Family

Dating-style apps breaking into the friendship market

A woman uses her cell phone in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. Brazilians awoke to a day without WhatApp Thursday after a judge ordered the popular messaging app blocked throughout the country for 48 hours. In a statement, Sao Paulo's criminal court system said only that WhatsApp had been handed two prior judicial orders this year that the California-based company failed to heed.
A woman uses her cell phone in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. Brazilians awoke to a day without WhatApp Thursday after a judge ordered the popular messaging app blocked throughout the country for 48 hours. In a statement, Sao Paulo's criminal court system said only that WhatsApp had been handed two prior judicial orders this year that the California-based company failed to heed. AP

If you’re in your 20s or 30s, the idea of swiping right to find your next date sounds pretty unsurprising by now.

But what about swiping to find your next best friend? Looking at a photo of another woman with some details about who she is and what she likes, and in an instant deciding whether she has friend potential?

Welcome to the future of friendship-finding, or so say hopeful app-makers. There’s Squad, Spotafriend, BeFriend, MetjUp. Hey! VINA, launched last month, is an app specifically for women looking for friends. It’s up and running in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, with plans to expand to other cities in the coming weeks.

Here’s the pitch: “When it comes to dating for romantic purposes, you can look in a room and know instantaneously who you have a connection with. … When it comes to friendship, it’s hard to look around and see who you have something in common with,” said Hey! VINA co-founder Olivia June Poole. “You can’t know who is also going through a divorce or who is new to town.”

On an app, you can know those things, and know for sure that the person in the picture wants to meet you, too. Simplifying the process is what made dating apps such as Tinder so attractive in the first place.

Like many good things do, the idea for Hey! VINA started with a glass of wine.

Poole was new to San Francisco and needed friends. She met guys all the time through OkCupid, but found it much harder to meet women she shared interests with outside of work. That’s when she started “Women Who Vino,” a wine happy hour group that has been going strong for more than three years.

Happy hour with strangers is just the kind of outing Poole wants women on Hey! VINA to take. The group became the inspiration for an app that asks you what you like to do (coffee or wine, indoors or outdoors) then matches you to women with shared interests. It’s more like a dating service than an activity-finding website such as Meetup.com. You’re encouraged to meet one on one in real life, laying the foundation for a potential friendship.

Our existing support groups are already dependent on the Internet. From close confidants to old high school pals, hypothetically, friends are always a few clicks away.

But how many passive friendships add up to the satisfaction we get from spending time with someone in person?

“Technology tools are meant to augment our offline relationships, like social snacks that tide us over until we can get a full meal,” psychologist Adriana Manago said.

We need friends we can see in person. And because we’re already on the Internet to keep in touch with our old friends, it seems natural to use it to find new ones.

Actually transforming those meetings into deep and lasting friendships, however, is going to be a challenge. Dating apps get a bad reputation for being superficial, hurried and providing too many options.

So treat the relationship like one you’d find on a dating app. You wouldn’t wait a month to see a potential boyfriend again. If you like someone, make plans right away.

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