Nearly half of Americans have three friends or fewer, according to a May 2021 study from the Survey Center on American Life. Americans also report “having fewer close friendships than they once did, talking to their friends less often, and relying less on their friends for personal support.” Although the COVID-19 pandemic is an obvious contributor to the declining number and quality of friendships, other factors stacked up well before that health crisis—particularly among adults who have to juggle career, family and personal obligations.
Friendships are good for your mental and physical health
Declining friendships aren’t just a detriment to your social calendar; friendships are intimately tied to mental health. According to the Mayo Clinic, friendships may “increase your sense of belonging and purpose, boost your happiness and reduce your stress,” among other factors.
Friendships may also impact overall well-being by decreasing the risk of health problems such as depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). The Mayo Clinic also notes, “studies have found that older adults who have meaningful relationships and social support are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.”
Friendship apps let you break the ice online
However, without ready-made social interactions, like attending school, adults may find it difficult to form new friendships. It may be possible to form in-person connections at gatherings involving shared interests, such as book clubs, sports leagues, fitness classes and adult education classes—but some people prefer to break the ice online. Friendship apps foster connection and enable users to find people they may not otherwise encounter. Meeting in the virtual world can even translate to forming friendships offline.
Here are the 4 best friendship apps to help you connect
1. Bumble for Friends
Swiping left or right isn’t just for dating apps. Apps can also be used to find a friendship match. Bumble began as a dating app in 2014, and Bumble for Friends was launched in 2016 to foster different relationships.
“Bumble for Friends was born out of an observation that people were customizing their Bumble dating app profiles for non-romantic connections, like finding a roommate or making friends after a move,” says Bumble for Friends general manager Beth Berger. “Seeing the community’s interest in making platonic connections, we created Bumble for Friends to make it easier to connect with people nearby that are also seeking to grow their social circles.”
Isa Pace found herself longing for friendship after moving to a rural area and spending time alone while her firefighter partner was on shift. “I wanted someone to explore the new area where I moved to and also have someone I could spend time with while my boyfriend was working,” she says. “I worked from home for my job, so the chance of meeting someone organically seemed impossible.”
A self-described shy person, Pace connected with one friend after another via Bumble for Friends, which she says allowed her to get past the initial awkward “want to be friends?” stage. The online connections quickly led to in-person meetings for trivia nights and becoming gym buddies and even bridesmaids for each other.
Pace advises taking connections offline as soon as possible. “If it seems promising, meet up sooner than later! If you have a couple connections that enjoy similar things, plan a group meetup. It takes the pressure off of being one-on-one, but it also gives you the opportunity to see if there’s potential with more people,” she says.
Bumble for Friends recently launched a new feature called Plans, which allows users to organize or join in-person get-togethers based on an activity they enjoy.
Natalia Condon, of California, had been married three months when she got pregnant. She was just starting college, but she knew she wouldn’t be leading the stereotypical college life. “I knew I needed mom friends who were on the same pathway, had the same life structure,” she recalls. She signed up for Peanut app, the first online community specifically aimed at women navigating all phases of motherhood. “It can be daunting to [go up to people], especially if you’re in a new area. The app helps moms meet people who are looking for the same thing,” she says.
Condon found the app useful to connect with local moms. She found a fellow mother with a child the same age. Once they started talking, they discovered they had many shared interests. Years later, they still talk regularly.
Michelle Kennedy founded Peanut to surmount the loneliness many mothers feel in a way that resonated with her as a millennial. She launched the app in 2017, and it’s now used by 3.5 million women every month. Peanut has grown 300% since the pandemic, testifying to the need among mothers. Women can connect geographically or on certain topics, such as breastfeeding or feeding solids. Since its founding, Peanut has expanded to welcome women navigating fertility and menopause.
Kennedy encourages mothers to reach out first, even if it’s hard to do. “I would tell myself, this is not just for me… You’re doing it for your kid and for your mental health and sanity so you’re not alone. Don’t give up, be present and be active on the app because it shows other moms if you’re active,” she says.
Sometimes the best friends are closer than you think—as illustrated by Nextdoor, an app developed for hyperlocal networking among neighbors. When John Banks and his family were planning to move from Seattle to Tucson, Arizona, he reached out via Nextdoor. Individuals, businesses and organizations in more than 315,000 neighborhoods in 11 countries around the world use Nextdoor.
Many neighbors use Nextdoor to search for missing pets (and help them find their way home) or to inform each other of crime in their community and to discuss local issues. Banks used the friendship app to connect with people in the vicinity of his new home, and those neighbors embraced the Banks family.
“I started using the Nextdoor app before I came here. I now know everybody in my neighborhood,” Banks says. “It made me feel like moving 1,500 miles away wasn’t a big deal.” When the family arrived in Tucson with a new baby, neighbors were ready to take the online connection into the real world. They helped around the house to aid with the new arrival. “What I found about the people on Nextdoor is that they want their community to be great,” Banks says.
Generation Z, the youngest generation of adults, may be social media masters, but they’re still seeking authentic connection online. Nykki Olejniczak, a 22-year-old Yubo user from Hillsboro, Oregon, joined in 2019 to find friends to play video games with. The app’s algorithms matched her with people with similar interests and connected them for live social interactions. “I have tried some other apps and none of them had the type of people that Yubo has,” she says.
Yubo has nearly 80 million users, almost all of whom are between ages 13 and 25. The app involves real-time interactions via live encounters and lacks a ranking system (such as likes or upvotes), which other social media platforms often utilize.
Olejniczak’s in-app interactions, which grew into daily messaging and livestreaming on Yubo, are translating into offline encounters. She and a group of friends are meeting up in North Carolina and renting an Airbnb together this year. “We plan on going out on hikes and to arcades and go-kart racing and that kind of stuff.” She says the key to finding friends is being genuine. She suggests, “Don’t be afraid to say ‘hi’ to new people.”
Photo by Dean Drobot/Shutterstock.com
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