With everything happening in our world over the past two years, creating connections that can help me through lockdowns and isolation has never been more important. Physical connections and going out to meet friends, family and loved ones has been limited for so many of us, so virtual friend-finding prevailed for me in true pandemic form.
My name is Rufia, I’m 27 years old and I met my best friend on Bumble.
Making new friends in your 20s is rough, just ask anyone who has tried it. Throw in living in London for two years and then returning to your home city of Adelaide, where, if you’re like me, you find that as much as you love reconnecting with your OG set of buddies, there is a real thirst to meet new people.
Sure, there are your work friends who are often a lot of fun. But, let’s face it, you spend enough time with them on a daily basis — someone fresh at the end of the day is a welcome change. I could have tried a team sport to meet new people, but, to be honest, that just sounded like a whole lot of hard work.
What I wanted was a fast-tracked way to meet people who were nothing like me, but who could ignite some real connection, interesting conversation and a sense of mateship.
So, I considered meeting friends through a dating app. That’s right. I did it and I can confirm that it works.
When I first moved to London, Bumble, the app that empowers women to make the first move in dating, launched a friend-finding mode. I had used its dating mode before, with success, so I loved the idea of finding friends there, too. At first, I was a little unsure, but after jumping on it, I was pleasantly surprised that just like me, there was a group of people out there I had a heap in common with — and technology was bringing us together.
Last year, when I returned home to Adelaide from London after two years of being away, I found myself in a pretty similar situation. I jumped back on Bumble BFF and I met someone pretty special. In fact, I met my new housemate.
Her name was Ala and she is from North Sudan. She had just moved to Adelaide and, like me, was looking for someone with similar interests to hang out with. She said she loved the pictures on my profile that showed me travelling the world, and we spoke initially about our shared religion.
Both Ala and I are Muslim and we come from really similar families in terms of traditions and culture. We chatted on Bumble for a week or so before we met IRL (in COVID-safe conditions) for a coffee with a few other shared friends. A few catchups later, I asked her to move in with me, and to my surprise, she said yes! I guess I made a good first impression.
Fast forward 18 months, and we still live with each other — and still use Bumble BFF to connect with new people. It’s actually not uncommon for us to catch up with new friends, together, as a way to extend our friendship group. Every night, Ala and I come home and retell stories of all the funny things that happened at our respective jobs. We start all our sentences with “we” and spy on our neighbours like a nosy old couple — it’s like having a live-in husband, without the stress!
My experience of finding friends on a dating app taught me to put my judgement aside and try new things — and I was the one who truly reaped the benefits. At first, it kind of feels like a game, a digital hide-and-seek to find a new best friend. But if you fast-track your conversations from digital to IRL (or even virtual video), you’ll know pretty quickly if they are friend-material for you. And if they aren’t, that’s OK. It’s all part of the experience.
Ala is as close and important to me as some of my oldest and dearest friends. She’s met all my other friends and comes to all my family events. My parents love her more than they do me (so I think sometimes).
Today, when many people around Australia are facing uncertainty, many in lockdown or under restrictions, my recommendation is to try something new when it comes to ways you meet people. Put your judgement aside (like I had to, many moons ago), open your mind up to new things (and new people) and who knows, maybe, like me, you’ll meet someone totally special.