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I'm looking at some example sentences with reflexive verbs and I've seen the following:

Я часто встречаюсь с друзьями

Can you also say?

Я часто встречаю друзей

If so, how would this change the meaning?

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Those sentences are not equal in meaning.
Я часто встречаюсь с друзьями. The usual interpretation is about frequent meetings with existing friends. Potentially it can also mean I often run across my [existing] friends.
Я часто встречаю друзей. I feel the lack of context to interpret this definitely. But now my first interpretation is I often run across my [existing] friends. Also I can understand it as I often meet/run across people who becomes my [new] friends.
[upd] There’s one trick with the last interpretation: in it ‘friends’ can be ‘friends in the actual situation’, not permanent friends as in other interpretations. Friends as opposed to enemies and synonymous to allies. [/upd]

встречать can also mean to go to an airport or station to meet, welcome and assist someone with their arrival.
[upd] However, with this meaning I’d rather say Я часто езжу встречать друзей.

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Я часто встречаюсь с друзьями

I often make planned upon meetings with my friends. The friends also make effort to meet.

Я часто встречаю друзей.

I often run across my friends. The meetings are not planned before. Alternatively it can mean that you often wait friends from plane/train/other trips.

Встретить means either run across or wait for arrival (from plane, train etc). Встречаться means to meet at a planned before meeting.

As a finger rule, встречаться means effort from the both sides, встретить means a random event or effort from only one side.

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  • 'Встретить' can also mean 'accept', 'greet' (a guest) or 'celebrate'. Examples: 1. Вчера у меня в гостях были родители подруги. Я не ударил в грязь лицом и встретил их как полагается. 2. Бусы повесили, встали в хоровод, весело-весело встретим Новый год!
    – ach
    Jul 2 '15 at 18:37
  • And 'встретиться' doesn't always mean arranged meetings, sometimes it's just passive counterpart for 'встретить': 'По пути сюда мне встретился только один велосипедист.' = 'По пути сюда я встретил только одного велосипедиста.'
    – ach
    Jul 2 '15 at 18:41
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Встречаюсь с друзьями - it was planned. Встречаю друзей - it happens by chance.

BTW keep in mind that if you say "Я встречаюсь с этой девушкой", it often means you date her.

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