What Actually Happens When You Try To Make Friends Online Using Bumble BFF
Because trying to make friends as an adult is hard.
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Nothing works quite like becoming an adult to make it clear that you have very few friends. Going from college, school or university where you have access to about 95% of the people you care about within a (usually) two-mile radius is a bubble violently burst the second you begin adulting for real.
Unless you're living in your hometown or have coordinated a mass-joint move to a specific borough of London, chances are you’re living this reality. And, as someone who’s just relocated to a place with contacts beyond a few close friends, I started to wonder how it is that people actually make new friends in the early stages of adulthood.
That’s when I turned to the one place specifically built for friend-making and friend-making alone. The one place where everyone was openly putting themselves out there as someone who maybe didn’t, but definitely wanted some more (any) friends.
And that sad, sad place was Bumble BFF, the non-romantic connection side of the Bumble app welcoming each new downloader 'to the friendzone'. Everyone on this side of the app is exclusively looking for friends (to be fair, one person did try to give me a free haircut) and essentially functions as a way for people who are new to a place to find new pals in their new area. When this aspect of the app launched about a year ago, the only people I could find using it were the friends I’d downloaded it with. Now, there are hundreds of people, depending on location of course, looking for a connection.
I built a profile and got swiping. Here’s what I learned navigating online friend-making:
The profile for BFF was a lot easier to build than putting something together for a dating app, where I spent a lot less time worrying about how I physically looked and a lot more time on actually sounding interesting. Also, to be fair to them, I found a lot of bios genuinely funny and interesting, far more than the awful dregs you get on the dating side of the app.
But look, let’s get real. There's no way to get around the fact that most of the people on this app are a little desperate. As earnest as everyone’s intentions may be, and hey I was on there too, the number of people who straight out the gate sent me a message (literally) saying 'I don't have many friends, so let me know if you want to hang out!' was starting to make me feel . Similarly to the dating side of Bumble, there were also some boring messages (‘Hello!’), a lot of bad messages (see previous sentence), and very few good ones.
After speaking to a few people with no real ‘connection’, I eventually I got chatting to one person who was in a similar situation to me. She had also newly relocated to a new place, had a few friends here but most lived elsewhere, and we were from nearly the same place. She also acknowledged the massive, heaving, wailing elephant in the room of ‘it’s a little weird we’re all doing this, right.’ A few weeks into messaging, we decided to meet up.
First off, let me say this: It is hard to pick a place to go for a blind friend date. You want somewhere appropriately cool, to not look like an asshole or a dork, but equally need to pick somewhere that isn’t overly sexy so this person doesn’t think you’re just a massive creep. I took the lead on picking a place and, after agonising over it, ultimately made the glorious decision to go to a place that my date took 20 extra minutes to find.
Let me also say that, weirdly, I felt a lot more nervous going out for this date than with almost any romantic date I'd been on. With a romantic date, I could boil down them not liking me to them being intimidated by me, thick, boring, or just a massive dickhead. However, getting rejected by someone who had no ulterior motive beyond just getting to know me as a person made for the perfect combination of self-consciousness and existential dread in the hours leading up to it. My Messenger history in the 30 minutes before was almost entirely messages of me asking my friends why I had decided to do this.
In the end, the date went... fine. She was friendly and not awkward, which is a steep hurdle to overcome on its own, but beyond that I’m not sure what, if any, chemistry there was. We met after work and stayed for about 3-4 drinks in 2 hours and both felt the call to make it home to eat dinner at a reasonable time. She talked a lot (I mean, ‘Here’s my family’s backstory and my 10-year plan for my romantic future’ a lot) and, to be fair, was nice and entertaining. But the whopping wash of apathy I felt when I got a text the next day asking to go out in a few days time was sign that it probably wasn’t worth a round two.
Much like Tinder and Bumble are for dating, Bumble BFF is likely not where you’re going to find your platonic soulmate. After a laborious month or so, this was the sole date I went on because it truly was the only person who I truly thought I had enough in common with that we could sustain a conversation. Despite that, and again, despite having spoken to her for a few weeks leading up, things didn’t really click enough to make it worth another date.
With time (like, a lot of time), effort, or even just a shitload of good luck, this app could, theoretically, actually work. I, however, will be saving myself the phone storage.
- Words by Sarah Manavis.