Bumble BFF: Friendship at First Swipe

At 3:15pm on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I balanced a slice of half eaten spicy margherita pizza on one knee and a pile of melted tiramisu on the other, my Netflix account flashing, “Are you still watching?” 22 episodes deep into a Friends binge, I turned to my best friend sprawled on the carpet.

“Even Netflix cares about me enough to ask a question,” I whined through mouthfuls of mascarpone. Much eye-rolling then resulted in the conclusion that my most recent Tinder ghoster’s disappearing act was caused by his bike flipping into the Hudson River, his phone water-logged and inaccessible hundreds of feet below New York City. Or maybe – hopefully - he got hit by a bus. That was the only logical and comforting explanation for radio silence.

While the internet makes connecting with others so much easier, it enables a mentality that there's always someone better out there. We want love, but pass on real opportunities for the curiosity to see what’s beyond the next swipe. We claim we want honesty but don’t offer the same courtesy in return. We read and reread texts, relying on typed up words that may or may not be misinterpreted to dictate the course of our fleeting relationships. We form deeper bonds with dollar slice pizza – I’m talking to you, jalapeno bacon – than we do with the people we share drinks and laughs and sunsets with.

After staring at my phone for what was surely long enough to conjure voodoo spells against every ghoster in NYC, I clicked on all of my dating apps until they trembled in fear of being deleted, each icon panicking that I'd forever lose my shot at true love. And yet, I couldn't bring myself to delete Bumble. A year and a half ago the company launched Bumble BFF, a feature for users to swipe for platonic friendships. It had 1 million swipes during its first week alone. It was the modern day version of writing notes in glitter gel pens and passing them in class - to complete strangers.

Reluctantly, I swiped. A week later over wine and pizza, I had my very first Bumble BFF date, and a magical thing happened. Gone were the days of unsolicited dick pics and casual propositions to Netflix and chill. They were replaced with brunch, and yoga, and hiking, and apple picking. With late night conversations crammed into taxis, with birthday parties and underground speakeasies and comedy club nights and wine tastings on Long Island. We had all day group dates at the zoo that ended in rooftop laughs over popsicles and prosecco. And through it all came the realization that each and every one of us was going through the same thing - we were going on disappointing dates and being on both the giving and receiving end of lackluster effort. We lived in fear of catching the worst sexually transmitted disease of all: feelings. And it had all become normalized in a world where Instagram likes are received in lieu of flowers, and "ur hot" is the ultimate compliment.

While technology may contribute to damaging dating trends such as ghosting, they aren't necessarily new phenomena. I imagine prehistoric daters waiting by their caves with carefully picked shrubs in hand, hoping that the reason their soulmate hadn’t arrived was because they were gorged by a buffalo. Or our parents sitting patiently by rotary dial phones, convinced that their true love had called when they were out of the house. Technology has made it infinitely easier to connect with others, which is why it’s such a blow when someone we like actively chooses not to take a few seconds out of their day to text us. We’re meeting more and more people who we share no social ties with, no mutual friends or coworkers to hold us accountable to treating those who like us as human beings worthy of respect. We rely – to a fault – on texting and tweeting and digital bits of data as a means of both forming and maintaining any semblance of a relationship. 

It's more important now than ever to form close platonic friendships, and Bumble BFF takes advantage of technology to use it for good. Strong social bonds have a direct effect on your health and longevity. There's study after study proving that the positive effect of social contact to a person's health is as strong as the effect of blood pressure, smoking, alcohol habits, and obesity.  And if you think it's weird to swipe for friendship, it's not much weirder than summoning complete strangers off the internet to get in their cars, or receiving the POTUS's daily wisdom via 140 grammatically incorrect characters. 

And when you’re lonely, there’s always Netflix to remind you that your lack of presence is felt. Yes baby, I’m still watching. Just make sure to use those 15 seconds between episodes to give Bumble BFF a swipe. 

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