Friendship. It’s something we all need, a level of connection our bodies and minds crave on a biological level. It fills our cups, gives us our place in the world and reminds us that we’re not going through this really weird, confusing, and sometimes emotionally confronting experience of being human alone. And yet, we don’t talk about it.
We don’t actually acknowledge that it’s hard to make friends sometimes. That it takes work. That when those relationships fall apart in what the world calls ‘friendship breakups’ it can be some of the most confusing and painful heartbreak we ever go through, with no real points of reference for how it feels/how to get through it - or even how to ask if anyone else has ever felt like this. Spoiler alert: we have. Add to that the fact we all went through the trauma of a global pandemic together, stripping us of so much ‘normal’ social interaction that it’s had a profound impact on a whole generation of us trying to find ourselves and each other. You’d be forgiven for thinking friendship might belong in the too-hard basket. Well, thanks to the highly successful dating app Bumble and their new venture, Bumble For Friends, that’s all about to change.
Bumble has had friendship on its agenda since 2016, when it launched BFF mode after noticing users were hacking their dating app by putting things like, ‘just looking for friends or, just moved cities and really just here to meet new people platonically’ on their profile. Over the years, this has grown to be how over 15% of users interact with the app. Sensing an opportunity, also prompted by the known impact of the pandemic on people’s social lives, Bumble has grabbed it with both hands. Now they’re about to launch this new app, specifically tailored with geolocation settings and profile badges (just moved to a new city/I’m a mum/I’m exploring my gender identity etc) that give users a chance to hopefully find like-minded local friends more easily.
When I spoke to Lucille McCart, head of APAC Communications for Bumble about the app in a wide-ranging and sometimes deeply personal chat, she was quick to acknowledge the fact that for some young people, the idea of going near Bumble With Friends would seem like painting their foreheads with a neon sign of desperation.
“Our philosophy at Bumble is that relationships are sort of the foundation of a healthy and happy life whether that be romantic, platonic, professional, all of those things," Lucille says. "Saying you are wanting to make new friends or lacking in friends, but firstly wanting to make new friends, doesn’t mean you have no friends. You know, it doesn't mean that you're defective. It doesn't mean that you, even if you do have no friends, it doesn't mean you're defective - because a lot of the time, the people that you come into contact with in your network, it's out of your control. You only traditionally have had access to the people that you can meet at school, at work, out at the pub, you know, and the beauty of using apps like Bumble for Friends is that it really opens up the network of possibilities with people who are there with the shared purpose of wanting to make friends, you know, the only people that are going to be on there and seeing you are the people in the same boat.”
And it doesn’t have to be one-on-one. If meeting someone you’ve matched with online is too scary in case it doesn’t work out, Bumble For Friends has group-chats and options to schedule group activities. You don’t have to go through making new friends alone. But it’s OK to be nervous. To be unsure. To find it easier to make friends behind a screen than carry those conversations offline into real-world hangouts. That’s normal in fact. Research from Bumble shows that over half of us in Gen Z (that’s everyone born from 1997 - 2012) in Australia have already made friends online in some kind of capacity, and that's usually through things like social media or gaming platforms but then a third of us also feel like those friendships aren’t accessible in real life. This might be the solution.
The other thing we don’t talk about nearly enough; how lonely we all are. Bumble released research recently that put it pretty starkly, more than one-third of Gen Z women in particular feel lonely. I know I do, sometimes. Especially if I’m scrolling through social media and it looks like everyone else is having a great time without me as I sit in my room again on another Saturday night. Anyway, all of that to say that loneliness is not uncommon - and if we let ourselves get past the fear of saying those two little words “I’m lonely” out loud, we might find it easier. No one’s a mind reader and suffering in silence only makes it more quiet.
I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot lately in my own circles, but there’s a reason solitary confinement is the worst form of punishment they can give a human. We aren’t meant to do this alone. Considering so many of us now value friendship equally or above romantic relationships (thanks to the increased media portrayal of fabulous female friendship), I think it’s high time we started cutting ourselves some slack, trusting ourselves and taking a leap of faith. What do you say? Let’s go make some new friends together and call the people we’ve been meaning to catch up with, yeah?