but I just wanted to come out here and hang out.”
Do you pay for things like your travel yourself?
I haven't done brand deals or anything. Everything's a hundred percent donated. I will put in my Venmo before a picnic and be like, “Hey, if you do want to donate or help out, let me know.” And I'll get $5 here and there, but I would say 99 percent of it's self-funded. I don't make any money off of it. I literally just go out of the pureness of just like, I love these things. And I think it's such a cool, fun thing.
Do you have any standout memories from the meetups so far?
When I was in DC, this girl took me to the side and basically couldn't even get out words. She was just sobbing. She was just like, "I didn't really know where my life was going. I just moved here. My mom just had an aneurysm two weeks ago. I don't have any family left." We talked for a few minutes. Other people, it's just the pure joy that these people get from these picnics.
During the pandemic, everyone kind of had that vulnerable moment of like, “Oh, I can say I'm sad and lonely. And my mental health is declining. And no one will be [weird].” Everyone's like, “Yeah, me too. I need human contact.” My [first] picnic was a day or two after the mask mandate was up in New York and I was the first human interaction that some people had. I think that's a cool magic moment. A lot of people were like, “This is the first time I've seen people since two years ago.”
What has this experience changed about what you value in a friendship?
A few things: Letting people know how you feel. It's not easy to just be like, “Hey, you're not great for my life right now and my mental health.” That sucks to do, but sometimes it's necessary. And a lot of people have reached out to me being like, "They're my only friends and if I drop them then I have no friends." At that point, I feel like it's better for you to have no friends and try to branch out than being around those toxic people.
[Also,] valuing that other people have other lives and not taking things personally. You need to realize people have other lives besides you. Also, value the friendship when you're together. I'll just be like, “Hey, do you want to come over and just sit?” Even if we don't talk to each other, it's like that human interaction of valuing time [with them] instead of what you guys are doing or what you guys need to do. Also just valuing individual people. Before I was like, “We need to have a group of people.” And like now I'm like, as long as I have one person there, I don't care, you know?
It’s only been a few months and the meetups are so popular. Have you thought about what’s next?
My merch comes out at the end of July, beginning of August. All those funds will basically support my travels. A huge part of my following is in London and Australia and Canada. If Americans are allowed tomorrow, I will jump on a plane tomorrow. I really, really, really want to go across the pond.
A big thing I really want to do is a public speaking tour about all the topics I touch on, like being lonely or mental health. Everyone's dealt with this, no matter how old you are, you've dealt with a crappy friend or you've lost someone in your life. I want to—I need to look into it—turn it into a nonprofit and see where that can go. A lot of people want to help and that's awesome. I'm excited for it.