A while back I revealed that my partner and I met online.
Though I think some people still stigmatize online dating, I feel like it’s become much more acceptable than it was even just a few years ago. Maybe I’m just biased by my own success story, but I don’t feel nearly as uncomfortable sharing this information with people.
Well, with the success of online dating, and my generally complaining about how hard it is to make friends as an adult, I embarked on a mission of online-friend-finding.
This is nothing new.
Online communities have been the basis of friendships for a while. Not only that, but we’ve all heard stories of people meeting their best friend through an Instagram comment or tweet. The Minimalists wrote a great article about how the internet can often lead to more meaningful friendships.
This also isn’t that new to me.
Back in Michigan, before I moved almost a year ago (WHATTTTTT), I tried attending a handful of Meetup events. The idea was pretty straight forward. Find a group of people with whom you share a common interest. Go meet them and talk about/do something involving/whatever that common interest.
I think I was a member of somewhere around fifteen Meetups. I was probably active in two. There was one I actually created events for. I only ever went to one Meetup. It was an 11 mile hike in February. It was really fun. I skipped lunch after though. 4 hours with people I didn’t know was already a huge step outside my comfort zone. The truth is, Meetups just didn’t work for me. I’ve spoken with some other people who have tried attending these, and I can safely say that it’s not just me. Based on how many emails I get about Meetup groups getting cancelled (I signed up again once I was settled in Portland), it seems like maybe the idea isn’t working that well in general.
But, almost a year into Portland, and with really just a couple of friends to hang out with outside of the boy, I was really desperate to start meeting new people. Specifically females, to balance out the heavy dose of male company I get at work every day. Luckily, right around this realization (and I swear I had the realization before this happened), Bumble sent me an email about BumbleBFF.
Bumble was one of the many dating apps I used before meeting my main squeeze (I said it). It’s much like all the other apps, swiping, matching, hurrah! But the difference here was, only women could initiate a conversation once a match was made. The idea was to empower women. But also, it definitely served the men. I’ve heard many complaints from my male online dating friends about women who never respond. Still, I like that it puts the onus on the women. Because I’ve also heard so many of my female friends complaining about guys not texting them. I am then met with blank stares/silence when I ask if they had texted the guy.
Anyway, now this cool, women-empowering app was setting up a special portion for its females looking to make female friends in the adult world.
What great timing!
I logged on, switched to only the BFF portion (and obviously told the boo so he wouldn’t think I was sneaking behind his back going back to online dating again), and created a much more female-centered profile. What did that entail? Honestly? I used pretty much the same pictures, but felt more obligated to show the fun things I do rather than the most flattering pictures. My short blurb was pretty Portland generic. In fact, I think I might change it. Cause it literally matches 75% of other profiles I’ve read. And then I started swiping.
And then I got stuck.
After three years of online dating, turned into actual dating several times, turned into some kind of relationship a hand full of times, I had developed a pretty strong idea of what I was looking for in a romantic relationship and a pretty decent radar for spotting it online.
But what the heck was I looking for in a friend?!
I have a good number of friends in my life. But I have exactly four friends that I consider my closest friends and that I turn to no matter what (five if you consider the boo, which I do, he’s just more recent). These people know gross stuff about me. They know weird stuff about me. It’s gotten to a point where I know I can tell them pretty much anything and I know they won’t run away. And those four friends are all pretty different from each other (in my mind) and were met under totally different circumstances. Not only that, but these were friendships that developed with time. I rarely have an instantly strong connection with someone. I might have a sense of someone really quickly and I can maybe gauge if a strong connection is possible. But the connection itself takes time. I have trust issues. But also I’m human. And so is the other person. And there are about a million other factors that play into this.
So how the heck was I supposed to swipe right or left????
Well, I just went with my gut. And a few personal guidelines I chose. Namely age restrictions (and by age, I mean stage in life, and mainly I mean past the I wanna just party and get wasted attitude…which I guess isn’t so much of an age thing, just not my cup of tea). I also swiped left on women whose female relationships looked (in pictures) so far removed from what I do and have in mind, because I figured they were a good indicator of what they were looking for.
And then I went on my first friend date. And I was as nervous as I have been for any romantic-potential date. And I left, honestly, disappointed. And I feel ok saying this because considering neither of us contacted each other again after that, she probably felt the same way. The truth is, online dating prepared me pretty well for online friend-dating. This girl (woman damnit) and I had a really awesome texting-chemistry. But it just didn’t translate into real life. Maybe one or both of us was feeling off that day. Maybe it would have been worth a second visit. But, sometimes your gut just knows. And after three years of learning to listen to my gut in romantic situations, I decided to trust it in friendly situations too. Sure, maybe we could have met again and had a smoother conversation. But we were both on this app to make real and genuine connections. I’m sure we’ve both fallen into the friends of convenience trap and in looking for something wrong, maybe we both learned to run away from something less than stellar. And that’s ok. A few days later I went on another friend date and it was totally awesome. We kept talking and eating and laughing and talking. Eventually, after my phone just wouldn’t stop buzzing, I apologized and noticed we’d been at it for well over an hour. Making off the cuff plans to see each other again didn’t feel forced or awkward. I don’t know if this will keep on, or fizzle out like so many things do, but for now, it’s nice to have someone new to meet up and chat with.
So yeah. Confession: I’m using a dating app to make friends because, like dating, I don’t know how else to meet people. So sue me! Or join me. Your choice!