Campus Life
I used an app to try making friends while in self-isolation: here’s what happened
by Gabby Dumonceaux | June 5, 2020

Interested in: someone to FaceTime while watching Outer Banks.

Hi, my name is Gabby, and I want to make new friends.

This time of year is usually great for socializing—with regular festivals, concerts and exhibitions, there’s no shortage of occasions to meet people. But, this summer is different.

Gif of a white cartoon house with a black roof, a blue door, and two blue windows on a pastel yellow background. The words "Stay home" flash individually on either side of the house.

In my recent guide to making friends in your online classes, I discussed Bumble BFF: an online dating-esque app designed to facilitate platonic relationships. The app has seen a lot of success, but I wanted to find out if it would work for myself.

So, for one week, I swiped right on potential pals. Here’s what I learned:

Making a friend profile is weirdly formal

Creating a profile to make friends felt very forced. I spent a good hour sifting through my camera roll trying to find the perfect pictures to make me seem fun and interesting. Then I thought,

“What am I doing? Why should my potential friends care how outdoorsy I looked when I went hiking that one time?”

IGNITE content writer Gabby Dumonceaux sits facing away form the camera overlooking a sunny prairie landscape. She wears black shorts, a black ball cap, and a blue-and-white tank top. Her straight blonde hair is in a ponytail. In front of her are hills of brown and green grass accentuated with foot paths made of sand. Leafless trees stand in a row along the horizon in front of a shallow lake.
See? So outdoorsy. My shirt even matches the sky!

While my tendency to overthink almost certainly contributed to my distaste, the setup process felt like trying to force a square peg through a round hole. Platonic relationships are meant to be natural; your friends are the people who console you when your favourite TV show is cancelled and have seen you eat peanut butter straight out of the jar at 3 a.m.

It was strange curating a page of my best photos and coolest interests to impress people that I know will eventually have to talk me out of spontaneously cutting my own bangs.

Greyscale gif of Audrey Hepburn playfully swatting at her chin-length bangs. She wears a white blouse.

Self-isolation makes online friendships harder, too

Whether you’re using them to find a soulmate or a best mate, networking apps are designed to be the catalyst for IRL relationships. It’s still important to practice social distancing, so I tried hanging out with my new online friends over FaceTime. It felt unnatural since we’d never met in person.

It’s hard becoming and staying friends without getting together. My inbox was full of so many ghosts, it became the subject of the next Paranormal Activity.

The word "Bye" is written in white capital letters across a pastel blue background. The word slowly fades away as the background darkens, leaving a black square.

Rejection hurts. Like, really

Being rejected by a potential friend hurts much more than being rejected by a potential partner, surprisingly.

When someone rejects me on a dating app—it sucks, sure—but, I get it. Maybe I wasn’t their type. Maybe they’re too busy for a relationship right now. Maybe they got tired of me literally never knowing what I want to eat. All good reasons! But, when a friend rejects me, I feel like a bad person.

What was so terrible about me that they didn’t want to talk to me at all?

Clip from Nick Cassavetes' "The Notebook" (2004) showing a heated conversation between Noah Jr. (Ryan Gosling) and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams). Noah asks Allie, "What do you want?" and she replies, "It's not that simple." This exchange repeats twice. The couple is standing outside on green grass next to a black car.
Trying to decide where to order dinner from. Hashtag domestic bliss?

When it works, it works

Flaws aside, my adventures in online socializing did lead to a few promising connections. I even met someone who shares my love for collecting stationery! (Writing that sentence made me realize that maybe my niche interests are part of the reason making friends on an app wasn’t easy for me.)

Clip from The CW's "Riverdale" (2017-) showing Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) wearing a light grey jacket with white fur trim. His arms are crossed and he says, "I'm weird. I'm a weirdo."

However, it’s only been a week. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my past friendships, both on and offline, it’s that you can’t force it. I’ll see where things go with my pen pal—ha! get it?—but, if nothing lasting comes from my time making friends through a screen, that’s okay too.

It was worth a shot, right?


Celebrate summer with your new online friends by attending these virtual events together!

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