Eniye Okah, a 20-something living in London, joined Bumble BFF when she emigrated from South Africa to the U.K.
“Having moved around quite a few times, it became difficult [to make friends] the older I became,” she told HuffPost. “I just had enough of not being able to do things I would usually do with my friends in South Africa.”
The pandemic made meeting people even more of a challenge. During this time, Okah was also launching a business — a period care subscription box called Blob Box. She wished she had friends to support her through this: people to talk to, hang out with and bounce ideas off of. She decided to join Bumble BFF because she had had success on apps in the past — in fact, she met her fiancé on Tinder.
“So I thought, why couldn’t I make a friend from an app too?” she said.
Okah matched with a woman on Bumble BFF, whom she clicked with instantly. But when they met in real life, the chemistry just wasn’t the same. Then the woman ghosted her.
“It was the strangest thing, as it just felt like that’s what a guy would usually do,” Okah said. “It basically brought my confidence down so I took a break.”
When she went back on the app the second time, she had more luck.
“I ended up making one friend who I’m still close with and so grateful to have met her!”
Friend-finding apps like Bumble BFF, Peanut (which is geared toward moms) and Friender, just to name a few, can be great tools for connecting with new people in your area. But, much like dating, meeting friends online isn’t without its challenges. It’s important to go into the process with an open mind and realistic expectations.
“You’re not guaranteed to find friends,” said friendship coach Danielle Bayard Jackson, host of the “Friend Forward” podcast. “There are still going to be people who flake and they don’t follow through or they don’t have good conversation on the app. That’s still there. It’s still a microcosm of our world. It’s not like this utopia of a bunch of amazing women to pull from, unfortunately.”
Nor does everyone you match with have the same objectives as you. You may be looking to make some genuine connections but other people might be on there because they’re bored, because they’re looking for a roommate or even recruiting for an MLM (although this is in violation of Bumble BFF’s policy).
Want to better your chances of actually making friends on apps? We’ve gathered some tips to help make your experience a fruitful one.
Shake any embarrassment you may have about trying to meet people this way.
It’s normal to feel a little self-conscious about using apps to make new friends. But there needn’t be any shame in your game.
“I always say that using a friendship app isn’t desperate. It’s resourceful,” Bayard Jackson said. “We use technology to help us maximize everything else — why not your opportunity for friendship?”
Remember that the people you’re swiping through are in the same boat as you. So try not to get in your head too much.
“Don’t overthink things, as people are on there for a reason and looking for friendship just like you are,” Okah said. “Just be super open and patient to the process as it’s basically like dating someone — finding the right person you want to bring into your life.”
Focus more on what you have to offer than what others have to offer you.
When making friends, we’re often seeking out people who meet our criteria for what we think an ideal friend should be. Does this person share our hobbies and views? Are they outgoing, funny, stylish and cool (or whatever qualities are on your checklist)? When we do this, we’re acting as a critic evaluating whether this person measures up to our standards. But we don’t focus enough on what we’re putting out there, Bayard Jackson said.
“We don’t give as much attention to how we show up, how we’re presenting ourselves, what we are willing to give and how we are willing to be of service to other people, which is what it’s about: being a good friend,” she said. “When we get on these apps sometimes, we are just throwing up whatever on our profile and then we want to go shop around. But it starts with what you’re putting out there because it really does attract that right person to you.”
So take some time to thoughtfully fill out all sections on your profile. “Don’t skip. It looks lazy,” Bayard Jackson added.
Make your profile reflective of your specific interests and unique personality.
Your “about me” says you love “music, travel and food”? Groundbreaking. Listing a few broad interests isn’t going to help you stand out in a sea of other profiles.
“You really want to show your personality and take this chance to showcase who you are so they can get a feel of, ‘Oh, she’d be a great match for me,’” Bayard Jackson said.
Be more specific: What particular style of music or artist do you love? Where’s your go-to travel spot or order at a restaurant? Is there a funny story or detail you could share? Instead of saying you love “The Office,” mention that “Dinner Party” is your favorite episode.
“These specific moments and these specific interests will help to differentiate you from the noise of all the other profiles,” Bayard Jackson said.
And keep it positive.
Profiles that tend to perform the best contain positive language, Bayard Jackson said. Instead of listing what you don’t like or what you’re not looking for, focus on what you do like and what you are looking for.
“So instead of: ‘I cant do really, really loud, extroverted people,’ perhaps you’ll write something to the effect of: ‘I really appreciate people who have a quiet energy like me or are more reserved introverts like me,’” Bayard Jackson said.
Ask questions to keep the conversation flowing.
When messaging in the app, asking questions gives the other person something to respond to so the conversation doesn’t just peter out. You can even include a question in your profile so that people have an easy way to initiate when you match.
“You gave them a lead. You gave them something to cling to,” Bayard Jackson said. “Including a question inspires more conversation. It makes it easier for people to reach out to you.”
Nina Kahn, a writer and astrologer who has started many friendships online, said chatting about astrology can be a good icebreaker when connecting with someone new on an app.
“Swapping sun, moon, and rising sign combinations can be a great way to make lighthearted conversation, but it has the added bonus of also helping you develop a better understanding of your new friend,” Kahn said. “That’s because each zodiac sign has a unique way of expressing themselves and communicating with others.”
Move the conversation off the app ASAP (or as soon as you’re both comfortable).
You match with someone, strike up a conversation and you’re hitting it off. Don’t want that connection to fizzle? It’s time to keep the good vibes going outside of the app.
“After a couple exchanges, whatever feels appropriate and comfortable to you, suggest that you take it to a different app or that you get each other’s Instagram handles or that you text if there was some really good chemistry-based exchanges,” Bayard Jackson said. “But you want to take it off the app as soon as possible if they’re comfortable. Just to get out of the noise of the busy town square of the friendship app.”
Humanize your communication as much as possible.
Leave them a voice note. Send a funny picture of your dog. Anything besides just texting back and forth.
“Because those things leave more of an imprint of who you are,” Bayard Jackson said.
Kahn also recommended finding little ways to show more of your personality in your online conversations when you’re looking to build a new friendship.
“Embellishing Messenger chats by using selfie stickers, recording voice notes, or sharing silly GIFs can give your conversations a more personal touch and highlight potential areas of compatibility, even if you’ve yet to meet in person,” said Kahn, who has a partnership with Messenger. “You can use a fun destination background or AR [augmented reality] effects during a video call to jazz up a virtual hang, too, if you’re not quite ready to take your budding friendship into the IRL realm.”
Be patient — making new friends doesn’t happen overnight.
Know that it might take some time for your Bumble BFF match to become an actual BFF.
“That’s why it’s called ‘making friends,’” Bayard Jackson said. “It’s a process to nurture something meaningful with another person.”
Manage your expectations and try not to get disheartened if things don’t go exactly as you’d hoped.
“Don’t get easily discouraged if something doesn’t work out right away,” Bayard Jackson said. “Or you have a strong difference of opinion on something. Or she didn’t respond back as quickly as you’d like. Keep perspective. Be patient. Be intentional and not expecting a ready-made friendship.”
Friendships ebb and flow throughout our lives, but these days, it may feel like all they do is ebb. Friend Zone is a HuffPost series that features reflections on the nature of our friendships and what we can do to maintain and strengthen them — plus, how to know when it’s time to let them go.