Acknowledging When You Need New Friendships
When the COVID-19 pandemic officially hit the United States in March 2020, I was already in the early stages of realizing I was in dire need of some new, meaningful friendships in my life. The pandemic – and the social isolation that ensued thereafter – only amplified my need and desire to meet like-minded, empowering women.
At that point in time, I was fast approaching my thirties and had just been laid off as a result of the pandemic. I spent five dreary, depressing months unemployed and lost touch with many of the female colleagues I had worked closely with day in and day out at that job. Fortunately, I found rewarding and fulfilling work in a new career in marketing in higher education, where I thrive as a full-time senior copywriter today. The only catch is I work from home 100% of the time, which makes it challenging to form new relationships with my current team.
As the pandemic has raged on and I settled into my fully remote career, I knew I needed to make a change, and fast. A few of my previous girlfriends had moved during the pandemic and I quickly realized I only had one social connection outside my relationship with my family and husband. While those relationships continue to mean everything to me, in my heart I knew I couldn’t add pressure by expecting them to replace the friendships I had lost along the way. It became clear to me I needed to discover new means of connecting with women to form new friendships, stat.
Discovering Bumble BFF
Meeting new people in the midst of a pandemic seemed like a recipe for disaster, but I was determined to find some semblance of success somehow. I turned to Google to research how people successfully befriend people in this age of online dating and social media. Then it clicked. I knew how successful online dating could be. In fact, I matched with my now-husband on eharmony back in 2013! It would make sense, then, if there was a website or an app for matching with potential friends, right?
Enter Bumble BFF. My Google results laid it all right out in front of me. Bumble was founded in 2014 by founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd. Herd originally created the app to provide women with a comfortable and empowering online dating space. Since its inception, the app has amassed 100 million global users, is valued at $8 billion, and has evolved from an exclusive dating space into a place for friendships and networking.
How to Create a Bumble BFF Profile
Today, when users create a profile on Bumble, they have the option to sign up for dating, friendships, or networking (or all three!). Just like on a standard dating site, on Bumble BFF you create a profile where you share a brief bio, upload your photos, share your interests, and select what you’re looking for.
On my profile, I shared details including me being newly married, a pet parent to two adorable dogs, a career-focused female working in a senior-level position, a homeowner, and so on. I shared a few of my top favorite television shows, the genres of books I enjoy reading, and what kinds of BFF dates I’m looking for, such as happy hour, getting mani/pedis, meeting for doggy play dates, and more.
The app provides room to be as specific or vague as you prefer, meaning you can share personal details like your workplace, education, gender, location, hometown, COVID-19 vaccination status, relationship status, drinking/smoking habits, religion, exercise habits, parenthood situation, and star sign – or none at all. I shared the details I was comfortable sharing in these profile sections and simply skipped what I wanted to remain private and the rest is history.
Once my profile was live, I started swiping left (on people I didn’t want to match with) and right (on people I did want to match with). The BFF matching section gives you a few filters to control who your potential matches are, based on details like how close you want a friend to be (one mile away to the whole country), how old they are (18 to 80 and any range in between), and filters around whether your potential matches have kids/no kids, smoke/don’t smoke, drink/don’t drink, exercise/don’t exercise, etc.
These parameters teach the app to only show you the kind of friends you’re interested in being matched with. Unsurprisingly, the more filters you have, the fewer matches you’re likely to receive, but the parameters do provide nice boundaries if you’re particular about the kinds of friends you want to surround yourself with. I decided to keep my filters a little less restrictive because I want to meet all kinds of women and see who I connect with!
My Experience Making Friends on Bumble BFF So Far
I’ve had a Bumble BFF profile since the summer of 2021 and have matched with so many incredible women so far. Not every match is bound to become a lasting friendship, but there are five or so ladies who I’ve made plans with enough times by now in a variety of settings (remember to follow the rule of three) that we’re in the early stages of forming real-life friendships.
By now, I have a pretty good sense of when I have a strong enough connection with someone I match with to move our conversations off the app and IRL (in real life).
Here are a few practices I follow to get the most out of my Bumble BFF experiences and turn my virtual connections into real-life friends:
I’m eager to send a message right away.
Just like on the dating version of Bumble, both people have to swipe right on each other in order to chat. When I swipe right on a friend and they do the same to me, we both receive a notification that we’ve matched and we can begin communicating. When I receive this notification, I do my best to send a message right away because the app only gives you 24 hours to start a conversation before the match expires. (Once you both start talking, the conversation doesn’t disappear but if neither of you makes a move or only one of you does, the conversation will completely expire).
To begin a chat, I usually review the person’s profile and find something about it that stands out to me. I detest when someone reaches out to me with a simple “hey” or “how are you?” These openers seem impersonal and weak. Instead, I’ll start a conversation about a place they mentioned traveling to, or the fact that they’re a pet parent too, or ask them what brought them to Maine (because many of my matches are new transplants to my home state). This approach usually gets the conversation going and keeps the momentum strong from there.
I follow-up regularly.
Life gets pretty busy at times and it can happen unexpectedly, which means chatting on Bumble BFF gets kicked to the curb. If I haven’t heard from someone in a couple of days, or I’m the one who has been busy and radio silent, I remind myself to log into the app and check-in with my matches to keep the conversations fresh. Most times, people are completely understanding if I’ve been away and I try to do the same to them in return. The key is to keep finding new questions to ask and topics to bring up to nurture the conversations until you feel like you’re in a place to meet IRL.
I plan a meet-up early on.
I hesitate to put a timeframe around when it’s “the right time” to meet but for me, I try to establish a real-life meet-up as early as possible. As aforementioned, I can tell pretty early into chatting with someone whether I feel a connection or not. Typically, I pick up on cues like we share a lot of similar interests, our conversations flow really naturally, we’ve already found each other’s Instagram accounts and we’re connecting on social media, and so on. When most of those key factors come into play, I can tell it’s time to meet IRL.
For “friend dates,” I like to keep things really light and pick a setting that lends itself to connecting further. For example, meeting up to go to a concert for a first meet-up would probably fail because it would be near impossible to chat and get to know each other better. Instead, meeting for happy hour, lunch or dinner, or just grabbing a quick cup of coffee are a few settings perfect for a first friend date. Of the five or so ladies I’m clicking with really well so far, we met in these types of settings and found them to be incredibly successful. Chatting over drinks or a meal is a casual way to socialize and is usually pretty comfortable.
I keep in touch and make plans for next time.
If I’m really excited about a friend after our first meet-up IRL, I make a point to send them a text and basically say so. Just like you probably would if you went on a date with someone you really liked, it makes sense to let them know you’re interested in planning something again soon. In this regard, meeting new friends from Bumble BFF IRL can feel a little like dating. It’s hard to know if they like you just as much as you like them. I find it’s best to be honest and direct, so most times I will text a friend that day or the day after and let her know I had a lot of fun and would love to do it again soon. Usually, it’s met with equal excitement and from there we’ll make plans to go shopping, get manicures, plan a game night, or whatever else comes to mind.
And if there’s no connection? No problem! I don’t believe in forcing any kind of relationship that doesn’t work organically and friendships are no exception. The thing is, at this point in my life, I know exactly who I am. I know what makes me laugh, how I enjoy spending my free time, and the kind of people I want to surround myself with. It doesn’t do me any good to chase a friend that isn’t feeling a connection with me and vice versa. There have been a few women I’ve met from Bumble BFF, in some cases more than once, and the friendship didn’t seem to form naturally between us. And that’s okay! I just keep putting myself out there to meet other ladies and see which ones become part of my new tribe. So far, I’ve had more successes than failures.
Making new friends in your thirties is no easy feat – especially given the challenging times we’re all trying to navigate as best we can. Throughout the pandemic, social connections have been difficult to come by but Bumble BFF has been my silver lining. I’m genuinely excited about the new women who have entered my life so far. From getting our nails done to meeting for dinner to forming a competitive trivia team at a local trivia night event (we earned fourth place out of 16 teams!), I am already feeling so fulfilled and grateful for these new connections.
These women all have different career paths, relationship/family statuses, interests, and life goals, but I’ve found connections with all of them in various ways. Some of them are already persuading me to try things I’ve never done before (one girl is an avid ice-fisher and has invited me to join her one weekend) and others make me laugh harder than I’ve laughed in years. It feels amazing to meet like-minded, empowering women who like me just as I am. There’s no competition or judgment between us. So far, everyone I’ve connected with wants to form real, lasting friendships, which is a refreshing feeling.
I’m so grateful I made the commitment to give Bumble BFF a try. I tell everyone and anyone who wants to make new friends to explore this app. It’s completely free, takes minutes to get started, and has the potential to change your life!