These days, there seems to be an app for everything — book clubs, thrifting, outdoor adventures, and more. Most notably, social apps have completely transformed the dating world and are now the number one way people meet new romantic partners, according to a 2019 PNAS study of heterosexual couples (the study noted that same-sex couples, who were early adopters of dating apps, are even more likely to have met online). Given this success, it makes sense that people are jumping on the friendship app bandwagon with the same enthusiasm. Plus, after sitting in lockdown for the better part of the current decade, it’s no surprise that social app use has skyrocketed since lockdown began.
Let’s be real — the older you get, the more of your lifelong friends get busy with other things, like getting married, having kids, pursuing a career, or moving across the country. Even if you have the best of intentions, it’s easy to lose touch with people as your lives go different directions. You don’t want to replace them, per se, but you also don’t want to spend another night inside alone, wishing you had a go-to pal to hang out with.
Or maybe you’re looking to meet a specific type of person. “Online, you can find a very particular type of friend who you might not be able to find in your in-person community,” friendship expert and psychologist Dr. Marisa Franco, Ph.D., tells Bustle. “This explains why people with chronic illnesses or LGBT folks commonly search online for friends.” Meeting people online can also help you find people who share common interests and hobbies to anchor the relationship, Franco explains. “This common interest means that each person has something to check in with the other about [in order] to maintain the friendship.”
To make some bona fide buddies, the apps below can help.
WINK is a swipe-left-or-right app that’s basically a Tinder for friends. You can choose your preferred age range and gender to whittle down the scope for finding your new bestie. But unlike Tinder, you’re not just browsing the locals — you can connect with people all over the world. Swipe right and start a chat with the in-app messenger, or add your new potential bud on Snapchat. There’s even an option for audio and video calls for verified profiles.
Have you always wanted an app to meet fellow athletes and sports-lovers? Then ATLETO may have been made for you. Whether you want to find a running buddy — working out is easier when you have a friend or person to hold you accountable, right? — or another teammate for a pick-up game of basketball, the options are endless. With over 40 sporting activities to choose from, like tennis, volleyball, and cycling, you'll find at least one you’ll like. You can either join an activity or host one yourself.
Creating a profile is simple, too — you’ll fill in info such as your workplace and sports club affiliations. Then start looking for like-minded sports aficionados based on their interests, location, and skill level.
3. Bumble BFF
By now, you’ve probably heard of Bumble, the app where women make the first move in heterosexual matching and either person can make the first move in same-sex matching. The catch? It has to be done within 24 hours, or else the match disappears. Bumble BFF is essentially the same thing, only for platonic matches. Just like when you’re in dating mode on the app, you “match” with potential friends based on their profiles. Then either one of you has 24 hours to slide into the DMs before it expires.
4. Meet My Dog
Have a dog and want to meet other dog owners, and not just at the dog park or randomly on the street? Instead, why not meet them on an app? On your Meet My Dog profile, you tell fellow users about yourself and your dog, posting pictures of you both. Scroll through a feed of what the pups in your circle are up to, discover nearby pooches, or private message for a one-on-one doggie date. You can also share info with other users, like vet or park advice, as well as post cute pics of your furry friend. And come on — who doesn’t like cute dog pics?!
5. Hey! VINA
The self-proclaimed “Tinder for (girl) friends” app is just that — an app to meet friends, women only. Hey! VINA matches you with other self-identified women based on your location, mutual friends, and personal interest quizzes. The app’s personality quizzes will prompt you with questions about your social preferences — stay out late or stay in, coffee or tea, etc. Initially, the app uses information from your Facebook page to create a foundation for your profile, which you can then edit to your liking. Then it’s happy swiping from there.
Join a group or event and meet people who share your interests with Meetup. Looking for a new hiking squad? How about someone to geek out over Succession with? Meetup compiles events, both in-person and online, organized by category. Your job is to pick out whatever sparks your fancy to meet new friends, expand your business, or attend a local gathering. Search for activities like “tennis,” for example, then put in your location to find events near you. You can also join “groups” for special interests or even start your own.
With Skout, you can meet people near and far. Teens (17 and up) and adults alike can use the app to make new friends or business contacts, broadcast on live streams, and see nearby users. Plus, you get to decide if and when you want to connect with someone IRL. Whether you want to make friends in a new city, meet a future gym partner, meet up with a fellow writer for advice, or even find a platonic match with a local while traveling, Skout can be whatever you want it to be.
Peanut is an app to help moms connect with other mothers. New moms in particular can feel lonely and often struggle with things like postpartum depression, and having a community of individuals who get it helps tremendously (although it’s no substitute for seeking out professional mental health advice). Peanut allows people with the common interest of fertility, pregnancy, motherhood, and menopause to connect and share stories and advice. You can chat on Peanut’s Community page or match with locals and make a new BFF.
Friended allows users to find like-minded people who share their interests and perspectives. Instead of swiping through profiles, you post an icebreaker that reveals a little something about you. Then, if others agree with your point or find it interesting, they can reply in a direct message. You’ll have an inbox full of people who actually relate to you and want to chat with you. Friended is a place where personality takes the lead and is the driving force behind connections. Users like that the app helps “take the pressure off meeting people.” Plus, there are games and quizzes to further define and match your personality and preferences to future life-long besties.
Not everyone is well-acquainted with their neighbors — if they even know them at all. This is especially true if you’ve recently moved and have no idea who’s living across the street. With Nextdoor, you can change that. The app is your neighborhood welcome, everything short of a homemade pie at your door. Get notified of everything happening in your area, such as block parties, garage sales, or even break-ins. It’s like a super localized newsfeed, but it’s also useful for organizing meetups, which can help you feel more assimilated in the community and forge new friendships.
Rosenfeld, M. J., Thomas, R. J., & Hausen, S. (2019). Disintermediating your friends: How online dating in the United States displaces other ways of meeting. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(36), 17753–17758. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1908630116
Dr. Marisa Franco, Ph.D., psychologist and friendship expert
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