It’s a Friday night. You’re itching for a cocktail, maybe some dancing. You’re looking hot AF in your cutest outfit. It’s been a busy week at work, and you need to chill. But what if you’re squadless? Whether you’ve just moved to a new city or want to expand your post-university circle, sometimes you just need a new crew. For those in search of your next bestie or an expanded posse, I test-drove the most popular friendship sites and apps.
The Gist: Remember that clearance bin movie Must Love Dogs? In which Diane Lane and John Cusack fall in love after their pups get entangled and smoosh noses in the park? And then Diane Lane and John Cusack smoosh noses in the park? Yeah, that’s the exact thinking behind this app, i.e. bringing your meet-cute dream to life. Because in this scenario, much like toting around your friend’s cute kid, you have a fuzzy love-magnet doing the work for you, attracting potential pals (or—if you want to make the app pull double-duty—potential partners). Check in at wherever you’ll be kicking it with your furry friend, share puppy selfies and private message fellow dog lovers.
The Pro: Meet My Dog offers more novelty than most friend-finding apps, and offers the additional benefit of working for finding potential partners, too. Better yet? Your pup could find a new playmate as well.
The Con: Your Boston Terrier and her Rottweiler may hit it off better than the two of you. #awkward
For Me: I’m one of those pet-starved few who had to pull an About a Boy and advertise a fake dog on my profile (can dogs catfish?); if I had followed through, I would have had to carry on a fake dog-owning existence, and one does not begin a friendship based on a lie, as cute and cuddly as it is.
For You: This app offers a wide mix of ages, going heavy on the millennials and stay-at-home moms, with a significantly large female crowd. There also happens to be a diverse range of puppers looking for friends!
Type: Facebook group
The Gist: GirlCrew users have created groups all around the world; the Toronto one has 2,000 members alone. Group members can create or share events that include drinks nights, a regular book club, going dancing or painting, or even swapping single male friends, a la Sex and the City. Want to throw a clothing swap, or looking for a roommate? Need recommendations for a restaurant or a new book to read? With such a spread of ages, diversity and careers, there’s something (or someone) for everyone.
The Pro: The community is super-diverse, so you can jump in at any time and attend an event or create one that is tailored to your interests. There’s almost too much to choose—on any given week, the Toronto group could be having one of several book club meetings (which tends more towards gossiping about dudes and chugging mimosas, which is A-OK with me) or organizing a drinks night. It’s also practical: you’ll find friendly apartment listings, women looking for running buddies or job postings. In addition to the incredibly warm and familial atmosphere, often times, someone will post about boy problems, landlord issues, opinions on a new dress, work troubles and even what it’s like using a Diva Cup—all in the hopes for friendly advice. And, boy, does that advice come, in droves and from varying perspectives.
The Con: Because GirlCrew functions as a Facebook page, it can be easy to let it hang in the background and slowly forget about it. The wallflower in me certainly found it easy to lurk from time to time in the year or so I’ve been a member of the group. But the second I spotted a particular event that drew me in just when I needed it—a random night of drinks when I happened to have one too many friends cancel plans day after day—I jumped on it. Easy conversation and a group of women who may never have met otherwise surrounded me, and I felt surprisingly comfortable even though we were all strangers. And that’s the inherent beauty of the internet and why online dating and friending is so great—there’s always someone there when you need them.
For Me: After finally dragging myself out to a few nights of drinks, I also realized my forte is one-on-ones. And the beauty of this group is you can do that and not be eyeballed. Not only have I made a last-minute new bud thanks to a plum Blue Jays ticket up for grabs, but I’ve revealed a little too much on the odd pub crawl. Which is totally cool, because you’re all in the same boat (and you don’t have to see these people ever again if you don’t want to).
For You: This is the perfect group to help you get comfortable until you see the right event or group of women for you. Join the group as soon as you can, but you’ll never feel the pressure to jump in. They’ll be there when you’re ready.
Type: Online forum
The Gist: Based out of Toronto but open to women around the world, this is an often-overlooked gem of the internet; in other words, you won’t find it on any top 10 lists anytime soon—except this one. (And, uh, Girlfriend Social is not particularly appealing to the eye with its bright pink aesthetic and ’90s-internet-style forums.) But if you put in the time to create an accurate profile of who you are, what you’re looking for and get in some quality time mingling, you have pretty stellar chances of finding a friend. Much like OkCupid, you can browse profiles and chat one-on-one, or join group discussions, forum-style. Just don’t be dissuaded by the site’s plethora of stock images featuring smiling sunhat- and headband-clad women a la Seventeen Magazine, circa 1997. See GirlFriendCircles for a similar experience.
The Pro: Girlfriend Social feels incredibly safe and comfortable, probably due to its dated layout, but also because there isn’t instant messaging. So, in a way, waiting for your potential new friend to message you back while you desperately watch your inbox is kind of like being a pen pal in the modern age. Right? Maybe? A little?
The Con: There isn’t a wide net of users, with a particular lean towards a 35+ age demographic, and women who tend to work late shifts and are looking to make friends in their downtime.
For Me: That being said, I found there to be plenty of diversity in my buddy-hunting. This is one of the early websites I used about five years ago when I realized the Internet can be a great place to meet new people. Because there weren’t a whole lot of apps or user-friendly options at the time, Girlfriend Social was great, and reminded me of the first time I logged into illicit chat rooms in elementary school and discovered smiley faces. I may not use the website anymore, but I still have a friend who I email every few months since all that time ago. She’s a mom of two and a nurse in New Jersey and, in many ways, my opposite. But we’ve found a simple, low-key friendship that works in its minimalism and is oddly comforting.
For You: If you still use a flip phone and don’t quite know what an app is, Girlfriend Social is for you. A/S/L?
The Gist: One of the common dangers of many Tinder-style friendship apps is that they can be just as annoying as dating apps. Skout, which is marketed as an app to find “instant connections” and “‘me too’ moments at the club,” is just one of those gems. Approaching same-sex users rarely comes off as platonic as many will be messaging you asking for dates of the romantic kind. Within hours of signing up with the app, my inbox was littered with flirtatious date requests and unwarranted nudes exclusively from men, and of the greasier variety. No, thanks. Feel free to write off Badoo as a similar suspect.
The Pro: There are a lot of people to choose from…
The Con: …if you’re looking for someone to date or hook up with.
For Me: I spent most of my time with this app questioning humanity and my own desperation for a friend. After blocking multiple male users who just could not take the hint, I deleted the app with a powerful level of vigour I will likely never feel again.
For You: No. No, no, no. NO.
The Gist: It may sound like a pet name, but Patook has the right idea. A Bumble/OkCupid hybrid, the app functions like a dating app—you can swipe left or right on potential friends who, in this case, are ranked by their proximity to you, their matching interests and their online activity. It offers the usual stats: hobbies, pet peeves, favourite things, etc. It’s all pretty generic, though a little behind the times with a dated and busy interface that feels v. AOL Messenger. I was surprised you’re even able to send GIFs, but hopefully it’s a sign they’re trying to push the app—which could use a serious facelift—into the future.
The Pro: If you’re in the mood to travel, Patook is for you, because your closest matches will likely be an entire city away. Ok, so that’s not exactly a pro, but silver linings, am I right?
The Con: Along with users being few and far between, there isn’t a whole lot of diversity in the potential friends you’ll find yourself swiping through.
For Me: I really wanted to give this app every single benefit of the doubt, because it really is not a bad app in its functionality. It just doesn’t happen to have a very wide user base, and I found it a little difficult to connect with women around my age with similar interests. But when I did branch out, I often found it even harder to make the connection stick, which made me feel like I was in high school all over again. In other words, yes, I was stood up at least once, five minutes before our rendezvous. (On the very sacred Taco Tuesday, no less.)
For You: If you have patience and don’t quite know what you’re looking for in a friend, Patook may be useful. That, and if you’ve got a car.
The Gist: If you’ve been spending some quality time in the online dating circuit, then you’ve not only heard of Bumble—the app where women must message first—but you’ve used it. And yes, there is many a delicious dude on there, but you know what else there is? A lot of great friends-to-be. The app’s latest function, BumbleBFF, allows you to swipe left or right on potential friends.
The Pro: Whether you’re single, taken or something in between, you can toggle between results and search for dates or for friends, by age and distance. On top of that, perhaps because Bumble is so female-friendly, there’s a plethora of surprisingly diverse, smart and interesting women to swipe through, from English majors to doctors to veterinarians.
The Con: On the odd occasion, I did have a few potential friends I was chatting with pre-meet-up who turned out to be looking for a sexual encounter rather than someone to catch a movie with. Which is totally cool, but a little misleading.
For Me: I’ve always had a difficult time being able to find friends who do what I do for a living—write. Fortunately, I found a plethora of writers and creative types on BumbleBFF; so much so, that one of my two friend dates resulting from it became more of a job interview than a hangout, with the gal asking me to look over her resumé on the spot (uh, yeah, a delayed swipe left). For friend date number two, however, I met Sarah, an advertising student at McGill who divides her time between Montreal and Toronto. We share a love of trashy B-movies and already have a coffee date planned the next time she’s in town in a couple of weeks, meaning I have just the kind of new friend I was looking for: someone who fits into my busy schedule and shares an obscure interest with me. Win.
For You: Of all the apps I’ve encountered in my hunt for a new friend, I was most surprised and satisfied by BumbleBFF. Thanks to the diversity of the women also looking for friends and the app’s growing popularity, colour this a must.
The Gist: By answering a simple Q&A, Amy Wood, the 30-year-old Toronto creator behind the relatively new website, handpicks your match, so you never have to judge a profile yourself. Open to guys and girls, Wood found more interest than she expected, pushing her to close the site down for a short hiatus. Recently reopened with a plethora of people to match, it’s a fresh take on matchmaking schemes of yore, and it takes the work out of it.
The Pro: You don’t have to do any of the hard labour, and you’ll be matched with someone—by a real-life human—who, on paper, could be your perfect match.
The Con: Still in beta, Yes New Friends isn’t quite available on a wide scale yet.
For Me: I’m still waiting on getting to test-run Yes New Friends, but the wait has made me all the more eager. There’s something about this process that feels like delicious fate, and that is a word that isn’t used enough when it comes to friendship, which has its own special kind of romance.
For You: Sign up and be patient. Something tells me this is the next frontier to friendship.
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