May 19, 2022 - News

“I hated living here”: A Charlotte native learns to love her city by helping others find friends

CLT social club

Photo courtesy of Katey Shehan

Meet Katey Shehan. She calls herself “one of Charlotte’s biggest cheerleaders” and runs CLT Social Club, an Instagram account that coordinates group hangouts for people who live in Charlotte.

  • She didn’t always love her city though.

“Even though I grew up here, I hated living here,” Shehan, a Ballantyne native, told me over coffee recently. “I thought the solution was to move to a different city,” she said.

Why it matters: The human need for companionship is primal. In some studies, like this one from neuroscientists at UCLA, researchers have found that human interaction is as vital as food and shelter for survival.

  • Friendships can make or break your experience in any city. But, it can be hard to make genuine connections as an adult.
  • Think about it: Before adulthood, your friendships were facilitated by surroundings — school, family, church, sports or other organizations. But without those avenues, it can be hard to introduce yourself to a stranger, no matter how extroverted you are.
CLT social club
Katey Shehan (left) at a CLT Social Club meetup at Suffolk Punch. Photo courtesy of Katey Shehan

Flashback: Shehan moved abroad for mission work after high school.

When she came home, all of her friends had moved away. It wasn’t until her mom encouraged her to go to a young professional group, that she met someone who eventually became one of her best friends. That’s when she realized: “Charlotte is so much more fun when you have people to experience it with.”

  •  In December of 2021, Shehan posted a TikTok that featured videos of Charlotte and a robot voiceover that said “there is zero reason to live anywhere but Charlotte, North Carolina.” The video went viral and today has more than 35K likes, 3k shares, and 1k comments.
  • “I started getting a bunch of comments, and DMS to my Instagram being like, oh my gosh, I’m moving to Charlotte, or I’m new to Charlotte, what are some places that you would recommend?”

At first, Shehan met up with everyone who reached out to her, but she quickly realized this wasn’t going to be sustainable. She was spending too much time and money essentially meeting up with strangers.

  • So she started grouping them together and would meet up with five to ten people at a time. Eventually, she organized a hangout with nearly 100 people.

“I would for sure be down to do it again,” she said in a TikTok about the hangout. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

  • “I woke up the next morning with like, 150 DMs to my personal Instagram from girls being like, ‘I saw your TikTok, I’d really love to be friends.'”
  • It was the catalyst for CLT Social Club — a more organized version of Shehan’s impromptu blind-friend dates.
CLT social club
CLT Social Club meetup at Suffolk Punch. Photo courtesy of Katey Shehan

How it works: Shehan posts the dates, times and locations of upcoming hangouts on the CLT Social Club Instagram. If you’re nervous about going alone, she’ll pair you with a random group of people that you can meet up with ahead of the event and go together.

  • The events range in size, with some being as intimate as a brunch setting, or as big as a meetup at Suffolk Punch.
  • The larger monthly hangouts are open to everyone and free to attend but you have to cover your own meals and drinks.
  • And there are smaller, more intimate, events that range between $15 and $45 and can be found on the linktree on their page.

The big picture: Roughly 120 people move to Charlotte every day. Some come with ties to the cities, others don’t know a single soul.

  • Last August, Axios surveyed readers about friendships. “More than half of the respondents say it’s hard to make friends here,” Axios’ Brianna Crane noted.
  • Yes, but: Around 80% said they were looking for new friendships, even if they already had established connections in Charlotte. 

Go deeper: Big city dwellers can’t seem to stay away from Charlotte.

What’s next: CLT Social Club’s next hang out is May 21 at Suffolk Punch from 1-4pm.

Separately: Charlotte Ladies Brunch is a Facebook group with more than 3,000 members, catering to women ages 21-35 who love to brunch and want to make connections.

  • The founder of Charlotte Ladies Brunch, Halle Babel, tells me she was in a similar situation as Shehan— she had lived in Charlotte most of her life, but wanted to make new friendships after graduating college. “I went onto Bumble BFF and just started swiping right on everybody.”
  • Babel quickly realized that most of the women’s profiles had a few things in common— “everyone was like ‘I love margaritas and taco Tuesdays.'” So she started the Facebook group as a way to coordinate group dates for like-minded women in the city. “I was like—we all love the same thing, lets all meet up together,” she said.
  • Today, the Charlotte Ladies Brunch has several subcategories including book clubs, hiking clubs, winery clubs, and more. “I’ve met some of my best friends on there,” Babel said.

What’s next: Charlotte Ladies Brunch meets up about once a month, the next meetup is at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery on June 12.

  • Babel says she’s working on a website for the Facebook group so the women who join can coordinate easier through forums.
Charlotte ladies brunch
Charlotte Ladies Brunch. Photo courtesy of Halle Babel.
Charlotte ladies brunch
Charlotte Ladies Brunch event at Optimist Hall. Photo courtesy of Halle Babel.

The bottom line: Whether you’re a life-long Charlottean or a recent transplant, an introvert or extrovert, there is a likely a group of people out there for you, you just have to find them. Some other groups I found while writing include:

  • ConnectCLT “was created to connect people in the Charlotte area,” according to their Eventbrite page, where they coordinate mixers.
  • Counter Culture Club is a local organization that creates events for people looking to do something that’s not centered around alcohol.

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