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Freestyle Friday: BumbleBFF - Building friendships the millenial way

** Freestyle Fridays are dedicated to the random consumer technologies I adopt and my take on them, good or bad. These are solely my opinions and in no way represent my employer's, social affiliations', or my dad's opinions. I encourage you to share your feedback (or just tell me I'm being ridiculous) via Twitter: @melen_nial **

It wasn't until I moved to the city of Brotherly Love that I learned that making friends - real friends - as an adult is hard.

I had a couple of college friends in the area, and just figured between work and social activities I'd naturally blossom and be extroverted, interesting, witty. People would just flock to be friends with me. I'd never lack a social circle.

The hard reality set in fast.

First, Philadelphia is massive. Not just massive in land mass. Massive in the sense that the sheer amount of people mean much longer periods of time in traffic. I'm not exaggerating at all to say it takes about 30 minutes to get from my house into center city, and it's only 6 miles away.

Secondly, making friends in college is easy. Everyone is roughly the same age. You're surrounded by like-minded individuals with similar interests and life goals. In the real world, your coworkers' ages, life stages, and commonalities can vary wildly. At my job, there are a limited number of people my age, and even less who don't already have families. Further, beyond those tangible qualities, there's also no guarantee that you share a hobby or two.

In Rochester I had such a huge pool of friends with very different personalities and interests. Thinking about it, I acquired them over decades. I had friends from middle school, high school, college, friends from being out on my own in Buffalo, friends made through exes or acquaintances or social extensions ad nauseam. To the point of it being overwhelming because I never felt like I could make time for everyone I truly cared for.

If that was ignorance, the relocation to Philly has been the eye opener. I've been fortunate enough to make a few very close friends whom I'm grateful for. However, as much as I scream quality over quantity there is something to be said about having wider social circles. It's good to have people who you know are down for brunch, and another group of friends who care more about sports. Or video games. Or whatever floats your boat on that particular day in desire to be social.

A coworker made me aware of BumbleBFF, mentioned him and his wife had been using it to find other couples to do stuff with. "That sounds weird", I said casually as I scrambled back to my desk to download it.​ I've never subjected myself to online dating, and the allure of finding my data-driven best friend piqued my curiosity. In my mind, it was a good way to do the digital try-and-buy, without the innuendos of dating apps like Tinder.

Unironically, it works the same way as the aforementioned dating app. You create a profile containing up to six photos and a small biography section to portray who you are to potential "besties". I put up a few photos of myself doing my favorite hobbies and gave a brief synopsis of things I enjoy.

You know, food, nerd stuff, and cats. I was gonna make all the friends.

Once you're done creating a profile, then the real stress starts. You're presented with another user's profile, and you can choose to swipe right if you're interested or left if you're not. If you're matched after swiping right, you have 24 hours to initiate a conversation.

The stress came in three forms for me. First, how can I possibly make a decision on whether we can be friends or not based on a few pictures? And whether or not you like guacamole or if you like hiking? DO I EVEN LIKE HIKING? I started swiping right on everyone who liked avocado. Or brunch. Or if they had photos of cats.

This is where the second part of the stress came in. How do I message someone I match with? There's the old fashioned "hey there I saw you like X so do I". I could come up with some clever punchline that made me seem cool. In the grand swirling toilet of indecision that is my brain, I deduced that approaching it that way was actually not cool. Eventually I settled on "hey girl, how are you?". After all, we're all here for the same purpose, I shouldn't have to be weird or say something out of character just to have a conversation.

The last stressor was maintaining meaningful discussion. Of all the early lovely ladies I chatted with, it became hard to keep a conversation flowing or feel confident enough in someone's personality to take it offline and meet up in the real world. I do firmly believe this is due to stressor #1: liking anyone who shared a single noun that I'm into. Hint: if you're considering using BumbleBFF, don't do that. (Or do. I'm not your caretaker.)

Despite ALL of my complaining above, the app actually has proven to be very useful. Once I settled into the motions and figured out that it was okay to be particular, I started getting matched with other women with similar interests and personalities. I've gained a full on brunch tribe, and a gal pal who I feel like I've known my whole life. Conversations with these matches has been natural, and it's moved beyond a digital jungle into real life friendships. It's certainly been a lot easier than meeting a random person at a concert, or a sports event and rattling off commonalities to see if something sticks.

My final verdict on BumbleBFF: total win. It's not as complex and algorithmic in the way dating apps like eHarmony might be, but it's easy to use and leaves the decision in your hands on whether or not someone is squadworthy.

Selectively swiping right,


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