Man Determined to Make 10,000 Friends Brings His Mission Online Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Rob Lawless brought his mission to make 10,000 friends online, video chatting with strangers for an hour each.
Rob Lawless brought his mission to make 10,000 friends online, video chatting with strangers for an hour each.(Rob Lawless/robs10kfriends)

Rob Lawless, of Pennsylvania, has been hosting hour-long one-on-one video chats with people all around the world.

For the past five years, Rob Lawless from Norristown, Pennsylvania has been on a mission to make 10,000 friends, which has brought him everywhere around the world. From a stranger’s family gathering in Maui to a coffee shop in New Jersey, Lawless can likely claim to have set foot there. And when the coronavirus pandemic brought life to a standstill, Lawless decided to bring his journey online.

Instead of meeting new people face-to-face, Lawless has video chatted with hundreds of strangers around the world. He spends about an hour with each new person that messages him, getting to know each other and talking about whatever comes to mind.

“Since the quarantine began I’ve talked to people from over 37 different countries and over 23 different states,” he told

Meeting people virtually has been more or less the same as meeting people in person, barring any connectivity issues. “Both my new friends and I are forced to practice patience while we wait for our screens to unfreeze, sometimes we have to log in and out of meetings to get them working again and sometimes I only catch every other word a person is saying,” he explained.

He also misses observing people walking by, or hugging his new friends goodbye, “but I’m happy to say that emotions like happiness, sadness, excitement and laughter are all still effectively communicated through the screen.”

Moving his mission online allowed him to meet Borjana Corilic, a woman from Novi Sad, Serbia who shared her story about being gunned down during a mass shooting in 2016, and continuing her dreams of becoming a computer engineer in recovery. “In a time when social distancing and staying inside feel like difficult tasks, I was reminded of how much other people have been through and how well they’ve handled their life’s challenges,” he recalled.

He explained that, because the coronavirus pandemic has had such a far-reaching effect on everyone’s life, he expected that would dominate most conversations with new friends. But that's not been the case, he said, explaining these hour-long conversations have been a welcome escape.

“While I have done this on my calls with people, the topic has taken a backseat to the more human parts of our lives, such as our family dynamics, our plans for the future, our music interests [and] the experiences we’ve been through."