With so many people feeling isolated during the pandemic, Marissa Meizz’s unwitting rise to TikTok fame couldn’t have come at a better time.
She went viral last spring, after a stranger overheard her friends plotting to exclude her from a birthday party, then posted about it on TikTok. Though she was hurt, Meizz turned the experience into something positive by using the same app to start an online community called No More Lonely Friends, which organizes meet-ups around the country.
The 23-year-old wardrobe stylist held the first event in Central Park in June, and 200 people came— including someone who became Meizz’s current roommate. Since then, she’s been hosting her free-form picnics in cities around the country. Meizz estimates that about 90 percent of attendees show up alone. Some bring volleyballs or card games. Meizz supplies name tags, and makes an effort to greet and hug every person who arrives. Because of Covid, she only organizes outdoor events.
Her second DC meet-up is this Saturday, August 21 (tentatively, due to rain) at noon on the National Mall in front of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. After a feature in the New York Times earlier this week, Meizz expects a large turnout. Washingtonian caught up with her to learn more.
Q: How have the meetups been so far? How has the turnout been? How’s the reception been?
The last one we had about a week ago [in New York], we had about 600-plus people, and that was absolutely wild. I had no idea that many people were going to show up. I was just blown away. And also, it was just so many different types of people that were so happy to be there. All ages come, and people bring their toddlers, people bring their dogs. We have people 70 years-plus.
Q: What can people expect from this upcoming meetup in DC?
Since I got [written about] in the Times and everything, I have no idea how big it’s going to be. I gained over like 20,000 followers, over the last two, three days. DC is so centrally located that there’s going to be so many people coming in from different states. I have people tagging me in stuff saying, “I’m driving from Jersey, I’m driving from this place.” So I think that it’s going to be a very big picnic.
Q: So speaking of the Times article, what was it like being featured in the New York Times? I saw some of your TikToks reacting to it. So, how has that been?
When I went to buy [a print copy], they were sold out everywhere. I couldn’t find one. Me and my roommate went to, like, eight, nine different places to try to find them. I finally found one, and I picked it up, and I saw myself on the front page of the business section, and the guy at the counter goes, “That’s you! That’s you!” And we were all just freaking out. It was the weirdest feeling. Also, when I bought it, I was outside and I was jokingly holding [it] up like, “It’s me! It’s me!” A family saw me take a photo with it on the street corner with it next to my face, and they were like, “Oh my god, congratulations!” I think it’s such a cool accomplishment that it still has not hit me at all.
Q: Have you heard of anyone who’s made any especially interesting or strong bonds at one of these events? And have you made any cool bonds?
Yeah, I actually get messages all the time, like almost every day. For example, last week I got a message from a girl saying “Hey, do you remember me and those eight people that I met at your picnic?” And I was like “Oh yeah, that was the San Francisco one. What about it?” She’s like, “We’re going on a week-long camping trip in Yosemite next week.”
Personally, I met my roommate through it. I met my whole entire friend group. I [had] a celebration dinner two nights ago for the New York Times stuff, and everyone’s sitting at the table. I was looking around, and I was like, “I met every single one of you through No More Lonely Friends.” And we all were like, “Oh my gosh, we did!” It’s super cool that anyone that I can meet through No More Lonely Friends, I could hop on the phone and be like, “Hey, can you do me a favor” and not one person would ever be like, “Oh sorry, no.”
This guy Max who made a statement in the New York Times, him and like 15 others that met at the LA picnic do a beach day every week. I got an amazing message last night from this guy that I met through No More Lonely Friends, and the message made me sob. He was like, “Just letting you know, you’re facilitating all of these relationships and friendships that no one would ever have. I was in the darkest place in my life and I just found purpose through No More Lonely Friends that people actually care in the world.” It’s just so cool seeing people that would have never met through anything unless it was through No More Lonely Friends. It just blows my mind.
Q: Why is a group like No More Lonely Friends so important for people in the world right now?
The isolation factor of the last two years, whether it was due to Covid or not. It’s cool meeting people [at a bar], but also, you know, it’s a bar setting. The No More Lonely Friends picnics make so much sense because there’s just an open-air communication. If it’s not working, you can get up and go to another group. Or if it is working, you can just join some other people with that person. There’s no pressure. You can leave at any time, you can come at any time. Why it works so well is that every single person there is there to make friends. The cool thing about the people that come is that they’re so open, so welcoming. And if they see you standing alone, someone will zoom up and be like “Hey, come sit with us.”
Q: What general advice do you have for people who find it harder to build and maintain strong relationships in these chaotic times?
I would say, don’t be afraid to be alone. Especially when you’re showing up to a picnic, don’t be afraid to come alone. Another thing is that I think that everyone is going through something whether it’s hard or not— you shouldn’t take offense to people being unavailable for a few days.
Q: What else is up next for you and your work with No More Lonely Friends?
My main goal is to hit all 50 states. I absolutely want to go international. And my main goal in the very end is having people in each city hosting their own, so that when I’m not there, they can still do it.
This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.