For better or worse, dating apps have changed how people approach relationships. Finding a date on Tinder or Bumble is ridiculously easy, but what about people who aren’t looking for love?
Luckily for anyone moving to a new city or just looking for a good conversation, “Tinder for friendship” does exist. It’s a bit trickier to pull off – it turns out friendship is less quantifiable than romance – and it hasn’t reached anything near the scale of online dating, but if you live in a fairly populated area (a major city is best), you stand a good chance of possibly connecting with someone!
One of the biggest problems with friend-making apps is that it’s hard to stay “just friends.” To try to make sure that people seeking platonic friendships aren’t drowned out by those looking for love, Patook implements “the most advanced flirt detector in the world:” a machine-learning model that has been trained to find and block flirty messages.
The interface is smooth and clean, and the focus on building a complete profile of your interests, activities, and other vitals helps ensure that people on the site can be matched with a fairly high degree of accuracy. The service isn’t extremely populated or active yet, but since you’re the sort of person who might sign up for an app in an effort to make friends, you’ve already got something in common with everyone else.
MeetUp is a website/app that uses the more traditional friend-making formula of “go somewhere and do something you like with people who also like that thing.” You can find and create groups for just about anything — hiking, cryptocurrency, software development, drinking beer, etc., so you can usually find something that fits your interests.
If it sounds like a Facebook group, that’s because it is similar, but the key difference is that its primary goal is to have most of the interaction happen offline. There are tools for online discussion, but they’re quite basic, and the main reason you would visit the site/app is to check the calendar for the next event. You still need to make your own individual friends at the event, but getting there is half the battle!
We3 (formerly Me3) starts with the idea that three people in a group is small enough to get everyone talking, but large enough to take the one-on-one pressure off. The app builds a personality profile of you by asking questions, then waits for you or someone else to start a search for a “tribe” (group of three). Once a match is made, all three people have to agree, after which they can make plans as they like!
As great as the idea is, it has a few problems:
- The user base is currently small, so you’ll need to live in a big city for it to work.
- Starting a search requires you to spend tokens which you can earn by completing tasks or paying money. It’s a small annoyance, but it might discourage some users.
- There’s no data. You can’t see how many people are around you or how many potential matches you have, so starting a hunt is mostly a gamble.
All in all, I really want this app to work, and I’d still recommend giving it a try, but it has some work ahead of it before it’s truly useful.
Do you know what “networking” is? Do you do it? If you do, you may already know about Shapr, which is probably the most popular app on this list. The reason this app isn’t higher up the rankings is that it’s a semi-professional tool meant to connect you with people who have interests or skills that are relevant to you. It’s fantastic if you want to make a useful connection and feel like you may have something to offer in return, but it’s perhaps not so relevant if you just want to hang out with people. The app is well-made and fairly populated, though, so if you want to try it out, you’ll probably find a match pretty quickly!
- Friender: Nice design, good execution, but extremely new and not on Android yet.
- RealU: Also a great design, but very new.
- Bumble BFF / Hey! Vina: These are women-only friend-making apps, which can definitely be a perk!
- Skout: It has a massive community, and there are people looking for friends, but there’s no matching, and it’s heavily skewed towards dating.
- MeetMe: See Skout, but with more bots and scammers.
- Tinder Social: It doesn’t exist anymore. Tinder tried to build an app for friends but ended up with one more appropriate for … group activities.
We found love online, but can we find friends?
It’s amazing what humans can get used to. Online dating used to be considered fairly odd, but once enough people started doing it, it became the norm. Friendship may prove to be a tougher nut to crack, especially since you have the added challenge of keeping out all the people that most other relationship-building apps are trying to attract.
Nonetheless, a lot of our friendships already include an online component. Like it or not, social media has become a not-insignificant percentage of our interactions with other humans. Facebook events and other online-initiated events are already bringing people together like this, and there’s no shortage of ideas to help more potential friends find each other.