There’s a million dating apps out there, but what if you just want to meet friends without benefits? How do you make friends in a world where everyone is staring at their smart phones? With an app, obviously.
Making friends in the digital age is as easy as it is hard. In the early days of the internet people connected through bulletin boards, newsgroups, forums, chatrooms and web rings. They came together on these platforms through similar interests. A 40 year old man in Swayzee, Indiana who collects and races HO scale slot cars was excited to meet other collectors online. Many of those communities have disappeared as social networks try to be everything to everyone. Additionally, we use social networks to connect to celebrities, comedians and our real life friends. It’s not unheard of to make new friends via Twitter or Facebook, but cultivating those relationships outside the screens we connect on can be awkward. Body language, eye contact and touch are missing from these internet exchanges and we begin to question the validity of the friendship.
The rise of the gig economy has us working alone at home or in cafés, and as adults we’re much more conscience of ourselves than when we’re kids. As a child, you were fearless. You’d simply walk up to someone and say, “Can we be friends?” As an adult you have more experience, memories of failed relationships make you more cautious. You know your characteristics and vulnerabilities that will turn others off. Differences in income and beliefs factor into the equation as well. It’s our world view as adults that has changed, not the process of becoming friends. A banana once told me, all you have to do is ask, “Can we be friends?”
Now There’s an App For That
Me3 debuted on April 8th in New York City. Like all new services, Me3 boasts an algorithm that “considers over 150 factors to identify and match the people that are most likely to become great friends.” The creators, Julian Ilson and Emanuel Petre, felt it was important to design a service that was for friendship versus dating. Account information & profiles are private. The algorithm matches people in groups of 3 called “Tribes.” You’re matched with others based on the answers to questions the application throws at you. The questions can be quite blunt, but that’s good because you’re looking to meet people you’ll get along with. The app allows you to chat with the others in your Tribes and hopefully find enough in common to possibly meet in real life.
Me3 works like that, you download the app, answer the questions and give it location access. Then, you’ll be matched in a few Tribes of 3. The catch is that the service is only available if a certain number of users in your area have the app. The good news is that other areas are opening quickly. For example, six days after launch London, Toronto and L.A. are very close to launching. Hyderabad, in India, met the threshold very quickly and Me3 is up and running there. The bad news, if you launch the app, give it location access and Me3 hasn’t launched in your city you’ll get a message saying it hasn’t launched in your area yet. You will be given the opportunity to invite others, but not have the ability to answer the questions for matching until it launches in your area.
Why is there this area launch limit? First, it makes sense that the algorithm requires a minimum amount of people before it can match effectively. Secondly, Ilson and Petre want people to create real friendships instead of adding more social media people to chat online with. I also imagine it’s helpful from a resource standpoint. As a newly launched service, they only have to dedicate resources to those cities that have met the threshold. By the way, in order for Me3 to launch in your area a minimum of 500 users is needed. Of course, there are issues with the limit. Would you keep an app on your phone that didn’t work? If the first screen when you start the app says, “Sorry, not available in your area yet.” It’s quite probable that you’ll delete it. Inviting others is a great way to spread the word. Unfortunately, I’m thinking those interested in downloading an app to make friends might be lonely. Who will they ask? Another option, the folks at Me3 have a couple of template letters you can send to local media outlets to help spread the word.
Once Me3 is live in your area and you’ve been matched into a number of Tribes, you’ll be able to chat with 2 other individuals in each Tribe. Three is a magic number, but Tribes consist of 3 users to take away the awkward silence and pressure of one-on-one conversations. You can be more relaxed because you’re expected to contribute to the discussion less. If it was 4 users, there’s a chance the conversation could split and that might be awkward as well. Furthermore, it is another precaution to ensure this does not become a dating app. Additionally, Tribes are composed of same sex individuals. This seems like a strange decision in today’s world, but Me3 is firmly against the idea of becoming a hook-up app. Ilson told me that non-binary folks could choose to create 2 accounts, one male and one female, if they wanted to meet people of both genders.
Despite the quirks about launching in specific areas and the same sex matching, I am looking forward to using Me3. I was given access for testing purposes, but like the rest of you, I have to wait until it launches in my area. Almost 5 years ago, I moved 2000 miles to a new country and city and I have made very few friends here. I’m not alone either. Me3 has a page on their site dedicated to the science of friendship and happiness. It reads like my LiveJournal page circa 2002. It’s dark. They chose data to support their app, of course. Though, loneliness could be a public health problem. Finally, will the app fall prey to the dating and hook-up culture despite the developers precautions? I remember when there was an AOL chatroom for everything under the sun. If you spent more than 8 minutes in the gardening chat room, you were bound to bothered by someone trolling for cyber sex. The only way to find out if Me3 works as intended is to download and try it. The app is available for iOS and Android. You can learn more at me3app.co.