This summer my three year old niece came out to D.C. for a visit. On a sweltering hot day, we all went to our local pool for some easy entertainment. My niece loves to play with other little girls her age, and it wasn't long before she and my husband were using their hands to create binoculars around their eyes that they dubbed their "friend finders." They sat on the edge of the pool using their friend finders until she spotted a little girl that she wanted to play with. She then put down her binoculars, walked up to the little girl, and without even really speaking... began to play with her new friend.
Play that same situation out as an adult, and you are going to have a wildly different ending. I've been in my niece's shoes a lot after moving to D.C. I've enjoyed so many new and interesting experiences, but have caught myself thinking, "This would be so much more fun with a friend to share it with."
Friendship is a critical component to not only our mental health and happiness but also our physical health. The number of institutions espousing this fact are numerous (e.g. Mayo Clinic). In our twenties, many of us are transitioning through various life phases; this often takes us physically away from our established friendships or we find that our general lifestyles are no longer compatible. If we let too much time pass maintaining the status quo, it can become even more difficult to establish genuine friendships as we age.
You are in your mid.. ok, late-twenties. You're relatively new to a city where you don't know anyone, and your friend prospects at your job are either unappealing or unavailable.
Same age. Same friend prospects, but you've never moved. You have been in the same small city for a very long time, but life happens and long term friends move away.
These are the situations that my closest friend and I found ourselves in. I moved. She stayed, and the gaping holes within our lonely little souls grew larger. Shortly after moving to D.C., I spent an evening wallowing in self-pity before I typed out, "How to make new friends in D.C." I stumbled upon a site called Meetup where I quickly found a group that appealed to me. It was a group created for 20-something females living in the D.C. area. I met some really fantastic friends, one of which I even ran a marathon and then vacationed to Ireland and Costa Rica with!
Even though I had met some really fantastic ladies; for various reasons I recently felt the desire to meet a few new faces. Although I had a positive experience with Meetup, I wanted to have a bit more control over who I would be meeting and in what context. I have never really been someone who enjoys large group functions, so I knew that I would much prefer a one-on-one initial interaction. This led me to pursue my next technological friend finder, Bumble BFF. I wasn't about to do this solo, so I encouraged my Nebraska bestie to download it too.
If you are currently single (or have been in the past several years) you are probably familiar with the swiping technology that Bumble and Tinder use. Bumble is considered to be a feminist dating app, because it requires the women to communicate first. The female founder and CEO of Bumble clearly knows the importance of female friendship, which (I assume) is why she decided to use her app to help women find their "other other-halves."
Setting it up. It took me way too long to pick my six photos and create the verbiage for my profile. There is a character limit, so you have to be concise. You determine the age range that you are interested in, and then the distance (e.g., 5 mile radius). Once your profile is set up, the swiping begins!
How it works. You swipe up and down to look at the person's photos. The last photo shows their profile blurb. If you want to possibly chat with this person, you swipe right. If you don't, you swipe left and they disappear from your screen and a picture of someone new pops up. Just like the dating app, you are only able to chat if you both swiped right on one another. If that happens a screen pops up indicating that you've matched, and it gives you 24 hours to chat with one another.
My experience. I'm not going to sugar coat it; it initially felt very weird. You can't help but feel uncomfortable, judgemental and superficial to some degree when you are swiping "no" on a lot of women based on very little more than their photos.
After the novelty waned a bit, I came to appreciate the psychology of the whole thing. I gained my footing when I focused on a few specific criteria that I knew I was looking for:
- In a long-term relationship, preferably married
- 27 - 33 years old
- A variety of interests (e.g., not just, "Let's Boozy Brunch!")
My Nebraska bestie and I laughed as we compared notes. Additional instant no's for me included: duck face photos, excessively sultry photos, pictures with cats... especially profile pictures solely of your cat (I'm allergic and weirdly phobic, sorrynotsorry), and writing nothing in their profile blurb--give me something to go off of!
Interestingly, it was a challenge for us both to find people in a similar life phase that we were in. I was hard pressed to find a married late twenty-something in the D.C. area; while she was swiping through married 28-year old mother's of three in Omaha like there was no tomorrow.
Just to clarify. Wherever you are in your life as a late twenty-something --- that is absolutely fine! There were SO many cool/interesting single girls, but I was on a mission to find a specific type of person, and I also wanted to be able to drag my husband along on double dates.
Outcome. My Nebraska bestie and I both met someone! We have both hung out with our Bumble BFFs numerous times. In fact, I spent both Halloween and New Year's with mine!
As weird as the whole process felt, it is also pretty cool. I've compared it to the very first few weeks of college when everyone is brand new and excited to meet friends. That unique critical window is this magical time where social norms are set aside for awhile and it's perfectly acceptable to sit down at lunch with a random group of people (Note: I never would have actually done this). There is really no other time in your life where this happens... or at least no other time in my life.
Trying to meet friends as an adult is a significant challenge with the first hurdle being that there is no guarantee that the other person is interested in making new friends. Bumble BFF takes away that part of the equation. On Bumble BFF, it's the first day of college every day.
Once you match with someone, then all you have to think about is: if you'll message them first... what you will say.. when and where you will meet.. will you invite them? or wait for them to invite you..what will you wear?...
I don't want to falsify the process. It definitely involved a significant amount of swiping left, and you have to be really honest with yourself regarding what type of friendship you're looking for. Nearly every single profile will make a somewhat self-conscious remark about the awkwardness of the whole thing, and their desire to find friends who enjoy yoga, wine, and brunch (at least that was the theme in DC... in Nebraska I hear it's more "God, Family, My husband and kids"). You have to focus on the nuances, and then be willing to make the first move when you find a match because the awkward social science of female friendships exists on Bumble too.
If you are new to a city (big or small), if your friends have moved away, if they are in a different life phase than you or if you just feel like expanding your social circle, you should definitely give Bumble BFF a try. Always be safe! Meet in a public place, and let people know where you'll be, but if you are honest and persistent, my bet is that you'll meet a new friend or two to accompany you on whatever adventure you have in mind!