Bumble is pretty much like Tinder – at least from my inexperienced viewpoint. To be fair, up until now, I’d never used either and any knowledge I’ve garnered over the months (or maybe years, since Tinder was first released in 2012 and Bumble in 2014) comes largely from friends and, of course, the Internet (@TinderNightmares, that means you). I consider myself more of a traditional when it comes to dating, and if I’m being completely honest, I’m a sucker for movie meet-cutes, which means swiping right just doesn’t do it for me.
That said, I recently found myself trying way too hard to craft a witty but appealing bio for my Bumble profile. Hypocritical? Maybe, but it’s not what you think. Bumble lured me in, not because of my interests in finding cute guys within a five-mile radius who are DTF, but because I’m in desperate need of a BFF.
There, I said it. And it sounds just as pathetic out loud as it does in my head.
Before I go on, let me just say that at 24-years-old, I find myself really interested in the science of adult friendships and more specifically, adult female friendships. I think it’s largely due to the fact that I’m now about two years post-undergrad, which means that my college friend group has started to dwindle – some have moved away for jobs, others for marriage, or an enviable few have sold all their shit to travel the world and plague my Instagram feed with beach acro-yoga photos framed perfectly by turquoise-colored seas and captioned #livingmybestlife.
I’ve spent much of my time over the last month and a half scouring the Internet for other people who feel like I do – like it’s really hard to make friends as a twenty-something year old adult. I read articles like this and this, and then this that delivered the most horrific news of them all – statistically, the age at which you’re most popular or have the most friends is 25.
Naturally, I panicked. Because I can count maybe two or three close friends in my life other than my SO, and these are mostly long-distance friendships. Sure, we have our members-only group chats and we see each other for special occasions like weddings, birthdays and sometimes even work trips. But it’s not the same as being able to binge-watch all six seasons of Pretty Little Liars with them in preparation for the Season 7 premiere or heading to a Saturday morning yoga class followed by a well-deserved brunch with bottomless mimosas (I am a huge brunch-enthusiast!).
So, I turned to Bumble BFF.
I’d seen the sponsored posts on Instagram and, although I was hesitant to admit it, I thought it was a brilliant idea. Honestly, I’m bummed I didn’t think about it sooner. But even if I did, I probably wouldn’t have acted on it for the same reason it took me so long to download Bumble BFF – the embarrassment of not being able to make friends without an app. Let’s call it social shame, I guess. Seriously, there are seven billion people on this planet and I can’t find a single one that wants to put on some Lululemon yoga pants and take a cardio barre class with me? “Surely, I must be doing something wrong,” I thought.
Having absolutely no experience in the world that is social media dating, creating my Bumble profile was the hardest part. Seriously, what do I say on there? What pictures do I include? There are tons of articles that go into excruciating detail of the dos and don’ts of dating profiles, but not so many for finding a BFF. So here’s what I wound up with (#dontjudgeme): “Love the beach, outdoor adventures, brunch and road trips ~flower emoji~ Looking for a novice running buddy ~flower emoji~ Grad student and pup mom.” And if you’ve been on Bumble BFF, you learn pretty quickly that, for the most part, they all kind of look and sound like this. So I was off to a slightly less nauseating start.
For the swipe-right virgins, it works like this: Potential BFFs appear with one photo in view, a first name, age, job if they’ve opted to include one and location. You’re allowed to scroll down to the other photos they’ve included (usually about three to five), and at the end, you can read their bio. If you think you’d like to know more about them, you swipe right. If not, you swipe left. If they also swipe right on your profile, Bumble lets you know you have a connection. Then, you have 24 hours to initiate contact before the connection disappears. I say “you have…to initiate” not because that’s the way it works (either one of you can send the first message), but because, of the approximately eight connections I made during my first week on Bumble BFF, I’ve had to start almost every conversation.
Observation #1: Girls are unsure of how to approach other girls (?)
I mean this platonically, as it relates to Bumble BFF. Almost every girl’s bio expresses the same need for that person, believe it or not, to go to yoga class with or drink wine with or go shopping with. Almost every girl reiterates how down-to-earth she is, how ready and willing she is to seek out new friendships. So, why are so many of us afraid to send the first message? My guess – it’s that pesky social shame again. I know because, had I not been so genuinely interested in assessing the value of this app, I too would have been too shy to send a friendly and simple “Hi! How are you?” Even more curious is the fact that we both (the connection and I) know that we “liked” each other’s profile… shouldn’t saying hi be easier in that case?
Observation #2: Self-awareness is a major key (*DJ Khaled voice*)
If the reason we’re afraid or reluctant to reach out first is because we don’t think it’s a good match (and not social shame), then it’s time to reassess either our bio or our swiping habits. Being as invested as I was in this project, I was pretty honest in my bio so I knew I had to be equally as honest in my swiping. I wasn’t looking for someone to hit the clubs with – swipe left. I wasn’t looking for someone to do CrossFit with – swipe left. I wasn’t looking for someone who lived 45 minutes away – swipe left. I included my Instagram profile name in my bio, and so did a lot of other girls. An avid Instagram user, I found this really helpful in determining if the other person’s lifestyle and hobbies seemed appealing to me and/or if they were similar to mine.
Observation #3: Those really nice girls you meet in the bathroom at the nightclub and never see again – they’re on Bumble BFF
Although I’ve made a few connections on Bumble BFF and have maintained weeklong conversations with at least one or two of them, the interactions are surface-level at best. Sure, we enjoy talking to each other: “Hi, how was your day? – “Great. How about you?” We talk about our dogs, our favorite foods and sometimes make vague plans to meet up but never really do. The conversations don’t flow naturally, and the whole thing seems forced and shallow. Sadly, not at all what I was looking for but there’s hope yet?
Observation #4: Plenty of fish in the sea – not true
There comes a sad and unfortunate time when Bumble BFF has shown you all of the potential matches that meet both your location and age preferences. “Looks like you’re out of people,” the pop-up window reads, almost mockingly. Alas, it’s not permanent. You can check back after a few hours or simply expand your search preferences – still, it’s somewhat disappointing, if not also telling of a deeper problem.
Social media dating sites (I’m lumping Bumble BFF in here because I’m not really sure what to call it) perpetuate our millennial obsession with immediacy, personalization and choice. The fact that we can enter the age range and location of individuals we wouldn’t mind being friends with into an app that generates a host of options (of people!) that we can swipe through leisurely – rejecting or approving as we go along foreshadows a time when we can input even the characteristics or hobbies we’re looking for in a friend. Like online shopping – but with people as the commodity.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Creepy? Maybe a little. But our fast-paced and transient lifestyles have, in a way, forced us to this point. After all, at least 50 percent of the people I’ve encountered on Bumble BFF cite having recently moved as the reason for searching for new friends. Meeting new people is difficult and, since we spend so much of our time on our phones, it seems only natural to try to cultivate new friendships in the best ways we know how.
Surprising as it may seem by now, I’m still using Bumble BFF because the IRL alternative just hasn’t worked for me, and I’d like to give the virtual one more than a week to prove itself. But I’ll be honest when I say my expectations aren’t set very high. Maybe it’s because my BFF expectations are too high. They are based on fictional characters after all: Rachel, Monica and Phoebe. But I’d argue that even they had it easier, in the 90s that is – less online-people-shopping and more genuine human connections.
Can we just go back to kindergarten already where sharing the blue crayon meant you were best friends for life?
Have you tried Bumble BFF? Tell us about your experience!