As technology and connectivity has become more accessible, various facets of life have become simplified apps on mobile devices. From hailing a ride to calculating distance jogged, it’s only a matter of time before even the most personal aspects of our lives are conducted through apps.
Now, the day is upon us when making new acquaintances depends not so much on our personality, but rather our Internet connection.
A few years ago, dating apps took the online world by storm. These apps represented a great leap forward from traditional dating websites. Quick responses on the go, with only minimal information required were all very attractive points for the current generation of smartphone users.
Millions of users downloaded these apps and “swiped” away—right or left to show their preference for potential dates generated by the apps. Tinder—arguably the most popular amongst all dating apps—recorded approximately 1 billion daily swipes two years after its launch.
While the dating scene looks to have been forever changed, these apps started getting plagued by their own slew of problems. Scammers and spammers always find their way to penetrate just about any form of social media, making them uninhabitable for many users. As time passed, these dating apps became packed with more and more negative baggage as users almost exclusively used them for hookups and sex. In addition, dating apps also exclude a large portion of potential users: those looking for platonic friendships and acquaintances.
For a lot of users who have grown up with the immediacy of social networks, making real-world connections can be very disconcerting. Friendship apps give access to users’ social circles that they were previously not privy to, while still keeping them in their comfort zone—on their phones, that is.
Krystal Choo, developer of “Wander”, believes that people are lonely and that social space is broken. “Wander” sets itself apart from other apps with its Group Chat function that gathers multiple users with common interests simultaneously, thus eliminating the awkwardness of one-on-one chatting.
“These days, people type more than they talk, but they are either broadcasting information in a bid for validation or are stuck in silos and connecting only with a small handful of close friends and co-workers.
“No matter how many digital likes we get, friendship and human connection will always be key,” says Krystal.
Friendship is a significant predictor of happiness. Quality relationships and friends correlate with increased wellbeing, especially in cultures that emphasise individuality, like in the UK and the US. Friendships positively correlate with individual happiness, while also being negatively related to loneliness and anxiety in general. Meliksah Demir, a psychology professor at Northern Arizona University says that, “for every wellbeing outcome investigated, in addition to happiness, friends make a positive difference”.
Research in Canada found that offline friendships are far more important to subjective wellbeing than online friendships, especially for single people. The unfortunate truth is that as many Facebook friends as one may have, very little translate into real friends with offline relationships. Social networks are also far more adept at maintaining relationships with long-distance friends, thus leaving some users with gradually decreasing numbers of friends in their daily lives.
The difficulty of translating digital connections into real-life interactions is what spurred Jen Wei Qing into developing her app. “Sup” helps to connect users who are nearby and available immediately for an activity. The app makes connection through relevant information such as geographical location, interests and mutual connections from users’ Facebook profiles.
As technology advances even further and dependence on it grows, the onus lies more and more on users to maintain offline relationships. Until the day apps have completely taken over all aspects of our lives, it would certainly do us good to look up from our phones once in a while and just smile.
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