Sunday, April 14, 2024

It’s So Bloody HARD To Make Friends IRL… Why Are We Lonelier Than Ever (& Can This New App Help You Find People You ACTUALLY Want to Hang Out With?)

Struggling to make new mates in real life? You’re FAR from the only one. Why did it get so hard to make friends – and can a new app help?

Do you remember how easy it was to make friends when you were a kid? One of my earliest memories is my first day of year zero walking to school and bounding up to another new entrant girl and literally asking ‘do you want to be friends?’ (she said yes thank God).

It was literally that simple, and me and Kelsey were best mates for years afterwards. When did we lose this confidence and freedom to just decide to like someone on the spot? Ok sure life these days is more complicated than that (want to make sure they don’t have serial killer vibes sure), but the fact remains that after you leave school, making new friends can be really hard and frankly terrifying – and that means that a lot of us are a little bit lonely.

Bumble this week announced their new stand-alone app, Bumble for Friends (separating their BFF product from the main dating and Bizz app for the first time) and sure, it’s a sign of the times that we’re reaching for technology to help us connect in the real world. But it’s something Queenstown gal Elisabeth (24) says she relied on when she first arrived in New Zealand from Florida with her partner, but without any other friends or even workmates, since she works from home.

“It’s the digital age, many of us work remotely now and also many of us stick to habits that won’t allow us to stumble upon a person with who we can connect,” she tells Capsule. “[And] you become more selective in who I spend my time with as I get older.”

Post-pandemic working habits have certainly made it harder to meet people IRL, but the problem goes far deeper than physical location, especially for Gen Z’s and millennials. Participation in traditional organised groups such as churches, community groups and even sport is trending down with every generation, and an American study reports that young people simply don’t have much time socialise with long hours and low wages playing a huge factor.

Plus, says Bumble’s APAC Communications Director Lucille McCart, those entering their 30s and 40s also face the challenge of diverging life stages.

“Your life kind of goes in one direction or the other – that’s my personal experience!” she says. “A lot of my friends are married and some of them are having babies and I’m not doing that! I’m lucky that I have other friends who also aren’t doing that, but you really do see these huge, major shifts in your friendship circle when everyone hits that stage of life.”

Trying to make friends as an adult carries a sort of stigma, too – like there’s this expectation that if you don’t have friends there’s something wrong with you, or you’re needy if you’re looking to initiate a connection.

Thirty per cent of millennial respondents in a British government survey said they felt lonely, and heartbreakingly, 22% said they had zero friends.

For Elisabeth, she wanted to find pals who were the same age and stage – “ I was looking for someone in a similar chapter of life as me. I have a partner, I just moved to a new country, and as mention I work from home. I like to go out for drinks and have fun, but maybe not as much as another 20-something who is single. I wanted a perfect balance of friends who would go out for drinks, but would also be up for hiking or a spontaneous road trip.”

Seeing as we turn to our phones to solve every other bloody problem in our life, it makes sense we’d find a solution for finding friends too, with a plethora of online options such as Discord threads, social media groups and more set up to help like-minded people find each other.

And such is the demand, Bumble decided to dedicate more resource to helping mates find mates with their new app, which works much like ‘normal’ dating Bumble. Users can add interests, likes and dislikes to skip the awkward establishing chat, an new features like group chat (God can you imagine that on Bumble Date) and planned meetups mean it’s a more social experience.

Says Lucille, “We noticed that people were kind of organically hacking the dating side by writing ‘I’m just looking for friends, I’ve just moved to a new city’ etc. It’s been a successful part of the app but friendship is so important and it deserves a standalone experience.

“I’ve used it myself and it’s really fun. It’s a totally different mindset – all of the women looked so cool.”

It worked for Elisabeth, who met one of her now-closest friends on the BFF app. She encourages anyone who’s looking for a platonic connection to give it a go. “Be open and honest in your bio so you can attract the right matches. Once you use the app you will see that everyone else is very open about who they are and what kind of friends they are looking for. Don’t be afraid to embrace the new age of making friends online!”

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