Shropshire Star

New connections: The high-tech way to find a friend

With the recent January blues, happy smiling couples plastered across adverts for Valentine’s and all the cold nights with not many events going on, winter can be tough for single folk, especially those who don’t have many friends.

Forging new friendships

Perhaps you’ve hit the age bracket where most of your mates are getting married, having children, or both, or maybe your close friends have settled in cities hundreds of miles, or it may be the case that you’ve simply grown apart with time and work commitments.

Whatever the reason, it can be easy to find yourself feeling a little lonely and forging new friendships isn’t always simple when we get older.

So many of us scroll through our phones, looking at other people’s lives on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but instead of pouring over all those fake, overly filtered social media posts, what if you use that phone to get meeting people in person? For those not familiar, welcome to the world of online friendship apps, where connecting with people your age and in your area is at the tip of your fingers.

Okay, so the idea of selling yourself online and swiping through other women’s profiles may seem a little off-putting, but don’t be deterred. These apps are more commonplace than you think, and the stigma of making mates via the web is diminishing, as public opinion shifts from seeing it as desperate to realising digital is just a more comfortable and convenient way to do things.

The apps do have a similar element to dating – with swiping right if you’re interested and left if you’re not a familiar feature – however they don’t have all the hassle that comes with meeting men. There’s no pressure to put on your best lipstick or start sizing up whether they’re commitment material. In fact having this layer of pressure removed makes it all the more fun.

Having recently moved to a new area, and in search of expanding my social circle, I tried out the free Bumble BBF app, which sells itself as the place where you can meet your “new best friend, partner in crime, wing woman, workout partner, or anything else that strikes your fancy”.

It was simple enough to navigate once downloaded – pop in a short bio describing yourself, upload a few photos, and you’re away. The bio blurbs are pretty basic and you’ll find lots of similar interests cropping up – who doesn’t love brunch, coffee catch-ups and a glass of wine at the weekend after all?

Once you’ve made some ‘matches’, the next step is getting the messages going. Striking up conversation first can be odd, and requires a little boldness to break the ice. I went with the tried and tested “Hey! How are you?”. You’ll find most people’s answers are quite generic and many repeat what’s already written in their bios, it’s when you arrange to meet in person that things get interesting.

Once numbers have been exchanged, and a suitable time/place picked for you both, you’ll find arranging more ‘dates’ with other Bumblers much easier. You can also set up group meetings with three or four people from the app if that’s more comfortable.

Do keep in mind, not everyone is going to become your friend. A few of the girls I met, there wasn’t that ‘spark’, our interests were too different or we simply didn’t gel well. Also it works both ways, not everyone will take to you so be prepared for rejection.

The key in all this is perseverance, don’t be put off by a few bad meetings. I had to see about 12 different women on Bumble before I finally found my ‘troop’, those who were at a similar place in life to me and shared common outlooks and goals.

At least five of the people I met through the app I now consider friends and that doesn’t just mean catching a coffee together every Tuesday, I’ve cried in front of these women, spilled my woes and equally listened about bad dates, heartache, family struggles and hardships at work.

I know a friend of mine in London also tried the app and is still struggling to meet anyone like-minded, but I’ve told her to keep at it. You have to put in effort on the app – after matching with someone, if neither party strike up a conversation within 24 hours, their profile will grey out and you won’t be able to contact each other. It can be frustrating if you’re always the one always initiating the chats, but don’t give up.

There’s millions of people out there after all, and plenty using friend-finding apps. You could also give Patook, Meetup, Nextdoor, Hey! Vina and We3 a go. All free, easy to navigate apps that will help you build that feeling of connection and community and hopefully end in a few firm friendships.