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Where do you even find these activities in the average small to medium town? I can find a few now that I'm in a "large" city after moving abroad, but these options were generally few when I lived in the states.

Except: Church organizations. And it seems such organizations prefer that you are also Christian or are willing to fake it.

Furthermore, the poorer one is, the less likely one can take advantage of these things, especially in a town of around 50k or less.

50k is not a small town to me; where I am from in towns of 50k there is everything to make friends very fast. Maybe it is different in the US, not sure.

I have lived the past 13 years in 3 tiny towns (under 100); just go to the bar every night. Made both good shallow and good deep friendships like that while I was over 30 most of that time. Mind you that was in another country with another language than my native. Personally I get depressed by big cities much faster; people I met when living in those are far (acting) busier and so need to keep things shallow.

Also, I seem to have some thing that people find weird; I can make and sustain deep friendships via internet chat alone. I have friends I speak to every day, who would do anything for me and I for them who I do not even know what their voice sounds like. I have started, ran and sold companies with friends who I have never seen or voice chatted to.

10 years ago it was bulletin boards in your local supermarket and bulletin boards in the sports halls. Coffee shop notice boards. Library notice boards. Not sure if they're still used.

The digital equivalent of those places are Facebook groups. meetup.com, although their mobile redesign is a complete joke. Linked in groups. In the UK we have gumtree, probably Craigslist in the US. There's probably more, just sounds like you never looked.

You're looking for digital bulletin boards for your area, groups need new blood as much as you want to find them, you've just got to look.

Plus, of course, the local college night classes.

I just searched meetup for my costal corner of a home town of 20k in the UK and it had a bunch of meetups nearby, so it's pretty easy to find stuff.

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