Sex & Relationships

How to Find an Offline Friendship Online

A new social networking site aims to create platonic hookups in the same vein as dating websites

(Photo: Keystone Press)

(Photo: Keystone Press)

An online social networking site that encourages offline friendships (read: a hot yoga partner) is the idea behind

The site aims to be the eHarmony of friendship, offering adults the opportunity to form platonic bonds with like-minded people using similar science-based matching methods. The Toronto-based site launched this spring and has steadily grown to 1,000 subscribers—mostly GTA-based women—over the summer.

The site’s co-founder, Erin Geimer, was on maternity leave a couple of years ago when she began to think about the affect social isolation and dwindling social support has on health and well being. She started working with a friend on a book about the subject and was shocked by the number of studies that linked “social isolation with a number of health defects.” At the same time, she had a chat with a friend who was dating online. “He was completely blown away by the matches that he was getting with people,” she says. Though there was nothing romantic, he was clicking with these women as friends. “I thought, ‘wait, there’s nothing out there that allows for connecting people platonically using the same science as romantic dating sites,’” she says. It took a year-and-a-half to turn that lightbulb moment into, which launched in May and follows the same model as many dating sites and relies on psychometrics, or the science behind assessing personality, to match people.

Ilona Jerbabek, a personality-testing expert, devised the questionnaire for the site to determine users’ personality type, traits, communication style and personal values and beliefs. Geimer calls the questionnaire a “Cosmo quiz times 1,000; it’s really cute and cool and accurate.” Once the questionnaire is completed, users are given a personality report, which, in combination with their interests, desires and location, determines appropriate matches. Sign-up and the personality quiz are free for the first month, and membership is $9 per month thereafter.

The site offers users an “ice-breaker” email to help people get over their shyness and the site is also planning group events to make that first meeting less awkward. Currently, the site’s default is same-gender matching (if you want to meet both men and women, you can make that part of your preferences), and it’s GTA-centric, but Geimer hopes to expand across Canada and beyond. She also hopes the service will gain the same level of acceptance as e-dating sites, and she wants people to know that it’s “totally OK” to go online to look for friends.

“People think that making friends happens very naturally but the reality is it doesn’t.”