Sad woman in a yellow jacket looking at the screen of her phone.

The days of meeting your soulmate at the local bookstore or bumping into them at a friend’s party seem quite archaic in the 21st century. Today, friendship, in all its messy glory, often flickers to life on the screens of our smartphones, mediated by the algorithms of social media apps.

We had high school, college, and our first employment experiences, where we had the opportunity to create a tight-knit network of friendships. Yet, if your social circle is quite narrow and you feel the need to find a companion to a new play or join you for a jog, what else is there to do?

It’s a brave new world, filled with endless possibilities and potential pitfalls. But fear not lonely souls of the 21st century, in this guide I will share the knowledge and tools to navigate the exciting, and sometimes bewildering, world of app-based friendships.

How being open-minded can help you make the first step

I will begin with a story, shared by a close friend of mine.  When it comes to online friendships that could become real-life ones, social media apps can be a solution as well. One of my closest friends felt lonely after breaking up with her long-term partner, her friend group was quite busy and didn’t ignite the spark to go out or try something new.

After being fed up with her stagnant routine, she joined one of the apps just to try the BFF category. There she found Monika, an artsy and warm-hearted girl with similar interests who also felt lonely. I’ve joined them both for a board game session several times. It was nice to see my old friend fostering a new friendship with someone whom she met online.

Start by choosing your approach

With a plethora of apps catering to both real connections and platonic friendships, selecting the right one is crucial. Consider your goals: are you seeking a temporary companion, a new group of friends, or something in between?

People playing pool. Photo:

Here’s a breakdown of things to consider:

  • Broad Matching: Some platforms cater to a wider range of interests, offering a larger pool of potential connections for various goals, including dating and friendship.
  • Compatibility Matching: Other platforms focus on matching users based on shared interests and values, aiming to create deeper connections.
  • Niche Communities: Certain platforms cater to specific communities, with some focusing solely on friendship building, while others target professionals or LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Activity-Based Matching: Some platforms connect people based on shared hobbies or interests, allowing users to find partners for specific activities or simply connect with like-minded individuals.

These are just several tips to take into consideration. I am not a connoisseur of all of the social media platforms out there, but what I can offer you is to be patient, be kind, and most importantly, take it slow. Guard your privacy as much as you want to. Remember, being cautious whom you talk to is also self-care.

Crafting your digital persona: do’s and don’ts

Your profile is your digital first impression when you’re seeking a friendly connection. Ditch the blurry selfies and generic captions. Invest in clear, recent photos that showcase your personality and interests. Write a bio that’s witty, engaging, and tells your story. Be honest about your intentions and avoid negativity. Remember, you’re attracting someone who wants to connect with you, not judge your superficial qualities.

Swiping can be overwhelming, so be selective. Look for profiles that resonate with you. Read bios, pay attention to interests, and avoid swiping right just because someone looks good or seems nice. When you do match, send a personalized message that sparks conversation. Try to ask a question, comment on something in their profile, or share a funny anecdote.

In addition, don’t get stuck in the messaging cycle forever. If there’s a mutual interest, suggest meeting in person within a reasonable timeframe. Coffee dates, park strolls, or museum visits are low-pressure ways to get to know someone better if you want a potential new friend. Be clear about your intentions and respect theirs. Communication is key, so be upfront about what you’re looking for in a friendship, and don’t be shy to voice your priorities for a genuine connection.

Social apps come with challenges, including ghosting, catfishing, and unsolicited messages. Remember, online interactions don’t always translate to real life. Be cautious, trust your gut, and prioritize your safety. Meet in public places, let someone know where you’re going, and never share personal information or financial details.

Final Remarks

Finding connections in the 21st century is a unique experience, filled with both promise and struggle. With the right tools and a healthy dose of caution, navigating the world of social media and online platforms can be an exciting adventure. So, put on your digital armour, embrace the journey, and remember that sometimes, the most meaningful friendships are just a swipe or message away.

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Greta holds a BA in English Literature and is currently working as a Copywriter for a tech company in Vilnius, Lithuania.