Road-test­ing the new friend-find­ing apps (with mixed re­sults).

Christina Gon­za­les checks out the new­est pla­tonic-dat­ing pool.

Elle (Canada) - - Insider - By Christina Gon­za­les

just be­fore my date with Alex*, I take an­other look at her pro­file. She’s 29, stylish (I knew I’d be into her af­ter see­ing the shiny army­green cu­lottes she rocks in one of her pho­tos) and an ad-agency exec. She was def­i­nitely one of the first girls who caught my eye, so, nat­u­rally, I was thrilled when we matched. For our first meet­ing, Alex has in­vited me to do a Best Abs Ever class at Equinox Fit­ness Club in Toronto, where she’s a mem­ber. I have my sleek­est Lu­l­ule­mon gear on—a strappy neon-green sports bra and an­kle­length Luons. “I hope I like her,” I think to my­self. As she glides into the women’s change room, we look each other in the eyes and smile. “She has very nice dim­ples,” I think. And she’s a lot pret­tier in per­son. The 30-minute ab class is tough but passes quickly. By the end of it, both Alex and I are head-to-toe drenched in sweat. (Noth­ing quite like a work­out to break the ice.) When we fi­nally get to talk while stretch­ing af­ter class, I waste no time in ask­ing her how long she’s been on the app where we met and why she’s on it. You see, Alex and I found each other on Bum­bleBFF, which uses Bum­ble’s match­ing al­go­rithm to con­nect po­ten­tial friends. It’s one of many dat­ing apps that are now also help­ing peo­ple start pla­tonic re­la­tion­ships.

This sum­mer, Tin­der So­cial launched glob­ally as a plat­form to ex­pand one’s so­cial life, meet new friends and plan group ac­tiv­i­ties. It hasn’t taken long for sim­i­lar com­pan­ion­ship-based apps to pop up in app stores: Hey! Vina is for women only, Bvddy pairs peo­ple based on the sports they love and Meet My Dog is for owners who want to bring their pups on doggy dates.

I think Alex and I matched be­cause of our sim­i­lar­i­ties: We’re the same age, and we at­tended ri­val uni­ver­si­ties. I could also tell from her pro­file pho­tos that we have sim­i­lar in­ter­ests, like fash­ion, travel and an ea­ger­ness to go out and ex­plore Toronto. It re­ally helps that Bum­bleBFF shows you shared Face­book con­nec­tions, and Alex and I have three friends in com­mon. That so­lid­i­fied my in­ter­est; I mean, it’s al­most like Alex had al­ready been vet­ted by my ex­ist­ing net­work.

Dur­ing our chat, we talked about how we met our three mu­tual friends, her dat­ing life (she read me a bunch of texts from a guy she was sup­posed to meet through Bum­ble who bailed on her at the last minute) and the fab­u­lous­ness of In­dian wed­dings (she was go­ing to one on the week­end). Our in­ter­ac­tion was sur­pris­ingly nat­u­ral: It was like I was talk­ing to a friend I’d known for years. When I asked Alex why she’d joined Bum­bleBFF, she said that it wasn’t be­cause she didn’t have close friends from child­hood, school or work but be­cause most of her girl­friends now lived with their boyfriends. As a re­sult, they sim­ply don’t do things with her—like work­out classes, salsa danc­ing, go­ing to see hip­hop DJs at var­i­ous Toronto bars—as of­ten as they used to.

Being at the mercy of your clos­est friends’ sched­ules is cer­tainly some­thing I un­der­stand. Out of my five best friends, one lives in the States, two are doc­tors and two are mar­ried. Our sched­ules don’t leave much room for leisurely girl time, the kind we used to have a lot of 10 years ago, when we were 19. So I’m on the look­out for func­tional girl­friends—peo­ple who I can go to the opera with, peo­ple who ac­tu­ally en­joy hot yoga, peo­ple who work in sim­i­lar cre­ative fields, like Alex, who has since in­vited me to go out danc­ing and to her place for a wine night.

The thing is, I def­i­nitely lucked out in meet­ing Alex be­cause Bum­bleBFF is al­most as com­pet­i­tive for find­ing friends as its sib­ling app is for find­ing ro­mance. Af­ter swip­ing right about 100 times over the course of a week, I only matched with two peo­ple—Alex and an as­pir­ing yogi named Chloe*. (My in­app con­ver­sa­tion with Chloe even­tu­ally fiz­zled out.)

Still, there are oth­ers—like Vanessa Or­tali, a 30­yearold en­tre­pre­neur—who have built a strong net­work of func­tional girl­friends as well as best friends by us­ing the app. Or­tali joined Bum­bleBFF back in April, when it was fairly new. She has since be­come the or­ga­nizer of the 400­women­strong Bum­bleBFF Toronto Face­book group. “The funny part is I’m sin­gle and don’t on­line date for men—I only on­line date for friends,” she ex­plains. “A lot of my friends are get­ting mar­ried and hav­ing ba­bies and just don’t have the time any­more. I live right down­town and I am busy, but I also want the flex­i­bil­ity to be able to plan last­minute things—fun things— and not be held back by my friends’ avail­abil­ity.”

When I ask Or­tali if she’s been able to make any close friends (the kind of friends you would call dur­ing a time of need) through these dig­i­tal meet­ups, she says that one of her clos­est con­fi­dantes is ac­tu­ally a wo­man from Van­cou­ver whom she met on Bum­bleBFF. “I con­sider her one of my best friends who I’d ac­tu­ally go to for ad­vice be­cause we’re on the same wave­length—we think the same way, and we have many of the same val­ues.”

Still not com­pletely con­vinced that Bum­bleBFF was work­ing well for me, I de­cided to try Hey! Vina, the brain­child of Olivia Poole and Jen Apra­hamian. Poole, who re­lo­cated to San Fran­cisco in 2009 from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, felt lonely liv­ing in a new city and started find­ing friends by mes­sag­ing like­minded women on OkCupid. “It was re­ally hard for me to find my peo­ple,” she says. “I mean, I had friends, but I didn’t have my peo­ple.” Since its launch in Jan­uary, Hey! Vina has be­come the world’s largest fe­male­only pla­tonic­dat­ing app, with a pres­ence in the United King­dom and most ma­jor U.S. cities as well as Ot­tawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Cal­gary and Van­cou­ver. Thank­fully, I had a much eas­ier time on Hey! Vina, and within a week I’d matched with nine other women. (My guess is that be­cause Hey! Vina only al­lows you to up­load one pic­ture, ver­sus the six that you can post on Bum­bleBFF, women are less in­clined to make su­per­fi­cial snap judg­ments.) Which goes to show that the rules of on­line dat­ing pre­vail even if you’re look­ing for pla­tonic re­la­tion­ships: Ask a girl out too soon and you’re likely to be ghosted; get asked out too soon and you’re likely to be sus­pi­cious.

I con­nected with a late­twen­tysome­thing named Vic­to­ria*. She fre­quented the same Toronto hot spots as I did, and, over­all, my gut feel­ing told me that she could be a good fit. Af­ter chat­ting on the app for only two days, I de­cided to take things to the next level: “We should go out for a few drinks in the com­ing weeks and talk trav­els,” I wrote. “I would be 100% down to chat trav­els over a cock­tail or two…or three,” she re­sponded. “Perf, maybe next week, Wed or Thurs? LMK. Pa­tio for sure!!!” I con­cluded. And it has been ra­dio si­lence from Vic­to­ria ever since. h

BUM­BLEBFF IS AL­MOST AS COM­PET­I­TIVE FOR FIND­ING FRIENDS AS ITS SIB­LING APP IS FOR FIND­ING RO­MANCE.

On the other hand, Jane*, a twen­tysome­thing orig­i­nally from Mon­treal who had just moved to Toronto from New York, asked me out for a drink af­ter four days of tex­ting through Hey! Vina. Four days may seem like a long time, but we never had any lengthy, in­depth con­ver­sa­tions where we re­ally learned about each other. And in her pro­file photo, she’s wear­ing large sun­glasses, so I couldn’t re­ally see her face.

I felt a bit un­sure while rid­ing the street­car to meet Jane at a pub. “I re­ally don’t want to do this,” I thought to my­self. And when she strolled through the pa­tio, met my gaze and waved, I felt like the next one to two hours were go­ing to take a lot of ef­fort on my part. Although Jane did look dif­fer­ent with­out her sun­glasses on, I also felt that we’d had no real con­nec­tion dur­ing our on­line chats, and that lack of chem­istry man­i­fested it­self in real life too. It turned out we were on dif­fer­ent ends of the spec­trum on ev­ery­thing from what we like to eat and where we shop to how we spend our down­time.

Jane was new to the city, and it was easy to see that she ap­pre­ci­ated being around some­one, even if it was just to sit and have a drink. And af­ter spend­ing an hour or so with her, I ad­mired that she’d taken charge of her own wants and needs and that she didn’t wait around for friends to ap­pear out of thin air. It seemed Jane and I could re­late on one level: We both know how to take charge of our own lives. But a bad pla­tonic date can still be drain­ing in the same way that a lousy ro­man­tic one can be. And, af­ter meet­ing Jane, I ad­mit­tedly went on a pla­tonic­dat­ing­app detox.

I know that the friend­ships I’ve been build­ing for the past 10 years will al­ways have an ease to them that I won’t get from hang­ing around with peo­ple I’ve just met on an app. One could ar­gue that these friend­ship apps will make us de­volve, that new “friends” could use other new “friends” (sim­i­lar to the hookup cul­ture fu­elled by dat­ing apps like Tin­der) to get ex­actly what they need at a par­tic­u­lar time—a party friend for an evening of cock­tails, an artsy friend for a show at the bal­let or a sporty friend for a bike ride across the city. But that doesn’t mean some of these pla­tonic dates can’t turn into flour­ish­ing friend­ships, be­cause, as with ro­man­tic dat­ing, it’s a num­bers game. I’ve only met a hand­ful of girls so far, and I’ve gelled with ev­ery one ex­cept Jane. Or­tali, on the other hand, has got­ten to know over 400 women and has nabbed a best friend out of it. Af­ter all, isn’t this why we all use dat­ing apps—pla­tonic or not—in the first place? To meet new peo­ple, to cast off the one­offs and even­tu­ally find the one that sticks. n *Name has been changed.

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