These are not Facebook, which was the originator or one might say parent of social media. In actuality, these apps are not about people you may know. And unlike dating apps these apps are about friendship. What they share in common with dating apps is that they are also about getting to know total strangers based on a page of information and a snazzy picture. Some apps like Patook and We3 forewarn users about trying to proposition other members.
Patook has a built-in flirt detector where a message the app considers ‘romantic’ is prevented from even reaching the opposite person’s inbox. To put it straight, these are platonic apps. These acquaintanceship apps want to actively carve out a niche in the social world. To some during a phase where one has a smaller social circle at the workplace today due to COVID restrictions, these friendship apps have become a way to contact others in that intangible world online.
Patook is about making great non-sexual friendships – maybe finding that whacky friend in another corner of the city who you can talk to and bounce off ideas with. Perhaps a society that at the moment seems starved of real human connection, caught up in an isolating web of showy social media platforms, may do well with pure friendships-only apps. It’s friendship day today – a reminder of how much poorer one is without good friends to break bread with or take off on a wild shopping spree with. And Patook and its competitors like the multi-faceted Bumble which has a BFF feature along with the date feature can sure rise up to the challenge of helping people find a soulmate even though he may be a non-physical one.
Says Gurgaon-based Mayur Jain who has been on Patook for around four months, “One can talk to one person on one day and someone else another day. I still haven’t however found the friend I’ve been looking for since I joined. But it’s overall a good experience and you can meet a lot of people. One sees more faces when one is swiping today. Before the lockdown there were less. Also people are more eager to talk now. Maybe they have more free time.”
Hinting that one should not look down on making a friend virtually Jain adds that the virtual is a given in 2020. “It’s not hard to make friends in the real world but the world has already moved towards virtuality. It’s always nice to talk to someone new whether it’s virtual or real. In the virtual world you are more open.”
Bumble reports an 11% increase in Gen Z (people in the group of 5 to 25 years) registrations during the week ending March 27 in comparison to those in the group who registered during the week ending March 13th alluding to the propensity of Gen Zers to naturally move to online platforms to find entertainment in the midst of a crisis.
Laughs Rashimi Pandit (name changed) from Mumbai who discovered Bumble BFF a year back. “I’m on it because I need more girlfriends. I was successful in making a good friend on it and then stopped using it after that. But then she moved to Orissa and so I thought I would give it another shot. I re-joined Bumble BFF about a month ago but so far nothing interesting. The friend I made is still a good friend and we met up often! What I like about the app is the ability to ‘unmatch’ people if you don’t want them,” she says.
Meghna Kaushik from Mumbai who is on Gofrendly, a women-only app, speaks about her experience. She has been a member for around a month. “It’s not that easy to find like-minded people (on such apps). I have made only one friend on Gofrendly. I’m hopeful that I can make more friends. I downloaded the app because I was always lonely and don’t have many friends.”
Kaushik shares that she drifted apart from her friends, and additionally, disgruntled with some associations she had “cut some people out”. Kaushik is married but like any modern woman understands the importance of having an elegant group of girlfriends and therefore decided to do something about it. The app is being advertised as one where a woman can make wonderful lady friends in an environment devoid of predatory behaviour. Potential girlfriends can include other women pursuing entrepreneurship for example – those whom you can meet up for green tea and talk about your ambitions with…
Some users shaken up by continual sexual advances on apps like Tinder decided to switch to apps like Bumble BFF. Sangita Bagul of Navi Mumbai shares, “I didn’t know Tinder was a hook-up app. People make direct advances at you all the time and so I deleted it. Other apps like Happn are full of married men! I’m just looking for friends. The lockdown pushed me to become a member of BFF.”