I went to a furry convention this past weekend is one of my former hometowns. While I do not know any furries there I thought it would be a good way to meet new people. Unfortunately I had a miserable time. I was lonely and had trouble finding anybody to talk to.
When I showed up on Friday evening I checked in to my hotel and suited up. I went do the con space and there were maybe a dozen people there. I tried talking to them but they were involved in their board/role playing games and not interested in meeting someone new.
The next day there were some 100 fursuits in the parade and photoshoot. However I do not know where they came from or where they went. There were very few fursuits out during the convention and when I was in suit I was frequently the only suiter.
I did get invited to 2 dinners which I thought would be a good place to socialize. On the first night I sat across from someone with a lot of drama who constantly complained and next to a guy that kept talking about his My Little Pony story. The next night I rode with some furries to a pizza joint 45 minutes away. During the car ride the couple in the back seat were talking so loud with each other the driver and I couldn't say anything. At dinner we had 8 people total. I ended up paying for the pizza for everybody (easy and quick) but despite that didn't have anybody talk to me.
Everybody was focused on the people they already knew and I get the feeling they didn't want to meet new people. I tried making small talk on many occasions, asking people where they were from or about their fursona. Got simple answers and could not spark a conversation.
The most ironic moment though was when I was at the restaurant across the street for a drink. Siting next to me at the bar was a furry (I could tell from his badge) and I tried to talk to him but he was not interested in a conversation. I noticed in Telegram he was complaining to the con chat how bored and lonely he was.
Normally when I get bored at a con I jump into suit and start shenanigans in the con space. However, this wasn't possible because there was seldom anybody to engage with.
In the group Telegram chat everybody was talking about what a fun and wonderful experience the convention was. My experience was very lonely and boring.
What can I do to make these conventions more fun and enjoyable? I tried everything I knew to get out and be involved but did not have any success.
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What an outstanding question; thanks for asking it, and sorry your con experience was a bust.
I have been on both sides of this fence, I can tell you. Back when I was attending the University of Michigan, I was a horribly sad, shy, and lonely kid who was overwhelmed by being alone in a huge university. One day at lunch, I was eating by myself in the cafeteria when this stranger sat across from me. He was friendly and chatty; he asked about me and tried to strike up a conversation. I had never had anything like this happen to me before in my life; I was intimidated, suspicious of his motives, and gave mostly one-word replies and stared at my food a lot. In retrospect, I know that this kind young man probably saw I was alone and was trying to be a friend to me. I wish I could thank him for that now, but back then I was a terrified and painfully shy 18-year-old. I think a lot of furries are this way, too. It is very hard for them to come out of their shells, even in the friendly environment of a furry convention.
Fast forward some years to find me as a much more confident and outgoing bear in the furry fandom. There have been many times when I have been at a convention or meet or other furry function and could not break through. Sometimes it was because the other person was shy, but more often it was because the furry/furries already were there with friends and didn't want or need a new person to join them. You may have noticed that there are cliques within the fandom, many of which are not very welcoming to new blood, although some are.
You were doing a lot of correct things in your effort to find new furiends at this con (although I would not have paid for pizza for a bunch of unfriendly furs, but I know personally what a generous guy you are), so it's not your fault. The obvious first solution to this problem is to never go to a con where you don't know at least one other person you can hang out with. Once you have this base, you can endeavor to widen your circle, but even if that fails at least you won't be eating by yourself.
Another strategy is to try to project an image of welcoming to attract people to you rather than approaching them. This is why it can be hard to make connections with others when you are in your fursuit because many furries have been told that fursuiters often do not speak when they are in character and often do not want to be approached without being asked first (this applies to fursuiters who are a bit concerned about damage to their fursuits or to being startled when someone approaches them outside their narrow line of vision, as I'm sure you're aware.) So, you increase your chances of making friends, ironically, when not in fursuit. You can also bolster your chances by wearing a shirt that advertises one of your interests. For example, if you wear a cool Dr. Who shirt, you might attract some fellow Whovians. Or you might wear a custom shirt and get people to ask questions about that. I often wear shirts displaying my interest in the bear community, which tends to attract furries who are into bears.
Funny side story: one time, I was at MFF and wore my Bear Furries Forever shirt, which shows a bunch of bears around a campfire (colored yellow). A friendly young man approached me because he thought that the fire was, well, pee, and that I was into watersports. We both had a good laugh that broke the ice and that really helped us connect and we became friends. He's very sweet and very intelligent.
Humor aside, what you need to try and do is connect to some kind of SIG: Species Interest Group. For me, it's bears; for you, dragons. Try and connect to your fellow dragons instead of randomly picking out someone. That way, you immediately have something in common to form a foundation for fellowship. It doesn't have to be a species commonality, of course. It could be a number of things, such as a greymuzzle meet or a meet of people into World of Warcraft. Oh, and if you wish to get in on a game, it is best to try to do that before the game actually starts. Once you approach a group that is already involved in a game, yeah, it's difficult to break into that circle if they are really into some RPG.
So there you have it: when looking to make new furiends at a con or meet, try to find a common foundation to build on. This will increase your chances dramatically in connecting with other furries.
Hope your next furcon is a lot more fun!
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